Horses in their natural habitat spend over half their day eating. Between 12 and 16 hours are spent with their head lowered, grazing forage that ranges from easy-to-get grasses to blades and stems that are hard to extract and often contain very little caloric energy.
It’s a way of life that leads to virtually zero colic, ulcers, excess weight, and metabolic imbalances. Cribbing, weaving, and other boredom behaviors are non-issues.
The problem: Very few horses live that way these days.
Most riding horses live in settings where stable management realities dictate feeding schedules and methods. Delivered only two or three times a day, meals often consist of high-energy concentrate processed feeds with little to no forage available throughout the day. Most horses spend only 10 percent of their day eating, versus the eight to 10 hours considered a minimum for physical and mental well-being.
Receiving only intermittent, small meals alerts a horse’s food-scarcity mechanisms, including stress over the whereabouts of their next meal. The gaps between meals trigger fat storage, increasing the chance of obesity. And, less time spent chewing throughout the day means less production of saliva, which protects against gastric ulcers. Unlike the human digestive system, the horse’s gut produces acid all the time, and that acid is only neutralized by saliva.
Harnessing Nature’s Method
Haygain’s Forager brings nature’s genius to healthy horse management. Designed in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University in England, The Forager has unique features that resulted from extensive research—Haygain’s hallmark. These make it an ideal stable management solution for many reasons.
Holding approximately 26 pounds of hay, the 28″ tall Forager enables the lowered-head eating position nature intended. A regulator grid with holes of different sizes sits on top of the hay. The horse pulls hay through one bite at a time, ensuring slow consumption and smaller bites. The extra chewing that is required maintains saliva flow, which becomes a buffer between the stomach lining and the naturally occurring acids waiting there to digest food. Saliva is a good, natural defense against ulcers that affect one in three leisure horses.
Recently completed research with four stabled horses determined that the Forager can significantly extend hay consumption time compared to time spent eating loose hay or forage in a hay net.
Foragers come with Standard and Easy regulators: the latter is ideal for introducing horses to the slow feeder or serving horses with different needs.
Benefits for Your Horse
Boredom Busting: Pulling pieces of forage through the regulator grid is a natural, healthy, and more fulfilling pastime than cribbing, stall weaving, and other vices.
Extended mealtimes are also especially helpful for horses on restricted diets. Measuring heart rate and eye blink frequency as stress level indicators, the aforementioned study showed metrics that were very close to each participant’s baseline when eating out of the Forager.
Respiratory Health: Haygain’s Forager keeps the hay separate from stall bedding—a huge source of dust, mold, bacteria, and other inhalable particles that can irritate and harm the respiratory system. The Forager’s 28″ height facilitates a natural, lowered-head eating position used by grazing horses. This allows for exhalation and drainage of breathable particles present in all hay.
Inviting Design: Four openings between the side walls of the circular-shaped Forager allow ventilation and light, which encourage the horse to delve deeply into their forage. Even the top ring’s light color was chosen for its proven appeal to horses.
Less Waste: Separating forage from the floor eliminates wasted hay, which otherwise gets walked through bedding, manure, and urine. It also reduces the risk of your horse ingesting sand and dirt.
Safety: The regulator is constructed of sturdy, durable, yet flexible engineered plastic. The Forager grid slows the horse without frustrating it. Dental damage that can occur with metal grids is not an issue.
Convenience: The Forager’s exterior grey ring lowers as the horse eats down his hay supply, providing an easy-to-see consumption level. The regulator’s click-and-secure system allows for effortless filling of the Forager and grid swapping.
The unit’s base can be filled with sand for stand-alone stability in the stall or outside. It can also be secured to a wall using built-in fixing points. Drains at the base ease cleaning and let out rainwater. Assembly and disassembly are easy for travel and cleaning.
Haygain is proud to include the Haygain Forager in its roster of science-backed horse health products. Along with Haygain Hay Steamers and Haygain ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring, The Forager is an important part of natural, healthy horse care: “The Haygain Way.” For more information, visit www.haygain.us.