How we hay - smaller & larger tracks/herds
A question that we've seen asked many times - 'how do you feed your hay?'
When you're keeping your horses on a Paddock Paradise, planning out the areas that you'd like to feed your hay is important. With every herd comes different personalities and activity/fitness levels. Observing the members in your herd is a good place to start as this allows us to understand their regularly visited areas, their influence within the herd and their overall movement (or lack of).
Our livery is split into three main sections - track 1, track 2 and track 3. Track 1 (5 ponies) is our smallest track and herd. The members within this herd are typically our most complex equines who require more care for various medical conditions than some of our other liveries. This deliberate set up makes this herd one of our more quieter herds with less movement being achieved due to lameness and age amongst other reasons. By observing the type of herd we have made, we can then look at how we can feed them in a way that optimises their space. Although we have made this herd a slower paced herd for a reason, we still need them to move and so strategically planning how we feed their hay can encourage this.
Smaller hay nets placed in numerous different hay boxes is what we find is best suited to our smallest herd of 5. We have found if our horses are standing around one particular feeding station more than we'd generally like, it's often a case of we're feeding too much hay in one area. When we vary in the size of our haynets and scatter them throughout the track (3-5 different areas), we find their movement increases drastically. I think it's important to note that also feed adlib hay to all of our herds.
Moving on to our much bigger herds on much bigger tracks, we use a combination of large round bales and small hay nets. With herds of 10 members and upwards, providing larger areas for larger bales has been our preferred way of feeding since opening PB. This works for these two herds specifically because of the size of the tracks they're on, the activity levels of these herds and the herd dynamics. Having welcomed many horses with behaviour issues centred around food like resource guarding, providing our equines with plenty of choice and variation has made considerable differences to their stress and anxiety levels. We like to feed a variety of small nets and large bales as the smaller nets encourage movement from one net to the next and the large bales allow multiple horses to share the same bale without fighting over the hay.
Another question we get asked is do our horses fight over hay? While herd living means there will always be some bossing around, we create large feeding stations regardless of the track.
We do this for several reasons -
1) A horse can access the hay from any direction 2) There is plenty of room to move around without getting caught against fencing or corners 3) We can have clusters of hay sources in one spot with plenty of space between horses
If you have a suitable environment for feeding adlib hay, aka a track system or a space they can get plenty of movement, we strongly suggest doing so. Our own horses at PB are relaxed and trusting around their forage simply because they never run out, which creates a calmer environment for all.