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  • August 31, 2023 3 min read

    Using Haynets for Horses: The Benefits and Drawbacks

    As an essential part of equestrian care, feeding horses requires thoughtful consideration to ensure their health and well-being. One method that has gained popularity among horse owners is the use of haynets. These nets, usually made of nylon, cotton, or other durable materials, are designed to hold hay and slow down a horse's consumption. While haynets offer several advantages, they also come with their share of drawbacks. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of using haynets for horses, helping you make an informed decision about their inclusion in your horse care routine.

    Benefits of Using Haynets

    1. Extended Feeding Time

    One of the primary benefits of using haynets is their ability to slow down a horse's eating pace. Horses are natural grazers, and in the wild, they would spend hours foraging for food. Haynets mimic this behavior by making it more challenging for horses to consume large quantities of hay quickly. This extended feeding time can prevent boredom, reduce the risk of digestive issues, and promote a more natural eating rhythm.

    2. Weight Management 

    Haynets can play a role in managing a horse's weight. Horses prone to obesity or metabolic issues can benefit from controlled access to hay. By slowing down the consumption process, haynets help prevent overeating and allow for better portion control. This is particularly important in cases where weight gain needs to be managed or restricted.

    3. Reduced Waste 

    Horses can be notorious for wasting hay. They may trample it underfoot, use it as bedding, or scatter it around their stalls. Haynets significantly reduce wastage by keeping the hay contained and off the ground. This not only saves money but also ensures that your horse gets the most nutritional value from the hay provided.

    4. Gut Health 

    Slower hay consumption promoted by haynets can contribute to better digestion. Rapidly consuming large amounts of hay can lead to digestive upset and even colic. The gradual intake facilitated by haynets allows for better breakdown and absorption of nutrients, promoting overall gut health.

    5. Entertainment and Enrichment 

    Haynets can serve as a source of mental stimulation and enrichment for horses. Rather than finishing a meal within a short period, horses need to work a bit harder to extract hay from the net. This engages their minds and alleviates boredom that might arise from hours spent in a stall.

    Disadvantages of Using Haynets 

    1. Risk of Tangling

    One of the significant concerns with haynets is the potential for horses to get tangled in them. Horses' hooves or even their teeth can become entwined in the netting, leading to injury. To mitigate this risk, it's crucial to use well-designed haynets and ensure they are properly secured and positioned.

    2. Teeth Wear and Dental Problems 

    The process of pulling hay through the small openings in a haynet can cause wear on a horse's teeth and musculoskeletal system over time. Horses that aggressively pull at the haynets may develop uneven tooth surfaces or other dental problems, as well as put stress on their musculoskeletal system over time*. Regular dental check-ups become even more crucial for horses that use haynets.

    3. Frustration and Stress 

    Some horses may find it frustrating to extract hay from a net, especially if the net's design is not optimal. This frustration can lead to stress, behavioral issues and even health conditions such as ulcers. It's important to monitor your horse's response to haynets and switch to other feeding methods if signs of distress arise.

    4. Too Hard to Eat

    Horses that need to consume a large amount of hay may find eating from small holed haynets too bothersome and hard, and will simply give up. For these horses, owners may notice weight loss or the inability to gain weight. In this situation, it is recommended that hole size be monitored and adjusted to make it easier for the horse to consume hay. 


    The decision to use haynets for horses involves a careful evaluation of the potential benefits and drawbacks. These nets can be a valuable tool in promoting extended feeding times, weight management, reduced waste, and gut health. They also provide enrichment and mental stimulation. However, it's essential to be aware of the risks. Horse owners must strike a balance and consider the individual needs and preferences of their equine companions. Regular monitoring, proper maintenance, and consideration of alternative feeding methods are key to ensuring the overall well-being of horses in your care.

    *Hodgson, S., P. Bennett-Skinner, B. Lancaster, S. Upton, P. Harris, and A.D. Ellis. 2022. Posture and pull pressure by horses when eating hay or haylage from a hay net hung at various positions. Animals (Basel) 12(21):2999.

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