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Horizon Structures Presents Series….Safety and Selection of Horse Hay Feeders
Horses can also roll in close proximity to feeders, and their legs can quickly become lodged in the feeding gaps on the outside of the low metal or plastic cow feeder. Horses that are trapped for extended periods of time may die as a result.
Cows don’t mind wet hay. Horses on the other hand need hay to be kept reasonably dry and free of mold to prevent colic. A horse feeder will therefore offer some type of roof to keep the hay as dry as possible while a cow hay feeder will be open to the elements. Look for a horse feeder with a secure locking device or gate that will keep the bale of hay where it is put, and not come open with horse ‘houdini’ antics.
Always remove halters from horses being fed from a feeder to prevent them becoming hung up on a corner of the feeder or hooked on any part of the feeder gate. Keep the feeder reasonably full of hay so that horses are not tempted to overreach for their hay supply. Feeders should have no sharp edges.
Size of Bales Matters
Choose a feeder that is specifically designed not just for horses, but also for the size of the bales you intend to feed. A feeder that is too small for the size of the bale may become top heavy and pose a risk of the unit falling over, while one that is too large can create much frustration for the horse who cannot easily reach the hay inside.
There are a variety of sizes of equine hay feeders available so pick a size that makes sense for the size of the herd. Otherwise arguments may ensue between herd members that may result at best in a horse lower in the pecking order not having full access to the hay, or at worst result in injury during a conflict between horses hungry for their feed.
Keep It Clean
Equine hay feeders are not maintenance free. Periodic cleaning of the hay that has collected on the table beneath the bale is necessary to prevent hay becoming stale, wet or moldy at the bottom of the feeder. A brush off with a broom may suffice or a more hands on scrub down may be needed.
It is also wise to place the feeder on a gravel or stonedust pad, to prevent excessive mud build up around the feeder. As many feeders can easily be moved, the alternative of moving the unit to drier areas when needed is often a viable option. For safety it is best to remove horses from the pasture when handling/moving the larger feeders from place to place.
Entwined in Twine
All hay necessarily comes with some sort of twine. Regardless of whether it is sisal, poly or wire twine, it should always be removed from the bale after placement in the feeder. Twine can be ingested by a horse and accidents can occur where twine is not cut and large lengths of twine end up on the floor, where a horse’s legs can become entwined and suffer rope burns, tendon or other injuries as a result.
The Foal Factor
Remember that foals are notoriously adventurous and spend much time in exuberant play on their hind legs. Be extremely careful if you choose to utilize a hay feeder around foals. For obvious reasons it is not recommended.