Using hay nets with small holes extends eating time in horses, new research has shown.
The study has shown that small-holed haynets may help horses and ponies on restricted diets to stay healthier.
Spring in the northern hemisphere is the time to get stricter over weight management to stop horses and ponies from piling on the pounds from new grass and to help reduce the risk of serious conditions such as laminitis.
Restricting access to pasture and forage is often necessary but reduces the time that would be naturally spent foraging. New research has shown that the use of small-holed haynets may be one method to help extend eating time.
A series of studies has been conducted by the Waltham Equine Studies Group, which provides the science behind the Spillers feed brand, in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University’s Andrea Ellis and her colleagues.
The first showed that stabled horses and ponies often finish their forage in the early evening and then spend most of the night without food.
However, there was a small advantage of using small-holed haynets as they slowed down forage intake by increasing chewing time.
The most recent study suggested that layering two small-holed haynets and placing them in several locations around the stable may be even more valuable in prolonging the time spent foraging.
The full results of this study should be published later this year.
“Any method of extending eating and foraging time may help reduce the risk of gastric problems that can be contributed to by long periods without food and may also help to alleviate boredom,” Spillers’ registered nutritionist, Clare Barfoot, said.
Following the research, Spillers and Shires Equestrian have produced a guide on how to safely use small-holed hay and haylage nets to best effect, presented as a tag on all new Shires small-holed hay and haylage nets.