Are Slow Feeders Safe for Horses?

Not all equine slow feeders and hay nets are equal when it comes to horse safety

Slow feeding hay is an excellent choice for horses. As grazing animals with only one stomach (unlike cows and goats, both of which are ruminants), horses are designed mentally and physically to forage throughout the day. In fact, veterinarians consider any period of more than four hours as fasting for horses. Those fasting periods can leave the horse’s stomach empty and expose its fragile squamous mucosa to high acidity levels, leading to equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) of the squamous portion of the stomach. Researchers estimate that 60% of recreational horses and more than 90% of performance horses suffer from this painful condition. In addition to being a disease, EGUS is a welfare issue and can lead to weight loss, “cinchyness” during saddling, behavior issues under saddle, and poor performance. Slow feeding is an important management tool in treating and managing ulcers in horses. 

Two horses eating from a Savvy Feeder

In addition to improving under-saddle behavior, slow feeding can help limit or avoid equine behavioral issues once considered “stable vices.” Stereotypies like weaving, stall walking, and cribbing can result from confinement-related boredom or stress, as well as from physical discomfort. Continuous yet restricted access to forage acts as an enrichment activity and keeps horses occupied.  

Slow feeders are also an important part of managing horses with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) and insulin dysregulation (ID) to increase their time spent foraging (important for all the reasons previously stated) while limiting their overall daily calorie and nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) intake. This, in turn, can help prevent occurrences of metabolic-related laminitis (a painful and often deadly cause of lameness in horses). 

However, while slow feeding is good for horses, not all slow feeders are created equally or safe for horses. That’s why our founder, Julie, created The Savvy Feeder.  

“My horses were wasting incredible amounts of hay everywhere,” she recalls. “They were stomping and laying and peeing on the hay instead of eating it. And when they would eat it, they gobbled it down in an hour and had to wait for another six to eight hours for more to eat again.”  

That’s when Julie had a dream that included a vision of a slow feeder. That vision excited her so much that she went to the store and purchased materials and asked her neighbor to build the feeder, just like she envisioned in her God-given dream. Six years later, The Savvy Feeder came to fruition.  

Over the years, Julie experimented with 30-plus types of materials. She even sold her farm to focus on testing each iteration. More than two years of full-time experimentation with the best agricultural, medical, and automotive materials available produced a slow feeder that's safe for horses. 

As a result, The Savvy Feeder is unlike any other slow feeder on the market.  

Made of a durable yet slightly flexible poly material, it’s safe for your horse’s teeth. The flexible poly material also reduces hoof-entrapment risk and, when under extreme pressure, the grate is designed to break away (don’t worry—The Savvy Feeder is reparable if this happens). Its square, pedestal-like shape also means it won’t roll away from your horse or end up under the fence.  

The bottom line? Most horses are healthier and happier foraging from a slow hay feeder, and we believe The Savvy Feeder is the best and safest option on the market. If you have any questions about incorporating slow feeding into your management, or if your horse has health issues that require dietary management, please reach out to your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist. If you want to learn more about how The Savvy Feeder works, give us a call—Julie is happy to answer your questions.