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Horses need proper nutrition, and between you and your vet, you have chosen what is essential for your horse to have in his or her diet. But not only is a proper diet important, having good feeding management is necessary. Proper feeding management means you have to consider what is the best horse feeder.
If your horse feeder is inadequate, you are running the risk of wasting the crucial nutrients your horse needs or having them ingesting fecal material or unwanted sand. Choosing the best horse feeders for grain and hay is an essential piece of setting up your horse’s feeding program. These are some of the considerations to make when selecting how to meet your horse’s needs.
Automatic Horse Feeders
The price of an automatic horse feeder is generally the first drawback when looking for the best horse feeder for your barn. This cost, however, can quickly be absorbed and compensated for you by how convenient they are, the time they save you, and how much healthier they are for your horse.
These are some considerations to keep in mind when thinking about the automatic horse feeders:
When a horse is fed on a consistent schedule with measured amounts of food, their digestive system will work better. If they are allowed to eat naturally, horses will graze for most of the day, so their stomach is never completely empty or completely full. With timed feedings, your horse is provided the right amount of food and the right times to make sure they get the full nutritional value from the food you are feeding.
There is an upfront cost of purchasing and installing the automatic system of feeding, but it will pay for itself over time. By improving your horse’s digestion, you are improving their health and spending less on vet costs or ulcer medications. These systems also save you the valuable time you can use on other important tasks.
Prevent vices, excitement, and anxiety:
Horses love to be fed as they don’t like being hungry. This part of their nature can lead to issues. If your horse is left in a stall with an empty stomach for any length of time, it will increase the chance of it becoming stressed or anxious.
With increased levels of its stress hormone cortisol, there is a higher risk of health issues. Another issue caused by a hungry horse is how excited it will become at feeding time. Having an excited horse at feeding time is not the healthiest or safest scenario.
One of the best benefits of the automatic feeding systems is the convenience it provides you. You can set the feeder to offer food as many times throughout the day as you feel necessary for your horse. This system means you have to spend fewer times going to the stable or barn.
It will also give you peace of mind if unexpected situations come up during your day, and you cannot get to the barn or stable at the designated scheduled time.
Prevent ulcers and colic:
Horses were intended to be grazers where they could eat from large grassy tracts throughout their day. Their digestive system handles small and consistent portions of food as their stomachs are relatively small.
The automatic feeding system provides regular, small portions of food so your horse’s stomach can properly digest it and move it through their intestines. Overeating food too fast can cause colic in your horse’s abdomen, just as if your horse’s stomach is empty, it can lead to ulcers. The automatic feeding system prevents both these scenarios.
- With the automatic feeding system, you have a calmer horse who is less anxious and doesn’t present as strong of reactions to feedings.
- The initial cost of purchasing and installing the automatic feeding system is often a deterrent to some horse owners.
Hay Rack Horse Feeder
Depending on what type of floor you have for your stall floors, your horse could be in danger of ingesting sand along with their hay. Feeding a horse on a dirt floor, and if you’ve measured the amount of hay you are feeding at one time, your horse will be forced to scrap around on the flooring to get every piece of hay. When they scrape the floor, they are picking up more than just the hay.
To prevent this ingesting of sand and possible fecal matter, many choose to feed their horse from a rack. Feeding hay in a rack doesn’t result in as much waste, and there isn’t any stomped into the ground and wasted. The hay will also not get mixed in with other bedding materials, sand or dirt, or their fecal matter. The hay rack is generally constructed of lightweight steel mesh or galvanized steel.
- The pros of using a hay rack, placed at the right height is a convenient way to feed your horse and keeps them safe from ingesting other materials they should not be eating.
- Some hay racks are not placed correctly, and if positioned wrong, will force the horse to eat hay from an awkward position.
- If they have to reach up to get their hay, there is a risk of getting hay and dust particles in their eyes or nose.
Hay Bags and Nets
Bags and nets are exceptionally easy to use when you travel with your horse as they are easy to dampen or soak the hay in, and are easy to weigh. Hay bags or nets reduce the amount of waste you will have with your feedings, and will also keep the hay off the floor or dirt.
Slow feed hay nets waste even less than the larger hole nets. Your horse will benefit from getting a more nutritious feed, and you benefit from losing less feed.
- The hay net or bag takes little time to fill and will allow your horse to eat for longer than if you place the feed on the ground.
- By using the slow-feeding nets and bags, you also prevent boredom and vices in your stall as well as dry lots.
- If the bags or nets are not tied properly, they can become a danger to your horse.
Inside Grain Feeders
If you are feeding grain to your horse inside and have more than one horse, you want to minimize the competition between them. Placing your grain feeders in adjacent stalls is labor-efficient, but can lead to your horses biting or kicking at each other as they try to get their share.
The best horse feeder for feeding horses grain inside is with removable mangers. These feeders are usually made from plastic or metal with hooks that fit into metal fixtures or over a door. Either type is easy to take out and wash.
Metal type inside grain feeders are more sturdy, but they are heavier to handle and could hurt your horse’s leg if they paw at it as a lot of horses are prone to do. If you choose to go with the metal style, you need to ensure it is non-rusting and solid.
These feeders also need to be cleaned regularly as any uneaten grain that comes into contact with saliva can become fermented grains, which can make your horse colic.
- Inside grain feeders can allow you to measure each horse’s amount of grain they receive and will enable each horse to finsh their share without having others take it from them.
- Plastic inside feeders will easily break and need to replaced often.
Concentrate Feeders and Combination Hay Feeders
Another choice if you are looking for the best horse feeder is the combination feeder to feed out hay and grain at the same time. These feeders have a grill design on the top part that will hold several flakes of hay, and a tray down below to feed the grain and other supplements.
These feeders are convenient and easy to use while keeping your horse from wasting the nutrients they need from their feedings.
When you choose this type of horse feeder, make sure the slats on the hay rack are close enough together so your horse can’t get a foot caught. Galvanized rust should also be used on the bottom to prevent rusting. If you choose to use a wooden feeder, you will want to line the edges, so your horse doesn’t chew on them.
- With the hay on the top and the grain on the bottom, any leafy types of hay will fall down into the grain, therefore wasting little to no feed.
- If placed at an inappropriate height for your horse to eat from, the feeder can end up wasting hay as your horse will not be able to get their mouth in the right grabbing and chewing level
Ground Level Corner Feeders and Fixed Mangers
People that choose to feed their horses at a lower height, typically use a fixed manger with a mat underneath or a ground-level corner feeder. Feeding your horse in this manner allows them to eat at a more natural angle.
This method will also prevent them from ingesting sand or other materials with their food. The best horse feeders on the ground are those set up so your horse can eat with their head a natural angle, while not allowing them to trample their food.
- Ground level feeders provide a good balance between allowing your horse to eat with their head down and keeping hay together.
- These types of feeders are typically made from wood and are hard to keep clean.
Best Horse Feeder FAQs
Q: What is a slow-feed system of feeding a horse?
A: A slow-feed system of feeding your horse means you are giving them access to food twenty-four hours a day.
Q: Why is slow-feeding recommended for feeding horses?
A: A horse’s digestive system is designed to have its food move through it continuously and consistently. If they have an empty stomach, they are at risk of developing insulin spikes or burning gastric acid (ulcers).
Q: What will a horse eat if their bucket of feed or loose hay is gone?
A: A horse that does not have a feeding station available to them with choice of fresh hay or grains to eat will turn to eating their bedding if they are stabled, or if outdoors, they can begin chewing on trees or wood and possible poisonous plants they would otherwise avoid.
Q: How do I know which is the best horse feeder for my horse?
A: There is a wide variety of horse feeders, which can make it challenging to know which is the best for your needs. The best horse feeders will have specific characteristics: easy to assemble, easy to clean, can be placed where most convenient to your horse, and parts can be easily located if you should need to replace.
Q: How do I know which feeder suits my horse?
A: The best horse feeders are going to be the ones that fit the type of horse you own, but will not cost you a fortune to maintain. There are some factors to consider when looking for the right feeder:
Q: Will any type of horse feeder work for my horse?
A: Each of the different horse feeders has its advantages and purposes, but they are not all suitable for every horse. Understanding your horse’s personality and eating habits are going to direct you to the feeder that will work best for them. Talking to your veterinarian may also help you in choosing the best horse feeder.
Choosing the right feeder is a matter of preference and your horse’s personality, and one important factor involved with all methods is to inspect your feeders from time to time for wear or damage. Your horse depends on you for its care and providing safe and healthy feeding stations will help maintain their overall well-being.