At the Front Ranch we have adopted a new feeding system for our horses: hay nets, also called slow feeders.
The hay nets are based on simple but fundamental concepts, respecting the digestive nature and assimilation of food. The horse is a monogastric (non-ruminant) herbivore that grazes in nature throughout the day, chewing most of the time (about 15-18 hours a day). A horse's stomach is relatively small (8-15 liters of capacity) and digestion is very fast, therefore his diet should ideally consist of small regular meals (grazing herbivores).
Hay nets are designed to simulate natural grazing. Horses produce up to 30 liters of saliva a day, but only when they chew: saliva also acts as a buffer for stomach acid and lubricates food. The modern management of horses and their boarding in stables and small pens without fresh grass does not allow the horse to be able to follow its natural feeding behavior, and this condition leads to an increase of diseases of various nature and severity at the gastrointestinal level and not only (ulcers, colic, nervous tics, etc.).
Usually in a stable they feed two rations of hay a day resting on the ground, which ends in a few hours; the rest of the time the horse is left without food, without chewing, gets bored, argues with other horses, develops nervous tics or gastrointestinal diseases. The horse moves and walks very little because he lives in small spaces and this does not help digestion. In order to reduce this type of physiological and behavioral pathologies, the slow feeding system was invented. Square mesh nets of about 5-8cm per side to ensure a continuous supply of food.
The horse must pull the hay strands from the net, taking them little by little but continuously and constantly, instead of having two rations of hay a day placed on the ground and finished within a very short time (about 2-3 hours).
The advantages of this system are various:
Slows down digestion and reduces hay consumption and waste
Simulates grazing activity and promotes slow and continuous feeding
The horse's emotional and physical balance improves
No quarrels with other horses as hay is always available
Helps prevent gastritis, ulcers and colic
Fat horses lose weight and skinny horses gain weight
Horses keep active with continuous chewing and get less bored
Eliminates vices caused by boredom such as gnawing on stables or fences, nervous tics
Calmer and more serene horses thanks to constant and continuous feeding
The psycho-physical benefits for the horse and the practical advantages of this system are important, which is why we have chosen to feed our horses with hay nets and we have horses that are healthier, happier, in better shape and who do not get bored!