If you’ve ever had to travel with your horse for shows, you probably know about hay nets. You pack a few and hook ’em up to keep your horse happily munching away… But have you thought about using a hay bag instead?
Yeah, hay bags are a thing, and they’re growing in popularity among the horsey community for all the right reasons. They can prevent wasted hay, prevent having to clean up scattered hay, and more.
Here’s more about why more people are switching to hay bags, along with the best hay bags for you to add to your wishlist.
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What Is a Hay Bag for Horses?
A hay bag for horses is essentially a tote bag that you fill with hay, except one of the sides is not solid, but instead lined with mesh or netting. The horse can neatly nibble at their hay, while the bag provides more stability than a hay net, since it won’t swing around quite as much.
Why Use a Hay Bag for Your Horse?
As mentioned, hay bags are great for those who compete and have to travel with their horses to shows. You can pack several hay bags, wrap them in a few old feed bags to keep things super tidy, and it’s like you’ve got lunch ready and packed for your horse! Simply pull out a hay bag, hook it up, and watch as your noble steed nibbles away.
The best thing about hay bags is that they come in so many designs that any horse can adjust to them. Likewise, these bags limit the amount of waste from hay falling out, while providing a neat feeding station for your horse.
A durable hay bag will also serve as a toy for bored horses to flip over and play with, and with better control over the size of mesh or feed openings, your dear-fatty-pony can finally get the correct amount of hay they need.
The Best Hay Bag for Daily Use
If you don’t have time to read right now, let me quickly give you my top recommendation. The best overall hay bag is the Harrison Howard Premium Durable Horse Hay Bag. This hay bag is durable, large, easy to fill, and great to hang. Plus, at a budget-friendly price, I bought several for my horses to keep them busy at night.
How to Choose the Best Hay Bag for Your Horse
When I look at purchasing any new horse or barn equipment, I am always cautious, as there are some pretty dodgy products on the market that won’t last and can even be dangerous to your horse.
In considering different hay bag options, I used the following criteria:
Quality of Materials
No matter how cute the hay bag, if the fabric or fittings are of poor quality, it’s going to be a bad buy. Heavy duty ripstop canvas is best, or a high-Denier rated fabric that won’t tear when an inquisitive horse explores with their teeth.
Type of Hardware
Hay bags have one weakness that can kill a great design in no time: the hanging mechanism. These bags are meant to hang from a sturdy hook, doorframe, or trailer bar. If the hanging mechanism fails, the hay bag will end up on the floor where your horse can poop and pee in it.
Size of Grazing Apertures
The part of the hay bag where your horse eats will influence whether your horse will enjoy nibbling or become destructive and frustrated because they can’t get enough hay through the feeding apertures.
At the same time, slow feed hay bags or slow feed hay nets are designed to restrict the amount of hay your horse can eat and prevent gobbling of hay.
Cost of Hay Bag vs Cost of Hay Net
Most of us are looking out for our bottom dollar, so investing in a hay bag needs to outweigh the cost of a hay net in terms of quality and service. After all, hay nets are easier to repair and often cheaper to purchase, too. So a hay bag needs to really offer value for money to make it on my list.
Size of the Hay Bag
Some hay bags are cute, but not at all suited to seeing a horse through their night’s supply of hay, so size is a definite consideration. Bigger is better (in this case).
A hay bag should be filled with enough hay to keep your horse occupied for the amount of time you need them to be busy and prevent boredom. If you need more feed time from a hay bag, you can always opt for a second one, but the overall size of the hay bag needs to merit the cost and time of filling it.
5 Best Hay Bags for Horses
Now you know what to look for when considering the purchase of a hay bag, it’s time to investigate the best options out there.
Best Slow Feed Hay Bag
A clear winner as the best slow feed hay bag is the Kensington Slow Feed Hay Bag. Not only is this a great brand, but their slow feed hay bag is really well designed and sturdy. Plus, it holds a lot of hay.
- It comes in two sizes, which is ideal for use at shows or in the stable overnight
- Six great colors to choose from for the fashion-conscious owner
- Sturdy straps for holding the hay
- Easy to load up hay with the large opening
- Improves overall health of your horse by slowing their rate of eating
- Made from textilene mesh and poly nylon square apertures
- The aperture size is 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches
- The cost is at the upper end of the market at $62.40
Best Large Hay Bags
If you want a large-scale hay bag, the Harrison Howard Premium Durable Horse Hay Bag will tick your box. This is one of the largest hay bags on the market, and since it’s a great brand, you know you are getting quality too.
- Larger than normal size at 28 x 20 x 13 inches
- Large top opening for easy filling
- D rings for strength and central hanging
- Strong fabric: 1680 Denier Oxford cloth
- Great price at $20.99
- Needs to be completely unhooked to fill, with a small clasp holding the top closed
Best Outdoor Hay Bag
The Weaver Leather Hay Bag is ideal for outdoor use. The weaver leather hay bag has a mesh bottom, so rain will drip through should your hay bag be left outside in a rainstorm.
Weaver Leather is a brand to be reckoned with in horse gear, so this brings some peace of mind when you’re buying a tried and tested product. (FYI: the bag itself is not actually made out of leather even though “Leather” is a part of the brand name.)
- Good quality fabric at 600 Denier; ideal for hooking on a pasture fence
- Top load design
- Holds two standard flakes of hay
- The mesh bottom allows for drainage and for dust to fall out
- Size: 18.5 x 25 inches
- Feed opening: 3 x 2 inches
- Fair price at $53.95
- The V-shaped top flap may easily open when horses push on the corners, allowing top feeding (which defeats the point of a slow feeding hay bag)
Best In-Stable Hay Bag
The Nylon Lined Hay Bag is the best in-stable hay bag and also the best budget hay bag on my list. It’s ideally shaped for easy filling and offers moderate restriction on feeding through the bottom hole, while the top hole can be placed out of reach by hooking the bag high enough that the horse can only access the feeder hole (there’s no top flap but a drawstring closure can be used).
- Easy to use
- Simple construction makes feeding and filling a breeze
- Durable material that resists fiddling by bored horses in stable
- Available in red and blue
- Good quality nylon strap and snap closure
- Great price at $22.19
- Not having a top flap may cause horses to spill hay
Best Travel Hay Bag
If you’re traveling and especially if your horse has always been on hay nets, the Tough1 Nylon Hay Bag w/ Slow Feed Net offers you the best of both worlds. This nifty hay bag is actually a merge between hay bag and hay net.
- Heavy nylon fabric on the sides, bottom, and back to keep hay from spilling
- Thick nylon poly rope net front for easy but restricted eating
- Grazing aperture of 2 x 2 inches
- Bag size: 21 x 29 x 7 inches
- Adjustable straps for easy hanging
- Oversized top for easy filling
- Available in five colors
- Great price starting at $19.95
- Over time, the poly rope may wear through, making larger openings
- Dust and leftover hay collects at the bottom since there’s no mesh bottom
Using a Hay Bag vs. Using a Hay Net
Considering that a hay net is usually half the price of a hay bag, you may wonder what all the fuss is about and why you should consider getting one. Here’s a quick review of the pros and cons of a hay bag.
Pros of Using a Hay Bag (Over a Hay Net)
Hay bags are:
- Cleaner, as they prevent hay waste
- Easier to pack
- Safer as shod horses are less likely to tangle in a hay bag than a net
- Much friendlier to load for transport of horses
- Great at limiting hay guzzling
- Better for your horse’s overall health by offering feeding that simulates the natural way horses graze
- Can ensure your horses eat hay all night
Cons of Using a Hay Bag (Over a Hay Net)
Hay bags are:
- More expensive than hay nets
- A bit trickier to hang as many hay bags requires a secondary hook to hang
Horse Hay Bags FAQs
Are hay bags better for horses than hay nets?
Hay bags can prevent your horse from overeating or gobbling food. Since hay bags also prevent fast eating, they restrict how much hay your horse needs, saving money. So, depending on your horse’s preference, a hay bag is better than a hay net.
Why should you use a slow feeding system for your horse’s hay?
Horses can eat hay at a rate that exceeds their ability to digest, causing digestive health complications. A slow feeding system such as a hay bag or hay net can help slow down the rate of feeding, preventing colic and other complications. Hay bags ensure the horse has hay to eat throughout the whole night.
Are hay bags safe for horses?
Horse owners agree that hay bags are safer for horses than hay nets. The flattened webbing or mesh that hay bags are made of resist getting a hoof hooked, while the slower rate of feeding ensures gut health.
I can’t wait to take my hay bag on the road to the next show I’m entering. With a quality, large, and easily filled hay bag, I won’t have to struggle with filling hay nets (that often have that “wet spaghetti” feeling, which keeps my trailer and my show outfit clean.
And speaking of show outfits. Have you chosen yours for that dressage competition you’ve always wanted to enter, or are you already a pro? Why not read more in my guide on what to wear to a dressage competition?