• Is Your Haynet Causing Problems For Your Horse?

    Have you ever watched your horse eat from his haynet? I mean REALLY watched and thought about what he is doing? He usually has to raise his head, tilt it to one side, grab some hay then yank to pull the hay out. Is this a natural movement? Not really. But that’s OK, because we all have to move unnaturally at times, don’t we? But, what happens when you repeat this movement, continuously over a period of an hour or two (or however long it takes him to finish the hay)? Have you ever tried it yourself? Put your hand up, as if to reach for something, and ‘pretend’ to pull something down sharply. Feels OK, I’m sure, but carry on doing that even for several minutes and I am sure you will begin to feel the strain, never mind continuing that for several hours.

    I am sure you have all heard of RSI (repetitive strain injury). When we are working at a computer for example, typing and using the mouse constantly, we are told that we must take regular breaks to prevent damage. In fact, I even have software on my computer that tells me to take a break. Do you think your horse does this? He doesn’t have any software, only the voice in his head telling him not to stop until his haynet is empty!!

    Horses may do this action occasionally in the wild, for example when reaching for something tasty off of a tree or high bush, but by feeding them from a haynet, we are asking them to repeat the same (unnatural) action, over and over again for sometimes several hours a day.This can create a lot of pain and tension in the neck.

    Then we ask them to flex their neck when riding and what do you think the response is? Ouch! But he can’t speak so the only way to tell you is to resist or ‘play up’.

    Quite possibly, the owner/rider will then put some gadget on the horse to ‘force’ the issue even further to try and get ‘flexion’, creating more pain, more tension on already sore muscles which can eventually lead to some quite devastating damage and consequential behaviour.

    It’s often worth thinking about what we do to our horses, before instantly laying the blame on bad behaviour. Horses are generally quite placid and forgiving (preferring to run from situations rather than fight), but sometimes we put them in impossible situations where the only thing they have left to do is fight.

    In this example, it’s easy to see how something as simple as feeding your horse from the floor, instead of a haynet can make a huge difference in how accepting he is of ridden work.

    Equine sports massage can help resolve muscular pain and tension in the neck, but as with anything, the root cause must be removed otherwise the problems will keep coming back.

    There are other negative consequences of using a haynet, including problems with digestion, but we will save these for another blog!

    So do you currently use a haynet? Has this blog post changed your mind?


    • 1. Apr 29 2012 12:16AM by Kathy

      Yes and my horse seams to have muscular weekness I had no clue what was going on with her. By putting her hay on the ground will this fix the problem? I feel so bad for her.

    • 2. Apr 29 2012 12:39PM by lyndaswindells

      Hi Kathy. Do start feeding her from the floor, yes, but whether it will 'fix' the problem really depends on quite a few factors, including how much 'damage' she has actually done. When you say muscle weakness, how is this presenting itself? I would suggest to start feeding from the floor now and if there is no improvement after a short while then get her checked out. Please feel free to email me if you have any more questions/concerns about it. :-)

    • 3. Apr 30 2012 8:13PM by Maddi

      This is really interesting - I'd never really thought of it as a reason for 'naughty' behaviour in horses before. It's definitely something to consider. My loan has the chiro out regularly as he puts his pelvis out every 6 weeks or so, and he never eats for a long time, he'll eat a bit and then do something else, so hopefully this should minimise the impact of pulling the hay out! :)

    • 4. May 1 2012 9:14AM by lyndaswindells

      It is quite interesting how we often fail to see the bigger picture when our horses get problems. If only they could talk! LOL! :-)

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