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Is Feeding From A Haynet Bad For Your Horse's Health?

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Is it best to feed your horse from the floor? PART 2


In our last blog we looked at how feeding positions can help or hinder the horse's musculoskeletal health - in particular feeding from the ground. Now we'll take a look at other feeding positions and when they might be beneficial to the horse's health.


Feeding High

Feeding in this position is bad for the back and causes uneven wear patterns in the teeth

Learn more about this in Posture and Performance and How Your Horse Moves





Feeding from high haynets and hay racks is usually seen as a bad thing for the musculoskeletal system, the back and for tension. However, there are times when feeding from this position (including chest height) is beneficial.


Horses, given the opportunity, will graze with the head and neck in a high head position for example when browsing from hedges, shrubs and trees.





PROS

  • Horses tend to stand square in front when eating from chest height and above because they don’t need to spread their front feet to reach the ground. A horse with a marked asymmetry within their fore hoof conformation and a consistently asymmetrical grazing stance will benefit from being fed from a slightly higher position.


  • With the head in a higher position the weight is more evenly distributed between fore and the hind feet rather than being pulled forward onto the forehand.


  • Dust and small particles fall from the hay, so they are less likely to be ingested or inhaled.


  • It’s easier to keep the stable tidy as you can easily sweep underneath.


CONS

  • Consider how long the horse is standing in poor posture with his head high and back hollowed whilst eating. In this position the spaces between the spinous processes are smaller putting pressure on the interspinous ligament and strain on the muscular skeletal system.


  • A high head position stimulates the sympathetic nervous system that’s associated with anxiety, tension and the flight response.


  • When a horse pulls hay from a haynet with a jerking type movement, the back muscles will contract. When this is repeated for hours every day, it’s strengthening the back muscles to create back extension – not something riders want for their horses.


  • The higher the haynet the more likely the horse is to pull the hay out to one side with a twisting motion of the head. All horses have a preference to one side or the other, if the haynet is always tied to one side of the stable door, for example always on the right, it’s likely that the horse will pull hay out to the left – towards to view. This develops asymmetry, so also consider where the haynet is tied the stable.


Other Head Positions to Consider

Feeding isn’t the only time we should avoid high head positions, it’s important to consider every aspect of a horse’s management.


For example, the height of stable doors and tie rings. These can be too high for small ponies causing them to adopt an unnaturally high head carriage, affecting their posture and comfort.



Travelling horses is another example. This can be stressful for horses - anything that can be done to alleviate stress and muscle tension, is a good thing.


Lorries with high tack lockers aren’t ideal as they don’t provide enough room for the horse to lower his head, travelling for long distances with a high head carriage will put strain on the back.


Food for thought!


We owe our horses the best possible environment in which to thrive. Whether in the field, stable, travelling or being ridden it’s up to us to ensure their comfort, welfare and safety.


Taking time to watch and study each horse’s characteristic asymmetries and posture can help us decide which is the best feeding position for each horse.


Also, remember variety is important to the horse having multiple feeding stations can be beneficial and well worth trying to implement.


To learn more about this check out these webinars:-



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