How to Keep Horses From Wasting Hay

Horses Wasting Hay

Hay can be one of the biggest expenses in keeping your horse. It is not uncommon for people to feed hay by throwing the hay into the stall on the ground. The horse will stick his head down and start eating, but when you go to clean the stall, you will find hay trampled on and covered in manure. It can be frustrating considering the cost. 

Horse owners are always looking for a way to stretch the dollar, and preventing your horse from wasting hay will go a long way toward this goal. Take a look at the following methods to minimize your hay waste as much as possible.

1. Use a Hay Net

A hay net is an open bag made of poly string that holds your horse’s hay. The top opening has rings, so you can expand it to fit three or four flakes. Hay nets come in all different sizes, so you can find the one that is ideal for your horse.

When you feed your hay in a hay net, it is off the ground, so your horse won’t walk in it or make manure in it. This automatically decreases the amount of hay you waste. You can hang it in the stall, or you can hang it on a fence outside. They come in different styles, and one type is a slow feed hay net.

When you use a hay net, you have the added benefit of extending the amount of time your horse eats the hay. Horses are meant to forage 23 hours a day, so having a slow feed hay net is beneficial to their digestive systems.

Horse Feeding From Hay Net

2. Make a Modified Hay Tub

If you have horses outside in a field or a paddock, you can make a modified hay tub to cut down on wasted hay. Take a big rubber or metal bin, and tie rubber stall guards across the top. You can use three or four depending on the size of the tub. Make sure that they are fastened securely.

You can place the hay in the tub under the rubber guards, and it will prevent the horse from taking out more than he is eating. The hay won’t be on the ground to be trampled or pushed into any mud or dirt, and your horses will end up eating every last piece of hay.

3. Try Another Type of Hay or Compressed Hay in a Tub

Sometimes horses can be picky. If your horse is leaving large amounts of hay uneaten, try another type of hay. If you are feeding straight timothy, see if it prefers a timothy grass mix. Horses know the difference between high-quality hay and less desirable hay, and it could be that you need to switch it up. You can also try feeding dingy or compressed hay in a tub. This may prevent waste as well.

Horse Feeding from Hay Tub

4. Feed Less More Frequently

If your horse is wasting its hay, you might want to try feeding less hay more frequently. For example, if you are giving fur flakes in one feeding, reduce it to two flakes and add another feeding. You can give your horse more hay whenever what’s there is gone, but try feeding less to encourage your horse to finish what is there.

5. Place the Hay Near Water

Horses love to eat their hay and drink water at the same time. Some horses even like to dunk their hay in the water. If your horse is walking from the hay to the water source, it could be that he is dragging or walking through the hay to get back and forth. Try placing the hay under the water bucket in the stall and next to the water source outdoors.

Horse Drinking Water Near Hay

​6. Wet the Hay

Most horses love wet hay. Not only may it prevent your horse from wasting hay, but the water content will help to keep its digestive system moving the hay right through the horse’s body. You can wet the hay before you place it in the stall or the paddock, or you can take a muck tub and place the hay inside. Then, fill it with water. Just make sure that you dump the tub at the end of the day. If you choose this method, you need to replace it with fresh water each time you feed more hay.

7. Use a Hay Feeder

Hay feeders can be used inside the stall or out in the paddock. It is a metal frame, and the horse has to eat the hay through the bars. This will keep the hay up off the ground, and it will slow down how much the horse eats. The result is less wasted hay and the horse eats the hay for a longer period of time.

Horse Hay Feeding Rack

8. Use a Tarp or Rubber Mat to Feed Outside

If you are feeding your horse in a paddock, take a tarp or a rubber mat and place the hay on it. This way, it is a separate space for hay, and the hay won’t get muddy or dirty from the ground during rain. It is unlikely that your horse will choose to walk on a tarp or a mat in the paddock, so it may prevent loss of hay.

Final Thoughts

Hay is undoubtedly one of the most expensive items in any barn, and every horse needs it. There are many different kinds of hay, and some horses are particular, which can lead to waste. Try other types of hay, and you might find something your horse will clean up. If you get a load of hay and your horses waste it more than normal, speak to your hay supplier. The horses may be onto something. 

One of the oldest methods that is sure to prevent waste is using a hay net or some variation of it. Keeping your horse’s hay off the ground will prevent waste. You can also try to feed in muck tubs or larger rubber containers. Keep trying different methods, and you are sure to find one that solves this problem for you.

  • Updated February 18, 2020