As a certified equine nutrition expert I can tell you this, slow feeders are da’ BOMB!!
Let me start by stating that I am not being paid by any slow feeder manufacturer, heck some of the coolest ones I’ve seen people have made themselves! But I have seen the beauty of how they work so I am a big fan.
In general slow feeders offer a more natural way for your horse to consume his feed stuff; both hay and grain. The range of benefits include health, farm management and economic.
Slowing down the rate at which a horse eats means that the digestive process is slowed down and nutrients in feedstuff can be absorbed much more efficiently and I’m all for that!
HAY SLOW FEEDERS:
What are they? Well, it’s quite simple really: it’s either a net or a grid system placed over your horse’s hay. The net or grid has holes that are fairly small, usually just less than two inches square.
There are many different styles and sizes to fit all kinds of feeding needs, from feeding big round bales using a net system to feeding flakes of hay using a box system or a bag.
Forage feeders are designed to mimic grazing; with the pulling of the hay through the net or grate acting in the same way a horse pulls then chews a mouthful of grass.
Simulating a more natural method of “grazing” the hay slow feeder can result in the horse taking hours to consume a few flakes. Not only does this help you feed less but it helps to manage boredom and boredom associated vices, like cribbing and fence or tree chewing.
Slow feeders reduce feed related anxiety in horses that are on restricted diets. Because they can take hours to eat a few flakes they do not feel like they are being starved to death.
The use of a slow feeder in your sacrifice paddock or stall reduces waste as the horse cannot paw through the hay (then drag it around to ultimately poop on it) and will eat all of it, even the little chaff at the bottom.
If that’s not enough to convince you. Here's more, there is also evidence that a slow feeder can decrease the occurrence of ulcers. Horses salivate only when they are chewing and eating, and under natural circumstances they produce up to 30 litres of saliva per day! Saliva is an acid buffer and neutralizes the hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Since a horse constantly produces stomach acid (even if the horse is not eating) the more often this acid is buffered the better. Slow feeders allow this buffering saliva to be produced for longer periods, thus potentially helping ulcers.
GRAIN SLOW FEEDERS:
Grain slow feeders are not as well-known but have the same benefits.
They are designed on the same principle as a forage slow feeder; to slow down the eating process. With holes, obstacles or divets in the bottom of the feeder, the horse has to use his lips and work around this, much like he would in the wild.
Slowing down the rate that grain products flow through the digestive tract allows for better digestion and absorption of nutrients (so your horse gets more bang for your buck!)
Grain slow feeders are A MUST for horses that bolt their food and choke. The more they chew the more saliva they create. Add that to the smaller amount they can actually get from the feeder at one time and you could possibly eliminate that horrible experience from your life!
Slow feeders are a win-win for you and your horse. For you, they save you money from a reduction in waste, destructive boredom habits and from potential health related vet bills. For your horse, slow feeders help digestion, absorption of nutrients and to reduce stress and I’m all about Happy Horses!
You will have to do some research to decide which type best suits your farm, here are a few links to get you started (I just Googled them):
Peace and good rides, til we meet again…