Longtime readers of this blog know that I’m a firm advocate in the slow feeding process when it comes to my horses, and Mitch in particular. It’s a journey that began waaaaay back in 2010 and continues to this day. Because self-care has offered me a lot of flexibility in the type of hay I feed, and allows me to properly weigh my hay instead of feeding just “X number of flakes”, I’ve really made the need for extending the hay availability to my horses into a driving force in my care of them.
When Mitch won his Equi-Essential Hay Ball Feeder back in February, and I posted about my current method of slow feeding with the porta-grazer, the slow feed haynet and the hay ball allowing Mitch’s slow feeding habits to retain some small shreds of hay that remained between feedings, things were pretty good. And then there was a few late season rainstorms, dirt got wet which lead to dirt becoming mud (and I wasn’t putting the hay ball out so I had one less slow feed ‘station’ to go off of) and Mitch was cleaning up a little faster than I wanted him to. Night time has always been hard, to try and time it all to the point that he still had hay, but not too much hay. Plus, the grass was starting to grow, and he was trying to lean on the fence panels (but at least he couldn’t stick his head through) and I was considering my options as to which way I should go for the next hay feeder. Big net, little net … Savvy Feeder (*cue sticker shock* 😱).
Enter The Hay Pillow. They are cordura nylon haybags that have a zipper on the back, and a mesh window for a horse to eat from. The product comes in several styles, from a bag with fixed mesh to a second version that allows interchangeable panels, and hanging bags. There’s also a bag designed for mini horses, and haynets as well. I really liked the hay pillow since I first saw them in 2013 in Trail Rider Magazine. They looked solid, the mesh looked really hard for a horse to try and destroy (unlike our past experiences with the Freedom Feeder … but maybe that’s just Mitch being who he is because he didn’t kill his Tough-1 slow feed nylon net) because of how it was placed on the bag, and because it was a self-contained on-the-ground feeder, there wasn’t anything a horse could really latch onto to pull a lot of hay out at once (or for the vinyl back to rub out like our poor Nibble Net … can you tell I’ve tried a lot of slow feed products?). I had entered the April giveaway for the Hay Pillow but alas, didn’t win one. So when the opportunity for another flash giveaway contest cropped up on the Facebook page, I jumped at the chance to show off my madcap baling twine weaving skills.
Needless to say, I was in it to win it. I asked all my friends, and my family for likes and comments because most likes/comments would win. And we won! 🎉 I chose the standard hay pillow with 1″ mesh because Mitch has proven that he does well with that size holes so there was no point in getting anything with a larger mesh. I flirted with the idea of getting a 3/4″ mesh bag, but I figured if I needed a good baseline for seeing how this hay pillow would work for Mitch, then 1″ mesh was the best.
It arrived Monday evening while I was at the barn (much to my surprise because I figured federal holiday meant no mail delivery) but since I was at the ranch, I didn’t get to use it until Tuesday morning. So bright and early Tuesday, I put 6 lbs of hay into the hay pillow and tossed it out into the paddock for Mitch to make of it what he would.
Who are we kidding? This ponyface was born knowing what to do. He nibbled it for a while, walked away to see if there was anything in his feed bucket in the shelter, and finding nothing, went back to the hay pillow while I filled up his porta-grazer with the rest of his breakfast and then he headed back there to nibble before he got his morning goodies.
When I got out to the barn in the afternoon, Mitch still had some hay in the hay pillow, so I took that out and put it into the hay ball for him to kick around while I refilled the hay pillow. I decided to try 8 lbs for dinner, which was most of his meal, with the rest in his porta-grazer. As it stands, I’m feeding him about 2% of his body weight, so not trying to restrict, but just slow down his rate of consumption.
I was actually feeding less with the other hay net, but started adding a little more when I got lazy about weighing hay and just fed like however much I was grabbing, which was on the generous side (so i probably was feeding way more hay). But I’m back to weighing hay again after about 2 or 3 weeks of not doing it.
This morning, Mitch had some hay left in the hay pillow. Not a whole lot, but it meant he was nibbling all night if he so chose. So I stuffed in more hay for breakfast. He was very polite about eating, using his lips more than trying to grab a mouthful with his teeth which is what he had been doing with the red slow feed haynet. He headed for the porta-grazer after I filled it, but even there while I was putting on all his fly gear, he was really mellow about eating. While I was getting Jet’s fly gear on, and doling out their morning feed, I was watching Mitch and liked how he was moving between the porta-grazer and hay pillow. I’m sure he’ll park himself at the porta-grazer for a while like he usually does, but the hay pillow will be there waiting for him once he’s finished that, and that has more hay than in the porta-grazer. I’ll see how much hay he has this afternoon.
What I Like About The Hay Pillow
The thing that has always impressed me about the hay pillow is how simple it looks to use. And how it’s designed to be effect at feeding on the ground so the horse has their head and neck all properly aligned. The material it’s made from is tough, to be honest, it’s a lot tougher than I thought it would be compared to some of the other cordura nylon haybags I’ve seen out there, and the zipper on the back is amazing. There’s no velcro (at least in the original version, not counting the Hay Pillow II with the interchangeable panels) for hay to get caught, and no gaps for a horse to get in and grab huge mouthfuls of hay. If it gets flipped over, the horse has to learn how to turn it back to the side where the mesh is (just like Mitch has learned how to tip and right his porta-grazer). It’s REALLY good here in Southern California because of the dry lots we tend to have, and the weather being dry and dusty. This won’t get dragged through mud or anything like that (I don’t plan to use it for the winter once it starts raining enough to get muddy, but will make other plans)
I love how it holds the hay in. It holds about 8 lbs of hay, and makes everything really neat and tidy, and makes it easy to carry. I’ve mentioned before how I use the giant blue IKEA bags to weigh my hay and carry it out to the porta-grazer, and with the hay pillow, using the IKEA bags are really easy to angle it over the opening and just slide all the hay in. I like that there’s nothing to catch on a horse (barefoot horses only can use this) and no extra strings or ties to daisy-chain back to the bag. It’s simple, and effective.
What I Don’t Like About The Hay Pillow
I don’t like that I don’t have more of them. Seriously! These bags are amazing, there’s nothing I can say against them, and I’m sorry I didn’t try them sooner because they really make feeding Mitch a lot easier. Since he’s on a drylot, and it can get kind of dusty (which is ironic given how most of that dirt is actually pulverized clay and how sticky and disgusting it gets in the winter) I don’t like him having to try and sift through the dirt for little particles of hay, which is largely why he has a porta-grazer. I’m also really interested in saving hay, because $23 a bale here for teff hay, folks. Every little big needs to be hoarded like precious gold so it doesn’t get wasted. The hay pillow will do that because it has solid sides and a solid back so hay doesn’t go flying everywhere like it did in Mitch’s Tough-1 haynet every time he took a bite. I do wonder what it might have been like for Jet if I had tried this haybag years ago for Mitch, and gotten her a bag of her own with a larger mesh so she could eat her alfalfa hay? Of course, now she’s on entirely soaked and softened feed, but it probably would have made it easier for her to eat out of and not have to deal with a hay net since I was trying to keep her from spreading the hay around and wasting it
I want more of the hay pillows! Time to start saving my money! I think I’d like to get another hay pillow in 3/4″ mesh for Mitch so he can have more hay (I’d order more bermuda and stuff it in there so he can have it avaliable as often as he wants) and get a hanging hay pillow (1″ or 3/4″ holes, can’t decide) for the winter because I can hang it really low from the rafters of his shelter so he has as much room as he needs in the smaller shelter as a feed tub takes up too much space. Between that and the porta-grazer, he should be fine this winter.
So in conclusion, I am thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to finally try the hay pillow. It definitely is going to be something I’ll be using on a daily basis, and I have full confidence that I’ll be using this for a long time to come. It’ll make feeding time much easier for anyone I might need to have fill in for me (especially once i start accumulating more hay pillows) and I see this product as an investment for the health and well-being of the best horse in my life, as well as making things easier for me when I have my Star Wars costume troops that run late into the evening (the ones in October) Hopefully by then, providing this COVID-19 pandemic is starting to look a little less terrifying, I’ll have gotten at least one more hay pillow and can happily leave out enough hay to make sure Mitch has enough to keep him going until I can feed late at night. I think the hay pillow is a real game changer in slow feeding for those of us who have horses that aren’t as tolerant of the hay net styles, and need the extra challenge that this haybag provides. Definitely something that more Haflinger owners should consider.
What: The Hay Pillow
Price: $34.99 – $79.99
Where To Buy: The Hay Pillow