Coming from the world of Racing Thoroughbreds, hay nets are just an every day item in the barn. The hay nets are kept very full with high quality hay and are placed on the outside of the stall and then tied back in order for the horses to be able to put their heads out and eat hay at the same time. It is essential that the hay nets are tied properly in order to avoid a mishap and have the horse take the hay net down by pulling on the cord that ties it to the outside of the stall. And of course, if the hay net falls down, and the horse pulls it into the stall, they will inevitably get tangled up in it. NOT A GOOD THING. So there is a specific way to tie your hay net up and secure it. My suggestion is that you purchase hay nets that are made of rope instead of plastic. If there is a mishap, rope will break causing less damage. Also, be sure that your hay net is at the right height. Too high, the horse has to stretch too much and may loose interest. Too low, he or she may get their foot caught in it, usually causing a burn behind their pastern. Racing horses do a lot of traveling. Usually they are without food several to many hours before a race. So, as soon as they are cooled out, the hay rack goes up and when they are loaded onto the van, the hay rack goes right with them. Remember, horses are grazing animals and their bodies were designed to eat almost constantly. When we deprive them of this ability to consume food as they should, we not only go up against their nature but we open them up to the possibility of stomach ulcers, nervousness, cribbing or even stall walking or weaving.
My objective in writing articles is to help horse owners in every way I can, to help them in keeping their horses happy. Lets say you are off to a horse show. You will probably be there from early in the morning until the evening hours. Your horse will probably only be ridden under saddle a total of a few hours on that day. The rest of the day he or she will be tied to the trailer. Of course the best scenario would be to rent a stall on the grounds, if they are available, but they are fairly expensive. So your horse will more than likely be standing tied for most of the day especially if you are showing more than one horse. Having a hay rack available with plenty of good quality hay, such as a timothy alfalfa mix or an orchard grass mix or even clover hay is a great way to not only keep your horse fed but to keep him or her occupied instead of digging holes or constantly looking around and moving back and forth. Having a water bucket hanging next to your hay rack is not a bad idea assuming that if your horse gets hot while being shown that you will correctly walk your horse off before returning them back to the trailer.
Traveling horses, especially long distances, really need to have either a hay rack or hay put in the hay bags that are provided in the trailers, or some trailers with dressing rooms will just have a solid place for you to place your hay. If you are transporting your horse in a van, do not put the hay net where the wind is blowing in from the window. You should have the hay net in the middle if you have two horses side by side. If you have three horses across then you will need two hay racks on either side of the middle horse. If you are hauling a long distance and have a hay rack installed, make sure that you do not tie your horses too short. Horses need to have enough head movement to reach the hay and put their heads down far enough to blow their noses and clear their heads. This is very important that a horse is able to clear out their heads in order to stop the hay from getting into their lungs, which may be a contributing factor to your horse coming down with shipping fever and can be fatal.
The proper way to hang a hay rack is to first of all have a screw eye about an arms reach above your head on the outside of your stall. Bring your hay rack up in front of you, take the rope end of the long draw string that draws the hay rack together and loop it into and through the screw eye. Pull the end down and pull the hay rack up while pushing the bottom of the hay rack up also. Take the end of the draw string and run it through the webbing at the very bottom of the hay rack. Pull down and then up, bringing the bottom of the hay rack up as high as you can within reason. Tie a slip knot back onto the same draw string that you were using to pull to the hay rack up. Keep looping the knot over and over several times. This way if the horse pulls on it, it will not untie. Another alternative would be to put a double snap on the end of the draw string once you have run it through the bottom of the hay net bringing it back up in a tight manner. If the hay net is blocking too much of the entrance of your horses stall making it difficult for the horse to put his or her head out, just go to the other side and use rope or a bungee or whatever you prefer using one of these things to pull the hay net back out of the way and secure it.
I suppose you are wondering why go through all this trouble when you can just throw the hay in the corner of the stall. There is nothing wrong with putting hay in the corner but horses have a tendency to waste hay in this manner, step on it, urinate and make manure on it besides it causes you to throw away more bedding when it gets mixed into it. When you are at a show and you have a hay rack in front of your horse, it gives you a little more lea way to walk about and visit your neighbors, go watch a class or two, knowing that your horse is well fed and that his or her needs are being met, not to mention that your horse will probably rest a little more due to the fact that their stomach is full. When you are transporting a horse a long distance, it makes for a much more satisfying and easier ride for your horse if they have food to consume, again they will sleep allot better. Once you have become accustomed to hay nets and the do’s and don’t, it is pretty easy. I find them to be a very valuable tool in not only keeping my horses happy but they bring me a greater peace of mind knowing my beloved friend is not going hungry.