Hay Racks - Good or Bad?

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Bunnylady

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First, a little background. I work part-time at a boarding stable, where we have horses ranging in size from about 13 to 16 hands. On advice from a relative, my boss recently installed hayracks in some of the stalls. These racks are made from bent and welded rebar, and are mounted about 5 feet off the floor.

Now, I've always heard that hay in a hayrack is an unnecessary health hazard, for the following reasons:

1.Horses pulling the hay down get bits of hay in their noses and eyes, leading to irritation and putting them at risk for corneal ulcers and respiratory infections

2.The dust (I've never seen 100% dust-free hay) hangs in the air longer, and is more likely to be inhaled than if the hay were on the floor and the horse's nose above it. One of the major components of this dust is fungal spores, which is a potent allergen.

The trainer (hunter/jumper/dressage) dislikes the hayracks, because the horses have to reach up to eat from them (especially true for the ponies.) She feels that this develops the muscles on the underside of the neck, which makes getting the horse's head down that much harder.

The owner's relative believes that horses should be fed hay free choice, 24/7. He reasons that putting hay in the rack makes it easy to see if the horse has any, you can see it just walking past the stall. We feed Coastal bermuda, which falls freely from those racks. Some of these horses can empty a rack in 5 minutes, with most of the hay falling to the floor. (These horses are turned out in a pasture at least 12 hours each day.)

The owner feels like, she spent the money, we should use the racks. While I certainly feel that there are more important things to fight about, I have never liked "because I say so" as a reason to do anything. So far, her case seems a bit flimsy to me. So, what are your views? Should we use the racks, or has the owner spent her money poorly? Can you give me compelling reasons for/against using them?
 

Miniv

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I don't like hay feeders much either.......

A horse's natural stance for eating is off the ground. It's the way they were designed. I also agree that there could be more instances of respiratory and eye problems because of how they are forced to hold up their heads.

There is also the possibility of a leg injury. A number of years ago a young stallion somehow got his hoof caught in his hay feeder and he panicked. He ended up breaking his leg. This was at the Oregon State Fair and we were stalled around the corner from full sized horses at the time, so we were sad observers to the aftermath of the incident.

The only "off the ground" hay feeders we use these days are Hay Bags in a trailer when we have to tie a horse. But that's just how we do things.

A good way to feed on the ground is with the use of rubber mats.
 

Marty

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Bad.

I wouldn't have a hay rack on my farm no where no how for all the reasons mentioned and then some. Been in way too many barns in my time and no good every came out of using hay racks or any kind of hay net. I've seen them all including a lot of home made jobs on the websites that just makes my head spin. My horses eat hay on the stall floor on a rubber mat the old fashioned and natural way. The only exception I have is when I bathe a horse, tie them up in the isle way to dry, I give them a hay bag, the kind that has a hole in it and even then, I am right there and I have to keep a close eye because some of my horses paw and get their foot stuck up in that stupid hole.

However the fact remains that you are an employee and its their barn and they have the say so. When there is a tragedy, you can stand there and give them a good dirty look for lack of telling them "I told you so."
 

leigha

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We've used hay racks for many years and not one single problem ever came about. So I'm not against it as much as other people are. But now I feed on the ground...well in buckets for them to reach down. Actually what I've found to be the best so far is the base of a corner shower it's out of the way and heavy enough they can't move it, but not to heavy you can't take it out to clean. I feed on the ground because buckets are cheaper than hay racks and I don't feel that hay racks are a good place to spend my money not to say I would never use them again. I see where your boss's relative comes from when he say's it's easier to see whether they have hay or not...you know the saying out of sight out of mind. I can see how your boss would be getting defensive when she thought she was doing good. With those horses not being stuck in a stall 24/7. Really probably less than half the day with a work out and pasture time totalled I don't see the big deal. But that's my own opinion.
 

LittleRibbie

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I bought 6 mini hay racks ( they held only about 1 1/2 flake ) at a show a couple yrs. ago...Was so excited to bring them home and put them up. That night I had the worst nightmares and dreams of horses getting legs stuck, head stuck, I couldnt sleep. Next day I had my husband take them all out. Now I use 2 that I can put up over the rail and remove and I only use them when I am grooming or after their baths. Always supervised. I always sweep away the shavings on the mats in the stall and now they eat off the floor. Sometimes when the hay has lots of little buds and pieces I will put a big plastic laundry basket

in each stall and they can eat out of that.
 

Bunnylady

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Thanks, all of you, for your thoughts.

I have to give credit where it is due - they got the feeders high enough, it would be pretty hard to get a leg hung in them. You did get the part where I said that the bottom of the feeders are 5 feet off the floor, right? Which means I have to reach up about 7 feet to get the hay in them. I'm 5'7", and it's a pretty good stretch for me. I get a hay shower every time I try to fill them, and frequently leave a stall coughing from the dust that I breathed in just filling the dratted things. If I thought it was good for the horses, I'd just take it as the price I had to pay, that kind of thing. But we have one horse already being boarded there with a chronic respiratory problem that has been diagnosed as an allergy, probably related to hay. This barn is built on the side of a hill, and some of the stall walls and doors are so high, I have to open the door to see anything in them (a couple of the ponies have been left in overnight by accident, because you can't see even their ears over the wall, and nobody opened the door to check!) Most of the horses in these stalls are 13 - 14 hands high, and it's a pretty good stretch for them, too.

The boss is very new to horses, and kind of fell into this whole boarding/lesson thing by a complicated series of events. We are all kind of flying by the seat of our pants, as it were. I like these people very much, and really, really want them to succeed at this. Like most new businesses, this one is bleeding money right now, so the thought of spending money on something that isn't being used doesn't sit real well! But nor do horses that can't be used because they are injured or unwell; the last thing we need is a reputation for not caring for the horses properly. They have had one tragedy to deal with already; a 12 hand pony was beaten up by another, larger horse, and had to be euthenized (fortunately, both horses belonged to the owner.) I think the world of the trainer, I'd rate her as the best I've seen in our area. This operation has so much going for it, but the owner's relative's word is gospel, and a lot of it is ignorance, IMO. Yeah, I guess you could say the hayracks are just the tip of the iceberg. I would just say "it's your funeral," and do my job, but I feel like doing it amounts to our shooting ourselves in the foot!
 

rockin r

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They scare the bajeebees out of me. I am an what if person.....
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I have never seen a horse injured by them and don't want to either. ALL my horses full size and mini eat their hay off a rubber mat on the ground. I sleep better knowing there is not something added in their stalls that they can possibly get hurt from.
 

shorthorsemom

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I used a higher hay rack for full sized horses a couple of years ago and hated it. The hay bits got in their eyes and was always in their manes and forelocks. I went to an amish welder and we designed a mini hay rack that is practically on the ground. It looks like a modified goat hay rack but with bars rather than squares on the part holding the hay, but honestly it is very low and they don't have to reach up, but it does keep them from spreading the hay all over the ground and there is practically no waste. The hay holder part is more upright rather than the deep v of horse racks so when they are reaching under to eat the sweet bits they are not getting poked in the eyes. I used to feed off of the ground in a baby swimming pool, but my one boy kept standing in it, getting mud and crud in it and I was concerned with them eating too much dirt. The hay rack does slow them down quite a bit. When I feed off of the ground they seem to eat too fast and then they get bored. I use a run in shed and have this feeder in the paddock. Tried the rubber mats, but they still get so dirty and I was throwing out hay because they were walking on it and spreading it around and then were "hoovering" up the hay bits off the ground and taking in dirt bits. Wish I could post a photo, hard to describe. I tried to think of everything they could do to get into trouble and so far {knock on wood} we have been ok with what we made. It is VERY heavy so it doesn't get pushed around either.
 

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