Boarded Horses - Free choice hay/Hay bags

Would something like this make the process quicker for loading hay nets?

I use hay nets in all of my stalls. I’ve gotten really good at filling them like I put on pillow cases - flip them inside out and push over the flakes I’m putting in them. :rofl: I zip tie a carabiner on the tie loop, flip it over the top of my stall, and hook it back to itself. Safest way for me to hang them high enough but also break when my idiots inevitably get stuck in them (I have one mare in particular that thinks her hay net is the BEST. SCRATCHER. EVER. :neutral_face:)

After a horrible, freak accident this winter with a blanket that wouldn’t break - I prioritize equipment that will break apart under pressure. I’d stay away from any straight nylon - if it can happen, it usually will happen. However, mine all need the nets - they pull flakes out of feeders and then pee on them, grind them into the shavings, and complain that I never feed them enough.


Clever!!! That looks like the kind of thing that you’ll find a ton of uses for regardless!

I’m scared of nylon too, so whatever I do will have a breakaway strategy. But you know horses, if they can find a way to hurt themselves they will. If my stall doors weren’t so tall I’d hang them outside for safety but sadly some of the boarded horses can’t even see over their doors.

I bought a couple of the nibble nets to trial and I may buy a couple of small holes plus one of those stable-hands. It’s not like they won’t be useful in the trailer etc if they don’t work out.

It sounds to me like you’re feeding enough hay that you should buy nets that can hold up to a bale of hay. I find they eat more slowly if the nets are more full. I use slow bale buddy nets and they’re great. They are expensive but they last for years. I patch the holes with zip ties. I agree that it can take a long time to fill nets but you can also set up a filling station to save time. I clip mine to three rings mounted in a corner, which holds the net open for me. I agree that you should arrange for boarders to purchase the nets if possible. You could probably negotiate a group discount. It sounds like you have made great improvements around there so I imagine the boarders would be willing to invest. Good luck!

Put this in a corner, and get good at the “layup” toss (think basketball). Boom, done. No stuffing nets.

My horses get fed off a loft. This is right underneath their drop, so the barn staff literally doesn’t even need to think about it.

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Also, please factor in the cost of this. “Free choice hay” has been the death of many’a boarding facility. Pass these costs on directly to your boarders.

I use these for my 3 horses

They come with very small nets, but I just replace the nets with bigger nets. My wasted hay went way down. They are super easy to fill. Schneiders just came out with a new design I’d like to try, but my originals are still going strong and I don’t want to spend the money.

Oh we definitely are. This will be a difficult transition from an emotional standpoint (we now like all the horses and people), but our end goal was always to have fewer, but higher paying, boarders - even having no horses here other than our own horses would be just fine.


I feed all of my hay in hay nets. I have a few different kinds but my preference are the plain old nylon type. I am also terrified of the nylon, but it helps that my two horses are shoeless right now. But what I do as a breakaway strategy is that I clip the net to a loop of baling twine, just like we all do with cross ties. I figure even if they get a foot caught, the baling twine should break. Knock wood no one has tested this.

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I have years of experience using slow feed hay nets in my own barn. I also worked off farm so safety and time were huge considerations.

Having horses shod and nylon haynets is scary. If you hang them high it’s much safer, but then they get hay “dust” in their respiratory system even with the very very best hay. If you don’t have anyone with existing respiratory problems (I have one) I personally wouldn’t worry about that, especially since your horses go out during the day.

I use a 55 gallon barrel, plastic would work, putting a few hooks around the rim. You put the haybag in the barrel attaching the top of the net to the hooks. Filling the bag from there is VERY easy and very fast.

I also recommend these. Wonderful! I also replaced the small nets with larger nets.

I’ve also used the small hole net bale feeders, one from an expensive brand and one cheaper brand. They both have been very durable. A pain to fill but if you don’t take the twine off the bale until it’s in the hay bag it’s easier. I didn’t hang mine but my horses don’t have shoes and I wanted the guy with respiratory issues to eat off the ground.

You won’t have this problem but I’ve had to stop using all these hay nets. We are now having our hay come off our field baled in BIG squares. It’s nice hay but the BIG square baler somehow cuts the hay so it’s longer and is too hard to get out of the hay nets! So now my horse snarf down their hay in no time and stand around staring at me while all their tummies are no longer benefiting from “grazing” all day. :disappointed_relieved:

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I’ve used a bunch. The XL Nibblenet lasted the longest, and was not injured when my angry PRE ripped it off the wall and played soccer with it. The large square 4-flake Smartpak one is a close second though. I like the metal that helps hold the top open, but prefer the multi-point hanging system of the NibbleNet to the single ring on the Smartpak. The velcro on the Smartpak doesn’t last long, but it’s not super important.

If I owned the barn, I’d consider installing the ones with metal frames that attach to the wall and drop down to fill, as they’re the easiest to use.

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Great idea to use the barrel to fill the nets! I’ll try that.

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I use a muck bucket and flip the bag over and fill, then clip closed. Toss in my grain cart and hang them. I stuff my nets as full as I can usually a bale or close to it. The first couple of weeks horses ate quickly, but then they slowed down to respectable amounts. Now a bale last a week with my pony in a double netted slow feeder. Other two average 2 days a bale. My bales are around 55 lbs each, so not terrible. Fatties get a slow feeder and one that needs weight has a large opening hay net.

16 nets would be a pain, but it keeps mine from wasting so much hay.

That doesn’t actually sound bad vs throwing hay every day. Every two days filling all the bags sounds super reasonable, actually.

The other thing you can do is buy more bags than you need. Make the mess (and deal with the hassle) of filling them all at once and then have extras for when you need to replace one.
Clearly this is a huge financial investment. It does allow you to fill bags at a time that works for you, instead of needing to do it when the horses decide they need to be filled.


The barn I work at has the wall mounted ones (with square frames and heavy duty nets), and they are great. The locking mechanism can be a bit fiddly but it’s still easier than hanging up nets on strings. Getting up to three flakes in them is an under 30 second job. Stuffing in 4-5 takes a bit more maneuvering and fanagling, BUT it also makes it so we were able to fill them once while doing stalls, and not need to give any more hay at pm feed or night check. If you do need to add hay to get someone through, it’s pretty easy to just open them, top up with a flake or two, and reclose them.

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The barn I am at took a 2x4 and mounted it in the corner of the stall probably about just under 6 feet high. Then attached a nylon slow feed hay net to the wall and the inside of the 2x4 to keep the net open in a triangle. Just throw the hay in over the 2x4 into the net. Easy to fill.
The majority of the barn uses hay from the big 3x3x7 foot bales so each horse gets one flake forked in with a pitch fork. She has about 5 horses.
One trainer uses small bales that are about 50 pounds and each horse gets 2-4 flakes at a time. She has 10 horses. These are compressed bales so it is more hay than it sounds but doesn’t take up as much room.
With both types of hay it is really easy to fill. Nobody has gotten hung up. There have been a few that have needed the nets replaced with slightly larger holed nets and one young horse that just couldn’t figure out how to eat out of the net. Over time he nets get holes so we just repair with baling twine as necessary depending on how much that horse is wasting and how much that horse needs his hay restricted.


I have a boarding stable with 11 horses. We’ve been using slow feed bags for 3.5 years. They do take time to fill but are totally worth the work/paying someone to fill them.
I live in FL where the price of good hay is astronomical. The horses waste a lot less hay and are happily munching all day and night. My clients love knowing that their horse is never without hay.
For me, the biggest bags with smaller holes are the best. I think something like a porta grazer would be less labor intensive but the cost of purchasing 11 of them is just way out of my budget.

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I use Nag Bags, and the easy fill method is to put the net in a muck bucket, flip the tops/edges out, put in your hay, flip the edges up and draw tight. Voila. The Nag Bags have different sizes and holes sizes.

I both board horses at home and have been a boarder for 25 years with my competition horses. The best set up I’ve found are the Portagrazers. Our current boarding barn asked all the horse owners to purchase one-- we got a screaming deal because we ordered in bulk-- and while they are $$ upfront, they more than pay for it because it saves on labor (quick to fill!) and the horses eat more slowly. They hold up incredibly well-- even our rambunctious youngsters haven’t damaged them in any way. I am very happy with my horse’s demeanor and behavior (and weight) with these in their stalls. Makes cleaning the stalls much easier, as there’s no hay lost/mixed into the bedding.

The Hay Rack works very well, too, and are easy to fill. My SIL has them in her 4 stall barn and loves them! I prefer horses to eat with their heads down, so the Portagrazer is my go to.

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May I ask: how do the portagrazers not get knocked all over the place? are they heavy?