Necessity is the mother of invention.
In 1997 I established Little Thunder Stables Inc. A rehabilitation center for horses suffering from various ailments such as laminitis, founder, navicular, clubfeet, wound care, etc. Because I specialize in hoof care, many of my cases revolved around founder and laminitis.
In 2000, I had 5 foundered horses and 5 horses with less serious hoof issues in my care. Because founder rehabilitation requires a strict diet, the 5 founders were isolated to what I lovingly referred to as the “The Jenny Craig” pasture, a one-acre bare dirt lot, while the other 5 horses remained on regular pasture with an unrestricted diet.
The 5 founders were briskly hand walked twice a day and trimmed once a week. They were on a very restricted diet that required their hay to be soaked for at least 30 minutes in order to remove excess sugar and starch. This was a laborious task because the hay would become extremely heavy after being soaked. 12 pounds of hay would last approximately 90 minutes and they would have to wait until 5pm for the next feeding. I knew there had to be a better way.
During this time, many owners in the horse community were experimenting with “slow feeding” because traditional hay bags had very large holes that were not restrictive enough. Some owners were using stainless steel display shelves from department stores inserted in a large bin. Others were cutting holes in plastic barrels and lining the barrels with netting. I found a small hanging bag with 1 3/4” holes and decided to test it on the 5 founders without soaking the hay first. What I discovered was amazing. When consumption is slowed to a natural pace, sugars and starches are metabolized at a slower rate. More importantly, the foundered hooves showed no ill effects from un-soaked hay. In addition, 12 pounds of hay lasted nearly 4 times as long! Not only did the smaller holes help improve their digestion, but it reduced their boredom by keeping hay in front of them all day. I realized that Mother Nature intended for the equine to be a slow feeder.
At the same time, Texas was in a major drought. Hay was scarce and very pricey. For economic reasons, I switched to feeding round bales. Unfortunately, I could not find a slow feeder on the market specifically for round bales. So I got creative. I bought 2 soccer nets, sewed them together, and covered the round bale in the restricted pasture. Voila! The first Texas Haynet.
Fast forward to January 2001. With the cold weather in full swing, all 10 horses were consuming more hay. Maintaining 2 separate pastures with round bales for horses with different dietary needs became a tedious task. One day as my husband was placing yet another round bale in the unrestricted pasture; I asked him if he had put another bale in the “Jenny Craig” pasture yet. To my surprise he said no. As a matter fact, the restricted pasture still had hay in the net about 2 feet deep while the unrestricted pasture was getting their 3rd bale in the same amount of time! The 5 unrestricted horses were plowing through a round bale 3 times as fast as the 5 restricted horses. I rushed out and bought 2 more soccer nets, fashioned them into another round bale hay net and immediately began restricting the other 5 horses.
Through 2009, I continued to make round bale hay nets for myself and a couple of friends and neighbors who loved how my little invention helped them save hay.
By 2010, I still could not find a slow feed hay net for round bales on the market. I knew I couldn’t be the only owner searching for a solution. So I began making prototypes for my round bale hay net. After months of perfecting my design, I finally brought the Texas Haynet to the market place in early 2011.
Today, Texas Haynet produces a full line of American made hay nets and bags to meet the needs of any horse owner.
About the Author
Leslie Davis, the founder of Texas Haynet, is a passionate horsewoman with nearly 20 years of rehab experience. Her drive to help equines in need led to her expertise in hoof issues. Today, Leslie resides on a farm near Austin, Tx where she continues to rehabilitate neglected, abused, and ailing horses.