There is a learning curve for you horse when it comes to using a slow feeder for the first time. Studies suggest that it takes an average of 4 feedings for a horse to understand and be comfortable with slow feeding. We have created some helfpul tips for how to introduce your horse to a slow feed hay net.
Be Prepared to Spend Some Time
The first time you install one of our slow feed hay nets, you'll want to spend a little extra time helping your horse understand the new concept.
We recommend pulling tuffs of hay through the holes in various locations around the net and letting your horse discover them. Afterwards, stand back and observe how your horse reacts. Some horses catch on immediately and begin pulling hay out through other holes. Others become confused or frustrated after all the "starter tuffs" are gone and may walk away from the net or refuse to eat from it completely. If this happens, we recommend: 1) providing small amounts of hay without a net nearby 2) letting your horse observe you pulling hay out of the net, handing a few tuffs to him/her to eat and leaving some tuffs sticking out.
Provide Unrestricted Hay
For the first few days, providing loose hay on the ground in conjunction with the slow feeder can be helpful. Especially for horses that demonstrate they need more time to adjust to the new feeding routine.
We recommend putting out small amounts of unrestricted hay near the net and then observing your horse's reaction. It may take 10 minutes or 10 days for your hose to accept the net. Once your horse appears comfortable and is consistently using the net, then unrestricted forage is no longer necessary. You may even notice horse choosing the slow feeder over the unrestricted food after several days.
Check On the Net Daily
During the fist couple of weeks, we recommend checking on your net and your horse daily, especially if your horse seems frustrated or confused.
Occasionally, a horse will bite through the net as they are learning how to use a slow feeder. This is not an indication that the material is failing, decomposing, or is substandard because no hay net is indestructible. By keeping an eye on your net during the first couple of weeks, you can quickly and easily resolve the problem by tying up any holes within 24 hours. Once they understand the concept of slow feeding through the net, they will begin to ignore the net completely.
Don't Force It
We can't stress this enough. Don't force your horse to eat from the net. Just like people, each horse learns a different pace. Some horses could care less about the net and some are frustrated, confused, or even frightened by it at first. Some horses catch on in 10 minutes and some in 10 days.
By observing your horse during the learning process and responding appropriately to his/her reaction, you can ensure a smooth transition into slow feeding.