The innovative and extensively tested slow feeder allows horses in the stable and paddock to eat in the healthiest way possible and closest to their nature.
Kim F Miller, Equestrian Journalist
Horses in their natural habitat spend more than half their day eating. They spend between 12 and 16 hours with their heads down, grazing and feeding on forages ranging from easily available grasses to more difficult to graze grasses that often contain very few calories and energy.
This lifestyle is the healthiest there is and means zero risk of colic, ulcers, overweight and metabolic imbalances. Support ticking, bear dancing and other behaviors due to boredom are not problems.
Unfortunately, nowadays, very few horses live like this.
Most sport horses live in environments where management realities dictate particular feeding schedules and patterns. Served only two or three times a day, meals often consist of high-energy concentrated feeds with little or no natural forage available during the day. Most horses spend only 10 percent of the day eating, as opposed to the minimum 8-10 hours recommended for their physical and mental well-being.
Receiving only small and intermittent meals alerts the body’s food scarcity mechanisms, not to mention the stress of waiting for the next meal. Intervals between meals trigger fat accumulation, increasing the risk of obesity. In addition, the little time spent chewing during the day causes poor saliva production that would protect against gastric ulcers. Unlike the human digestive system, the horse’s intestines continuously produce acid which is neutralized only by saliva.
Taking advantage of nature’s advice
Haygain Forager brings horses closer to their natural nutrition. Designed in collaboration with the Royal Agricultural University in the United Kingdom, Forager has unique features that are the result of extensive research-the hallmark of Haygain. These make it an ideal horse management solution for many reasons.
With a capacity of about 12 kg of hay, the 72 cm high Forager allows the horse to feed with its head down in the most correct position predicted by nature.
An adjustment grid with holes of different sizes is located above the hay. The horse eats hay one bite at a time, ensuring slow consumption and smaller bites. Longer chewing keeps saliva flowing steadily, and this becomes a buffer between the stomach lining and acids that are naturally occurring but useful for digesting food. Saliva is the best natural defense against ulcers, which affect one in three horses.
Recently completed research with four horses in the stable determined that Forager can extend hay consumption time by up to 200% compared to loose hay when used with the “Standard” controller and up to 150% when used with the “Easy” controller.
Foragers are equipped with Easy and Standard adjusters to ease introduction and/or habituate horses with different needs. Compared to the rate at which these horses consumed their forage from a common slow feeding method (e.g., a hay net) Forager slowed their consumption by 170% and 130%, respectively, using the Standard and Easy controllers.
The Benefits of Forager
Defeating boredom: pulling strands of hay through the regulator grille is a natural, healthy and more satisfying pastime than swallowing air (support ticking or cribbing), box bear dancing and other vices. Extended meals are especially useful for horses on restricted diets. Measuring heart rate and eyelid rate as indicators of stress level, the study cited earlier showed results that were very close to level 0 in every horse fed Forager.
Respiratory health: Forager keeps hay separate from box litter, a huge source of dust, mold, bacteria and other inhalable particles that can irritate and damage the respiratory system. The 72 cm height of the Forager facilitates the natural head-down eating position used by grazing horses. This allows the exhalation and drainage of transpiring particles present throughout the hay.
Inviting design: four openings between the Forager’s side walls allow ventilation and light and encourage the horse to dig deep into its forage. The light color of the top ring was also chosen for its proven appeal on horses…
Convenience: the Forager’s gray outer ring lowers when the horse eats its hay ration, making it easy to see the level of consumption. The regulator click-and-secure system allows effortless filling of the Forager and replacement of regulators.
Safety: the controller is made of strong, durable yet flexible engineered plastic. The Forager grid slows the horse’s feeding without frustrating him. Given the material used, there is no risk of dental damage that could have occurred with metal gratings.
Less waste: separating forage from bedding eliminates waste that would otherwise end up in manure and urine. It also reduces the risk of ingesting sand and dirt.
The base of the unit can be filled with sand for stand-alone stability in the stable or outside. It can also be fixed to the wall by built-in mounting points. Drains at the base facilitate cleaning and release rainwater. Assembly and disassembly are easy for travel and cleaning.
Haygain is proud to include Forager in its list of science-backed horse health products. Along with Haygain hay steamers and ComfortStall orthopedic stable flooring, the Forager is an important part of natural, healthy horse management.
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