How to Safely Tie a Hay Net

pony eating hay from a net

David Handley/Getty Images

Hay nets are frequently used for temporarily feeding horses hay while at an event. You can’t rely on suitable grass at any venue to feed your horse all day and your horse shouldn’t go all day without feed. If you’re at a horse show, your horse will probably have time to eat between events. Hay nets should not be used on a daily basis.

The advantage of hay nets is the portability. The disadvantage is a horse can easily become entangled in a hay net if it is tied too low. This is a common and avoidable accident. It is a hazard to both the horse and the humans that must untangle it. There's no foolproof way to make hay nets absolutely safe.

What You Need

  • Hay net
  • Hay
  • Tie ring, post, or sturdy rail.

How to Tie a Hay Net Safely

Here’s one way that may keep your hay net tied high and out of the way.

  1. Fill the hay net with hay. They usually hold about 3 to 4 flakes from a small square bale.
  2. Pull the drawstring so that the top closes.
  3. Tie a knot so the bag will stay closed. The material hay nets are made of is quite slippery and rarely do they knot so tightly that you can’t easily undo them when you are done.
  4. Loop the loose end of the drawstring through the ring or over the rail that you will hang the hay net from. This should be slightly higher than, or at, the horse’s head level. If you’re tying the hay net to a rail, be sure it is very sturdy as a pushy horse could tug on the net hard enough to dislodge a rail.
  5. Find the metal ring on the bottom of the hay net.
  6. Loop the drawstring through the bottom ring and draw it back up to the ring or rail to which you are tying the hay net. Pull the bag upwards so the rings on the top and bottom of the net are as close as possible.
  7. Knot the drawstring with a quick release knot around whatever you are tying to the hay net.
  8. As the bag empties it will fold in half rather than sag downwards.
  9. Hay nets shouldn’t be used for regular feeding. Horses have to eat with their head and neck up, rather than in their natural grazing position.
  10. Check hay nets frequently and tie them up if they begin to sag. 
  11. A safer alternative is a flake bag made of fabric. Make one out of a feed bag for a temporary quick feeding or purchase them pre-made.
  12. Learn to tie a quick release or safety knot. Panic snaps attached to the hay bag also work.

Tips

  • Hay nets shouldn’t be used for regular feeding. Horses have to eat with their head and neck up, rather than in their natural grazing position.
  • Check hay nets frequently and tie them up if they begin to sag. 
  • A safer alternative is a flake bag made of fabric. Make one from a feed bag for a temporary quick feeding or buy a pre-made one.
  • Learn to tie a quick release or safety knot or use panic snaps attached to the hay bag.


Other Options

If you are considering purchasing a hay net, consider buying a hay or flake bag instead. They are a bit more expensive but are somewhat safer. They're also easier to tie and fill, especially if you only have large round bales to work with. There is less chance of them sagging and less chance of a horse getting a foot caught in them. Because the hay can't shake through as easily, ​there may be a bit less waste, especially if your horse is the type to toss and push the bag around a lot when it eats.