Hay is expensive! There’s nothing more frustrating than watching your horse toss his meal out of the feeder onto the ground. Not only does that behavior lead to waste from trampling and wind, it also increases your horse’s risk of sand colic.
What Makes a Good Horse Hay Feeder?
Over many years of horse ownership, I’ve searched for a solution that:
Having struck out on commercial options, I came up with a way of modifying a bunk feeder from my local farm store to meet the above criteria. I made two of them last spring. Since then, they have been tested by at least six, different equine personalities…and approved by me.
I needed one more, so today I took pictures as I pulled it together. Take a look at the final product, then I’ll show you how to make your own.
What You'll Need
To make your feeder, you'll need:
How to Make Your Waste-Less Horse Hay Feeder
This is really easy, I promise. It took me about 30 minutes, including finding the right drill bit and pausing to snap photos.
STEP 1: Drill holes in your bunk feeder. Fun, right? It's easiest if you tip the feeder on its side.
The red arrows in the photo below show where the holes need to go. Hint: The mid-point between the legs is at the 9.75 inch mark
You'll put three holes on each side of the feeder, just below the lip. I find that this spacing works really well. It's easy for me to slip flakes of hay between the crossbars, but hard for the horse to throw them back out.
STEP 2: Thread both ends of one of your sections of paracord through one of the holes. Leave enough of a loop to clip on a carabiner.
The purpose of the carabiner is to keep the paracord from slipping through the hole. You could use something cheaper, like a large washer, but I like the carabiner because it doesn't have any sharp edges to wear on the cord, and it's easy to unclip if I ever need to remove the crossbar in a hurry.
STEP 3: Thread one of your sprinkler risers onto the paracord.
The purpose of the PVC riser is to keep the horse from getting tangled in something more flexible (like chain or uncovered paracord). It's also not particularly interesting for most horses to chew on, and it's smooth against their faces as they root around inside the feeder.
STEP 4: Thread both ends of the paracord through the hole opposite the one you started with. You should have a few extra inches on the other side, which will make it easy to tie a simple knot to close the loop. Be sure you pull the cord pretty taut before tying your knot. Mine ended up with just enough slack to expose about an inch of paracord on each end of the PVC riser.
Clip on another carabiner to keep the knot from trying to slip back through the hole over time.
REPEAT STEPS 1-4 to add the remaining two crossbars. Ta-da!
STEP 5: Use the cam straps to secure your new feeder to the fence. This way, it's easy to detach the feeder for cleaning, but your horse can't push it all around his paddock.
That's it! For less than $150, I have a bunk feeder that is the best combination of easy use and effectiveness that I've managed to find yet.
How well does it work? That depends on the horse. I'd say it keeps 90-100% of the hay off the ground for most of my horses most of the time. My determined hay-tosser occasionally gets up to half of his hay out of it, but usually much less. I call that a win.
You might also like:
Sixteen inches of snow fell on my farm over the weekend. They turned my regular farm chores into a sweaty affair involving trudging through drifts with armloads of hay, swapping out horse blankets bedazzled with icicles, and digging out the truck in case of veterinary emergency.
In this weather, everything is harder and takes longer. Chore time winches up from ten minutes to half an hour. Eventually, I stomp back into the mudroom, dragging my coat and brushing damp hair back under my beanie… and go change into my workout gear.
What is it that compels me to maintain official workouts even when daily life offers exercise aplenty? What, in my nerdy little brain, separates "workouts" from "general activity?"
For me, this is different from general activity.
Now, general activity can certainly confer the benefits of physical exercise. It’s arguably the most natural way to stay fit. Just doing stuff – trudging up hills, pushing wheelbarrows, carrying posts, digging holes, heaving feed bags – it all makes me stretch and strengthen, bumps up my heart rate from time to time. What’s not to love?
I’ve certainly dragged inside after some exhausting days of building fence. I’ve enjoyed putting my feet up after riding a tough 50. At these times, I may consider myself to have gotten plenty of physical activity, but I don’t credit myself with a workout.
Splitting hairs? Probably. But I find value in the distinction.
On a related note, as beneficial as general activity is, very few of us do enough of it. I often hear riders claim they don’t need to work out because they get their exercise taking care of their horses. After all, just feeding and grooming and paddock scooping earns them more steps than your average Joanne!
I’ll grant you that. But is Average Joanne the right benchmark? “Average” these days is pre-diabetic with chronic back pain and mood swings. I don’t want to be average.
I could probably maintain reasonable health on farm chores and a decent diet. I could certainly still ride long distances. People do it all the time! But I wouldn’t get any better. You know what Henry Ford said: Do what you’ve always done, and you’ll get what you’ve always got.
I want more. So, for me, general activity – even when it gets an extra boost from snowfall or unexpected groundwork with a frisky pony – is only a baseline. I’ll spin and run and lift my way up from there.
All the best riders I know make their own fitness a priority. Can you be a distance rider without working out? Yes. You can be a knowledgeable horseman and get your horse fit and make it through 50 or 75 or 100 miles. But will you be the best rider you can be?
What do you think? What is a workout? Is there a different definition that works better for you?
You might also like:
Thanks for dropping by! I'm an endurance rider in the northwest region of the United States. This blog explores the mental, physical, and technical aspects of being a better horseman, athlete, and human.
The Sweaty Equestrian