Skip to content
Bay horse gorging on hay eating too fast

Browse all Blog Posts by Topic

Slow Feed Q&A: What's the Best Approach for Fast Eaters?

If your horse attacks their hay or herd mates for food, this is not "normal". They may be Insulin Resistant - a voracious appetite is one of the many signs of IR. Or they are stressed due to waiting for and receiving meals - instead of always having forage available.

If your current "slow feeder" is not slow enough, it will take time and experimentation to supply your equine with a limited amount of hay AND have it available 24/7.
Horses fighting over food - food aggression
Hierarchy will always exist in a herd, the majority of aggressive behavior is associated with food aggression. If free choice forage is available, the intensity of dominant combative behavior typically subsides.
The Hay Pillow slow feeder was designed to allow horse owners (willing to take the time) to accomplish two seemingly opposite goals:
  1. Feeding limited hay
  2. Having hay available 24/7
Accomplishing both goals will likely require having more than one slow feeder choice - which can include your current “slow feeder” just put less hay in it - along with multiple slow feed bags like the Standard Hay Pillow or the Hanging Hay Pillow placed in various locations between feeding times and possibly a variety of mesh sizes.
Simply using a slow feeder that extends a meal from one to three or four hours will still leave your equine ravenous.
They are still eating regulated meals - this is not the goal! Mentally, they know they will eventually be without forage. (Learn how the palatability factor can work to your advantage)

By using more than 1 bag, your horse will willingly take "breaks" as they move from one to the other thus encouraging movement. This is far more natural. Horses enjoy purpose to anything they do. Even eating and moving. It is not realistic to expect any one feeder/bag to be stuffed full and automatically last the entire duration between feeding times. 

Before I created the hay pillow, I designed and prototyped numerous feeders. Either the feeders fed too fast or they could not eat at all. None of the bags or nets on the market were slow enough to allow for limited hay 24/7.

The only solution is netting, this allows a smaller size opening and enables them to eat from it. Unfortunately, there is no indestructible netting available, which can be a challenge for voracious eaters.  A voracious eater will naturally use their teeth to "attack" food. 

horses and goat grazing from Hay Pillows
Content herd grazing on hay.

Recommended Approach for Fast Eaters

  1. Use the Standard Hay Pillow​ or Mini Hay Pillow on the ground. You can easily load and toss them in numerous locations. It is not attached to anything so they can’t tug or pull on it. When the bag is not filled too tight, they are encouraged to use their lips instead of teeth to extract hay which is a more natural technique for gathering forage - and your bags will last much longer.
  2. Try “fluffing” your hay or placing a flake intact in a bag. This can make a difference in rate of consumption. There are customers who slide a flake intact in the bag, which allows more hay without filling it too tight. Always observe your horse when making a change in methods to ensure they can eat. 
  3. Feed your horse as close to ground level as possible. This is the most relaxed posture mentally and physically enabling your horses jaw to manipulate and masticate properly. The mandible cannot drop down into place if their nose is above their knee. Learn more about the benefits of ground feeding.
  4. If your horse is confined to a stall, hang 2 or 3 bags as low as possible. The more the merrier!
  5. Manage herd feeding. Horses are more content in a "herd". The dominant horse will naturally insist on a feeder another is eating out of, thus encouraging more movement, so ideally you should offer one additional slow feed source over your herd count (For example, three horses would need four feed sources). If you need to separate an individual for extra caloric intake, only separate for the period of time it takes for them to consume it.
  6. Test your hay. If it is lacking in nutrients that support overall health and thyroid function you could be fighting a losing battle. No hay is balanced to itself with proper ratios of nutrients. This will also reveal if your hay is high in nonstructural carbohydrates.  
horse eating from hanging hay pillow slow feeder bags
Multiple locations encourage movement.
In the long run you will have a healthier equine that is no longer voracious. Always consider nutrition when dealing with any health or mental issues. Feeding a balanced low nonstructural carbohydrate diet and forage available 24/7 is healthiest for all horses. Equines were not meant to thrive on a high calorie, nutrient deficient diet.

​Find out if horses can eat more hay without weight gain: Learn about the surprising factors.

There is a wealth of information on the internet available for testing hay and balancing a custom supplement to it. In my experience, this is far more economical.

Helpful How-to Slow Feeding Resources

Browse all Blog Posts by Topic

Stay Connected

Follow us on Facebook for educational daily posts - Pinterest & Instagram too!

​Want to Hear About $ales, Nutrition Tips & Giveaways?

Be the first to know by subscribing to our monthly newsletter.

Monique Warren, Hay Pillow Founder with the Hay Pillow Slow Feeder product line - standard ground hay pillow, mini hay pillow, hanging hay pillow & horse trailer manger hay pillow

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, digestive and hoof health articles to publications such as Equine Wellness, The Journal, The Naturally Healthy Horse, Natural Horse Magazine, Nicker News, The Horse's Hoof and Miniature Horse World Magazine. Equine nutrition and horses feet are her passions. She resides in Southern California.

Monique's Story

1 Comment

  • Hey!! I would choose the standard hay bag or the trough in the size 1 3/4. Both my retired rescue sr broodmares (MFT’s Shasta and Shelby) act as if they will never see food again so they seem to be very aggressive if they struggle to get the hay out of the smaller holes. We deserve to win because these girls have been thru a lot emotionally, and even physically before getting to me (one more then the other). Plus their medical diagnosis have kept me from being able to buy more options for them. Just want them to live the best In their retirement.


Leave a comment