My quest to offer slow fed free choice forage began in 2008 because I had an insulin-resistant mare, Lily, that I was determined to keep happy and healthy. While researching and learning the importance of slow feeding, and eating from ground level, I could not find a slow feeder to purchase that was 1) safe, and 2) slowed down my horse’s consumption rate enough. In addition, ease of “loading” and the weight of the feeder became key challenges. And so began my 4 year experimental journey of creating a slow feeder that met my needs.
During that time I bought, designed, built and prototyped a variety of slow feeders and slow feed hay bags for my and Lily's use. Following are the pros and cons I discovered while experimenting with my own version of each slow feeder type: hard-sided, webbing mesh, and netting.
Why I'm Sharing My Experience
If you've read any of my blog posts, you know I am a proponent of slow fed free choice forage and providing a natural lifestyle for our horses - and that I ultimately designed my own slow feeder - the Hay Pillow®.
I know what it's like to want the best for your equine partner, to embark on an exploratory journey, and to be overwhelmed in the process. For those of you who are new to slow feeding free choice forage - or are still experimenting with finding the best slow feeders to accommodate a 24/7 feeding protocol - I offer my findings and lessons learned in hopes the information may help you in your journey.
My Evaluation Criteria
My criteria included:
Full Disclosure - While we ultimately determined netting was the most effective for slow feeding, both hard-sided and webbing mesh devices are successful for many. We are not discouraging their use as long as they are effective, encourage movement and cause no harm!
Hard Sided Slow Feeders
Pictured are feeders I made in 2009 with hard rubber tubs. Here's what I learned based on these designs:
Pictured is webbing commonly used in slow feed hay bags.
Pictured is netting - our preferred mesh type.
Why Netting Was Most Effective
We ultimately determined netting was the most effective for slow feeding because:
There You Have It - 4 Years of Prototyping and 10+ Years of Slow Feeding!
Do I have any regrets? Yes, I do regret not taking pictures of the progression of the Hay Pillow after giving up on my hard sided feeders and webbing bags. It was quite a journey! There were so many variations in fabric, closures, size, design and mesh/netting types.
The icing on the cake? I'm no longer a prisoner of feeding because I devised a methodical healthy way to offer slow fed free choice forage and have a career I'm super passionate about. Here's to happier, healthier horses!
More Helpful Slow Feed Resources
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About the Author:
Monique Warren invented the Hay Pillow® slow feeder and is the owner of Hay Pillow Inc.
Warren has been an equine guardian for over forty years and slow-feed advocate for over 10 years. She contributes equine nutrition and digestive and hoof health articles to publications such as Equine Wellness, The Journal, The Naturally Healthy Horse, Natural Horse Magazine, Nicker News, Horse Back Magazine, The Horse's Hoof, and Miniature Horse World Magazine. Equine nutrition and horses feet are her passions. She resides in Southern California.
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