Tag Archives: slow feeding

This ad lib hay experiment

Hmm. I have to hold my nerve: fat pony, rapidly vanishing hay; very rapidly vanishing hay. Cloud has not been able to get into the haybarn since and they are eating from all the haynets. There is only a very little left in a couple of nets after 24 hours. My idea is to put out 24 hours worth of hay at a time. I may need more hay stations.

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Filed under ad lib hay experiment, track system

Back home

Ben and Cloud are back home and I have reorganised the track. I have widened one corner and made more feeding stations:

one big haynet under the trees:

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three haynets attached to this tree in the next corner (widened):

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a haynet at the top of the track:

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and two here near the arena where they have often been before:

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I am going to experiment with providing ad lib hay and see if Cloud will start to regulate his intake. Today however, they ate hay only from the two familiar areas and then broke through the electric tape in front of the hay barn creating their own feeding station:

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Cloud looked rather round. I must say, when I came home from work today and saw Cloud’s belly, I had to steel my resolve to try this ad lib experiment. I wonder how long it will take him to eat less – or will he ever? He is a pony after all.

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Filed under a year in the life, ad lib hay experiment, track system

Morning routine

I am not working today, so I can take my time. I head out after breakfast to the yard. They see me and come down the track looking for their breakfast.

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I tip over the bins containing the soaking haynets. I drag the haynets to a wooden pallet to drain and start filling the bins again with water. I give the boys their already prepared buckets of feed. I shut Cloud, the faster eater, in to his stable.

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I gather the day’s hay into a wheelbarrow and bring it around the track, placing half in the haynet under the trees and spreading the other half around the track. I am careful to place the hay away from the mud that has built up on the track.

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I am experimenting with different schedules to make the hay last. Good dooer as Ben is, I never had this issue when Rosie was with us. Ben chews more slowly than Cloud and Rosie would frequently take breaks and wander off causing Ben to follow her. Cloud lays into that hay as if it will be his last meal.

I gave them a small amount of straw yesterday and I check the two haynets to see if they ate it. When I observed them last, they had been concentrating on the hay. But the straw is gone, as is all hay that was strewn around the track.

Ben has come out and I let Cloud out. Cloud pushes Ben off the hay he is eating and they both make their way to the haynet. Sometimes they like to move around the track eating the hay on the ground first. They eat a piece and move to the next before the last piece is finished and this keeps them moving repeatedly around the track.

I place the tap into the second bin. I start to muck out. The stables are almost clean, just some wet pieces of hay left on the ground from their night time haynets, which I always place in the open stables.

I move around the track. Droppings seem normal. To counteract the mud I leave the picadero open and they clearly spend a large amount of time there. Otherwise droppings are gathered in the shelter of the hedgerow at the back of the track, near the big haynet and also (thank you boys) neatly dumped by the muck heap.

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I fill two haynets with a small amount of straw. I bought some barley straw in the local market yesterday and hope that it will prolong chewing time for Ben and Cloud. I weigh the haynets now and am starting to be able to accurately estimate their weight. I tie the nets at different places along the track.

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During this time Ben and Cloud come, separately, to the yard to drink water. Both wander over to me, extend nose in greeting and wander off.

It starts to rain. I do not worry about the hay strewn around the track. It will all be eaten. I have only sheltered tasks left; haynets to fill and soak for the night and feeds to prepare.

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If I don’t soak the hay one or other of them cough. The soaking is a nuisance and soaking in advance leaches nutrients along with calories. But to soak for 20 minutes or so ahead of feeding them would be too time consuming. When I win the lottery I want one of these. In the meantime I am researching how to make my own hay steamer.

No grass in all this routine. They have chewed down the poorest area I have. The lake front, the garden and the rest of the paddock will be kept for winter grazing. It all looks much too lush right now.

I leave them sharing the big haynet.

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It is peaceful. There is a sense of harmony between these two. Ben of course is filthy. He loves to roll and has found a suitably muddy patch beside a hedge of brambles, stripped of all their leaves. Cloud never seems to roll. He is always clean. But I am sure he is responsible for much of that hedge stripping. To get to this area they need to walk along a narrow rock and muddy channel. I am happy with the surfaces on the track despite the increasing mud. Some branches have fallen, or been pulled, recently and I leave them where they lie, as I also leave loose wooden posts, logs and rocks.

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Paddock paradise in a wet climate

One thing I have realised is that keeping a track system involves regular adjustment to the track, some tweaks and some major works. It has been fortuitous to have the winter grazing for Ben and Rosie over the past couple of months as the disruption to the paddock and the track has increased again.

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The building to the side is the new extension to our house which means no paddock fence at present. There will be a fence, new gate, the service road which was put in for the builders will remain and lead to the yard and there will be a path up to a new ‘pedestrian entrance’ to the yard. So no more climbing up a slippery slope, over a wooden fence, negotiating an electric fence before reaching the yard. The water pipe will also be buried in the hope of preventing freezing.

I have taken advantage of the digger that has been on the premises over the last week.

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Rock (never a shortage here) has been brought up to the trees and leveled and pea gravel has been spread on top.

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Now when they are eating from those big haynets instead of sinking into mud, Ben and Rosie will be standing on pea gravel and hopefully polishing their hooves. I suspect they will roll a lot here too. The muddiest part of the track has also been scraped right back.

Pea gravel has also gone into my picadero, I look forward to seeing how well this works.

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Despite the natural advantage of a lot of rock here, some very muddy areas develop which need to be kept under control.  While I do not mind the ponies walking through a muddy section of the track, I do need to be able to push a wheelbarrow along, which had become impossible in the last few months.  Also when I started the track, I was very keen that hay would be distributed around the track to encourage movement.  This has only been possible on dry days and therefore those large haynets have been useful under the shelter of the trees.  However I think I have relied on those haynets too much and when Ben and Rosie return I intend to be more proactive about distributing hay around the track when the weather permits.

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Slow feeder haynets

I now have two haynets from heunetz that take a square bale of hay each. I am very pleased with them. They are under the trees and I keep them filled with hay at all times. I also put hay at night in each stable. The result has been that Ben and Rosie are spending less time in the stable at night (although this depends on the weather; last night was a bit colder and they spent more time there). I do not have to fully muck out the stables on work mornings and I also save time (and sinus stress) on haynet filling.

The haynets are supplied with a wooden pole that is tied to the middle of each net and hangs down which will close the net.  However, I have found that this leaves a gaping hole at each side when the net is full and I know that Ben would just stick his nose in there and hoover up the hay.  They also supply ties, made of the same material as the net which can be used to fix the nets onto fence posts or whatever.  We have only had to use one of these and so I have used the extras to close the nets.  I tie them to the haynet and weave the loose end across the top.

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When I first started the track system I was very conscious of encouraging movement along the track. In the absence of being able to spread hay around the track – impossible in this climate – I had haynets in various locations around the track. I found that they only consistently used the haynets that were under the trees which resulted in wasted hay elsewhere. But I have also found that they use the track well anyway: they are up and down that hill regularly – they have favourite rolling areas, resting areas and picking at hedgerow areas which are all used regardless of where the hay is.

It is early days, but I think that I am also using less hay.

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Danger!

A haynet. That’s all it is. New, admittedly; a rather bright green, sure; even a slightly new smell, but really, just how scary is it?

My idea: have this haynet (I went for the 2m wide version) fixed top and bottom to two trees. It should take a square bale (24 hours worth of hay) and, if I am lucky, allow Ben and Rosie to feed from either side. This of course depends on Ben. It would limit the jerk of the neck that Rosie gives on the other haynets. It would allow for (almost) ground level feeding, have the haynet advantage of slowing the rate of feeding and also, allow me to tip a full bale in. This is important as I have been having sinusitis due to pulling hay apart to stuff into haynets I think.

Ben’s idea: this is dangerous and may even attack. To defend himself and Rosie he had to gallop, buck, roll, gallop, buck, roll and gallop some more; stand, head high, give some loud snorts and gallop again.

Then he herded himself and Rosie up to the farthest corner of the paddock and stayed there.

He did not approach that haynet for a further six hours, although no other hay was available. Finally, Rosie approached it, which of course sent Ben after her, to chase her off it and settle down to eat from it as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

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I now have to see if he will let Rosie near it.

…….

He didn’t, or she didn’t dare. I went out and she followed me down and stood a respectful distance away and would not come nearer.

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So I got a regular haynet, brought it to the trees, Ben chose it and Rosie got the new one.

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No head jerking, at all. Just nice relaxed eating. I like this haynet. I like that it can be permanently fixed, that it holds so much, and that it allows eating from ground level. I have had my eye on them for ages, but could not use one until Ben was barefoot, in case a shoe would get caught in the net.

Only problem: I need to get another as I do not see Rosie ever feeling she could stand at the far side of that net and eat at the same time as Ben.

I could also get one small one for each stable, maybe a third for the trees in the yard area and, and, and……

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Haynets

This haynet under the trees is better:

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but not perfect because when Rosie eats from the top of it

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she does this:

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They have to tug at a haynet, but I had hoped to eliminate that upward jerk of the head and neck when I lowered the haynets. Ben does not seem to have this problem, being taller:

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Haynets are convenient. They are quick to fill, keep hay off the ground and in one place and they slow down the rate of eating, which for Ben is essential. When Ben and Rosie are on the track full-time, and that time is approaching again, I tie two haynets under the trees and two more in the opposing diagonal corner at the highest part of the paddock. They like both areas, depending on weather, and haynets in both places keep them walking around the track. (The water is in another corner at the stable yard which encourages more movement.)

I had been going to buy smaller mesh haynets but I need to do a bit more research now.

The beauty of the internet is the amount of information at the click of a mouse. This website is a great resource for anything to do with track systems and slow feeders.

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