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Beginner’s Guide to Horse Hay Nets & Bags

horse hay field
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Written by Allison G.

When it comes to feeding hay efficiently, waste not, want not.

Almost every horse owner has had a run-in with a hay net or hay bag at some point, and for good reason! So many horses these days spend long stretches of time in their stalls. Hay nets and bags can be a great way to prevent the horse from scarfing everything down within minutes. In addition, they reduce the amount of waste that comes from soiled and scattered hay.

Hay nets can be invaluable when you’re trying to offer forage in a neat, clean, and organized way. They’re safer for teeth than metal hay racks and are useful for providing enrichment and reducing boredom. Stretching out the time your horse spends eating is also important to improve digestive health, since it more closely mimics natural grazing.

What is a horse hay net?

A horse hay net is exactly what it sounds like – a net that holds hay for your horse to eat! Simple, right? These nets are generally made of nylon twine, but the size of the holes and the size of the net can vary quite a lot. Larger holes make it easier for horses to pull the hay out and smaller ones can really slow them down.

Be careful not to pick nets with holes that are too small for your horse, because they can become overly frustrated. Hay net sizes can vary from small ones that hold a few flakes, to nets that can fit whole bales, or even round bales!

Best horse hay nets:

Weaver Leather Slow Feed Hay Net

Weaver Leather makes a great all-purpose hay net for horses. This net is durable, has useful 2” sized holes, and comes in a variety of colors.

weaver hay net

Click to see it at Amazon

Tough 1 Solid Braided Cotton Hay Net

If you want a hay net, but your horse can’t mentally handle slow feeders, then this is the net for you. The holes are large and horses can easily pull hay out without becoming frustrated.

horse hay net

Click to see it at Amazon

Hay Chix Large Bale Net

Round bales or large square bales can be fed out in the field, but some horses still waste a lot or eat too fast. Hay Chix makes great nets and this HUGE hay net is no exception.

net chix large hay net

Click to see it at Amazon

What is a horse hay bag?

Horse hay bags are mostly nylon or canvas sacks that have either a hole, webbing, or netting on the side for easy hay access. Similar to hay nets, the openings in the hay bag can be large or smaller. Smaller openings slow down your ravenous eater and the tote-like design makes transporting hay easier.

Best horse hay bags:

Weaver Leather Hay Bag

This is your classic hay bag – cordura and mesh! It’s a bag with mesh sides for ventilation and a hole in the front for hay access. To top it off, they come in a lot of different colors!

horse hay bag

Click to see it at Amazon

Derby Originals Slow Feed Hay Bag

Derby Originals makes a high quality, durable hay bag with 2” square webbing that’s easy to fill! Straps and rings also make it easy to hang just about anywhere!

derby horse hay bag

Click to see it at Amazon

Tough 1 Hay Tote Bag

This easy to fill bag comes in fun prints and adjustable straps for easy carrying! The holes are a little large to be a slow feeder but will still slow them down a bit.

tough 1 horse hay bag

Click to see it at Amazon

Horse hay bag vs. hay net

At this point, you’re probably wondering when you’d choose to use a net versus a bag to feed your hay. There’s no “right” answer, but we can offer some guidance as you make your decision.

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When to use a hay net:

  • When you want to slow down a fast eater.
  • When you want to reduce hay waste from messy eaters.
  • When you want to keep hay clean and off the ground.

When to use a hay bag:

  • When you want to reduce the chance of entanglement.
  • When you’re sick of trying to shove flakes into hay nets.
  • When hay nets are STILL too messy for you and you need something cleaner.

How to use horse hay nets

How do you tie a horse hay net?

The easiest way to tie hay nets is to add a snap clip to the rope. You can run the clip (and rope) through a ring and back down to the bottom of the hay net. You can either clip the snap to the bag or run it back up and clip it to the ring.

Other methods include tying the tail with slipknots or using a carabiner to keep it out of the way. Whatever way you choose, you need to be sure it doesn’t sag down too far when its empty!

How high should a horse hay net be tied?

The net should be hung so that it isn’t within hoof range when it’s empty. You also want to be sure that it’s not so high that the horse struggles to pull the hay out or has to strain their neck and back. This will vary based on your horse’s size and how they eat.

Smaller holes have less chance of entanglement, unless your horse is shod. Horse shoes can still catch in small holes, which is why it’s very important to tie your hay bag, or net, high enough.

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How to hang a hay net for horses?

Hay nets should usually be hung from a ring on the stall wall or from the rafters. Wherever you hang the net from, it needs to be safe.

Don’t leave loops where your horses can tangle themselves. Some hay nets are designed to go over large bales or in tubs instead of hung at all. In those cases, simply follow the instructions the company provides.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my horse to eat slower?

The most common way to slow horses down is by using a slow-feeder hay net or bag.

What is a slow feeder?

A slow feeder is a method of feeding that decreases how fast a horse can eat. With hay that could involve a bag or net with small openings, or a ball or other “toy” that you can fill with hay and the horse then has to manipulate to get the hay out of.

horse hay toy

Click to see horse hay feeder toys at Amazon

There are also slow feeders for grain – like toys or dishes with divots or raised areas, so the horse has to try a little harder to get the food.

Are slow feed hay nets good for horses?

Slow feeder hay nets can be good for horses. Horses that are stabled can get bored, and slow feeder hay nets give them something to do for longer. Horses should also consume forage over a longer period of time to prevent digestive issues.

That said, hay nets with too small holes, or those that are hung incorrectly, can be frustrating or dangerous.

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How many hay nets should a horse have per day?

The number of hay nets you give a horse depends entirely on how much hay they hold and how much hay your horse needs.

Do hay nets damage horses’ teeth?

Hay nets are considered safe for horse teeth. The netting is fairly soft, unlike the metal hay racks that are known to damage teeth. Horses usually learn to pull the hay out of nets instead of scraping their teeth on them, but every horse is different.

How do you make a slow feeder hay net for horses?

It’s usually more economical to buy a pre-made hay net, but if you need a special size, or got a good deal on materials, there are a lot of tutorials on making your own.

If you’ve ever done macrame it’s basically the same idea. You need way more twine (or rope) than you realize, though, so take that into consideration.

Should horses eat hay off the ground?

Horses can definitely eat off the ground – it’s the way their bodies were designed. Horses that eat everything up high (like always eating from hung hay bags) can develop muscle issues with their back and neck and some even sinus issues.

The only time there could be an issue with eating from the ground is in sandy areas. Horses can accidentally ingest sand, which can accumulate in their intestines or even lead to sand colic or the formation of enteroliths.

There are hay bags designed to safely hold hay on the ground, although nets should never be used on the ground with shod horses, because the shoes can catch on even small holes.

What is the best hay net for greedy horses?

If your horse can consume a few flakes of hay in record time and you need to slow them down a notch, buy a net with smaller holes. Try to find a durable one, because greedy horses can be a little rough with them.

The Weaver Leather hay net features 2” sized holes designed for hungry little hippos — errr, horses!

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What is the best hay net for the trailer?

The best hay net for trailers holds a smaller amount of hay, but otherwise it’s all personal preference. Freedom Feeder makes a smaller hay net specifically for traveling.

horse trailer hay net

Click to see it at Amazon

Some people prefer hay bags in this situation, you just have to make sure your horse doesn’t flip it backwards and get frustrated they can no longer reach their food. There is also the risk or the horse getting hay bits in their eyes or breathing it in while traveling in the enclosed space.

Parting thoughts

As with so many products on the market – your hey net or bag “mileage” may vary. While there is no perfect solution that works for everyone, hopefully this article gives you a good starting point. Whether you chose a hay net or a hay bag (or neither), your horse will thank you for doing your homework. Bon appetit!

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About the author

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Allison G.

After earning my B.A. in Animal Sciences, I went on to work for an equine vet, volunteer at a therapeutic riding nonprofit, and dabble in equine photography. I now keep two horses at home on my small farm and ride them English and Western. My writing has also be featured on FEI.org.