Preventing Equine Hay Waste

My horses pick through their grass hay and lots of it falls out and gets trashed on the ground. Sometimes I mix a little alfalfa on top of the grass hay to encourage them to eat the grass, but I don't have enough alfalfa. The cost of hay is up and I hate to see that grass hay going to waste.

This is a problem I’m sure many horse owners can sympathize with – horses can be finicky eaters and often it’s very frustrating watching them waste hay. There are two possible solutions to this problem. The easy solution is to use tightly-woven hay nets which the horse needs to reach up to, thereby limiting the amount of hay that the horse can access at any time. In theory, the horse will only bite off as much as he wants to chew. However, I don’t recommend this solution because horses usually prefer to eat with their heads down.

Most horse owners will notice that their horses prefer to eat from the ground – and if they spill hay from their feeder they will generally prefer to eat the spilt hay than the return to the feeder. This is because horses are natural foragers and are designed to be fully aware of their surroundings (e.g. predators) while eating with their heads down. If your horses don’t like to eat the spilt hay, and in fact this hay is being wasted, there are two possible obvious reasons. Firstly, is the feeder above a damp area? Make sure the feeder is above dry ground with no sand, gravel etc that can make the hay less palatable. Your horses should want to eat the hay from the ground surrounding their feeder. Secondly, can your horses see clearly when they have their head down near their feeder? If having their head down in this location prevents them from being able to observe the threat of predators they will not want to eat there.