The elusive hay feeder (Slow Feeder Saver Junior Review) and other hay feeders

This post may be a year plus in the making, but also is a testament to my one track mind. Keep reading, I will review the product which is more or less out of stock at ALMOST every retailer in country. Except for one.

Background: When I got Nay Nay, I tried to introduce him to a small hole hay net. He didn’t exactly understand the concept. And proceeded to not eat much (if any) hay in his stall the first night or two he was home. He did eat the flake I put on the ground. But the weekend, I purchased a hay bag with a large opening which worked better except he destroyed it immediately. I then tried a large hole net which worked, sort of, in the beginning. Then Nay’s hay consumption started dwindling. At this point, I didn’t realize that this dwindling was tied to ulcers AND soy allergies. Once he started to feel a little better, he seemed to associate the hay net with his stomach hurting and I could NOT get him to eat from any net in his stall (he did learn to eat from a small net outside — not efficiently — and would eat from other nets/bags outside as well). I tried loose hay but Nay is a hay waster. Put hay out (loose in a pile or even in a muck tub and… his stall looks like the scene of a frat party.

So, last April I scoured the internet for ideas. Non DIY ideas since we were in the middle of quarantine. I was also hoping to allow him to eat with his head down.

Best hay feeder ever

I found the Slow Feeder Saver Junior, the Savvy Feeder, the HelixFeeder, and the PortaGrazer. For the most part, people seemed happy with all of the different feeders. I wasn’t sure how Nay would react to putting his head IN a hay feeder so I ruled out the PortaGrazer. The HelixFeeder was relatively new and I couldn’t find many reviews. I wasn’t sure how much Nay, with his frat boy party style, would trash it. And, considering how much he struggled with the small hole net, I worried that the round circles would be too much. Nay gets orchard/alfalfa AND straight alfalfa (western alfalfa is his preference) in his nets/stall/feeders/what have you and I wanted equal access to the hay.

In the end, I went with the Slow Feeder Saver Junior. The grid was made of nylon vs plastic and I worried about the plastic on his teeth and/or being more difficult to get at the hay. The openings ARE large so maybe it’s not a true slow feeder, but with a thoroughbred, do I need a slow feeder? I need a “Don’t toss your hay around and have frat party” feeder. A review mentioned that the box was sharp, but this has not been the case in my experience. Another few indicated that horses can get their noses through the nylon and scape up their faces. I’d risk a nylon rub to tooth damage from plastic (but I haven’t experienced this in a year of using it).

Nay IMMEDIATELY took to the box. It’s easy to fill, easy to eat from, and hard to toss hay everywhere (but easy to grab mouthfuls to dunk in water). Super flakey western alfalfa does leave a lot of dust that makes the box gross, but this would be an issue with any box, especially if you water bucket is close by and your horse manages to dump water in the box occasionally — clean and empty regularly! But, I loved the think enough that Subi got his own 3 week later and loved it just as much.

Last April/May I bought from SmartPak for $196 plus tax (free shipping). SmartPak no longer carries it.

Jiminy has been using a small hole net because I’m cheap. Except my allergies and asthma have been getting worse. These boxes are SO EASY to fill.

A couple months ago I found a super cheap PortaGrazer locally that I bought for Jiminy. I tried, he tried, but we both HATE IT. HATE IT. HATE IT. He is now using it without the lid. Anyone locally interested in a PortaGrazer? They are great if your horse will use it. I’m willing to try it in the run in as a backup feeder, but I don’t need it.

Hay Hay everywhere

What I found is that not filling hay nets is so much better for my health. So last week I set off on a mission to purchase Jiminy a feeder just like his brothers….only to find that it is out of stock everywhere.

I considered other options but… Obviously the HelixFeeder isn’t one because it is too similar to the PortaGrazer. And I looked at the Savvy Feeder, but I question if what he hates about it is the shape or plastic hay opening (if that makes any sense) and I just couldn’t pull the trigger on buying one.

High Country Plastics (who makes the Slow Feeder Saver Junior) said the grates are out of stock and backlog has led to a 3 month delay (they said August, most distributors have listed a 9/1 ship date). After briefly considering making my own or ordering a box from Germany, I spent a good portion of Friday contacting (or perusing websites) every High Country Plastics in 19 states to see if they had any in stock.

And finally, in Delaware, Ohio. I found hope. Cashman’s had one (well, several) in stock. And the price, even with shipping, wasn’t much more than I paid last year. It’ll be here tomorrow.

While I may find, over time, the grate is too large for Jiminy, it’s easy enough to modify the grates on the feeders. I’m just THRILLED to finally have another.

Who is this horse?

The many sides of Nay continue to come out. Green horses, eh? LOL.

We set a new record. 2 weeks in a row, 2 lessons in a row. Shocking.

Tuesday morning rolled around and Nay and I set out for another lesson. I’m enjoying morning lessons for now until all the kids are out of school. It’s nice and quiet with just barn staff and a couple of adults around. My kind of day. But, for 10am in May, it was also hot. And humid. 97% humid.

Interestingly, the heat and humidity didn’t seem to bother Nay. Thinking about it, he’s always had energy in the heat and humidity. This horse HATES being cold, but likes the heat? Of course, he raced in Florida so maybe my New York bred is just built for summer…? Who knows but last summer on super hot and humid days (I remember being told to try new things when it was hot/humid because he’d be quiet), he’d always have excess energy. Always.

This ride was no different. He was ready to explode like Sunday, but he was still more forward than out last lesson. No tantrums we had to work through at the trot which is always nice. And I skipped lunging because, heat. We’ll see how much lunging I do in the summer.

Prior to the start of the lesson, I mentioned to my trainer our left lead troubles. Basically, last year’s right lead issues have manifested on the left lead. Typical. We drilled that right lead and Nay, being a pleaser, thinks the answer to most questions is right lead. Warming up at the trot, we worked on the noodling that I’ve been fighting as of late to the left. In the past, we spent a lot of time pushing inside leg/spur to move Nay’s body over however, Nay has taken some of this to the extreme. Over sort of means exiting the arena into the grass or crashing into the light pole, or a bunch of other things. So, I was reminded that taking BOTH hands to the inside (outside rein against his neck) still has its place and suddenly? we’re not struggling to stay in the ring… Using the outside leg isn’t wrong either… Oops. When you ride in an arena without a fence, you realize that staying in the ring is hard sometimes… We never got a fence back when the ring was expanded last year…

Instead of going right, we first worked on the left lead canter. I trotted, was told to canter, immediately pulled back, Nay broke, asked again, and picked up the wrong lead. This led to a discussion about what happened. I wasn’t sure. I just felt discombobulated. It wasn’t even that I could tell I was on the right or wrong lead — I wasn’t thinking “what lead am I on” as I didn’t get that far in my thinking, I just tried to do collect and nope.

So we tried again. This time, my instructions were to canter and move forward BEFORE I worried about the lead. We again picked up the correct lead and Nay bulged all over the place. Once we established the canter (5-6 strides), I was allowed to touch my reins to correct the dive to the outside. We cantered once around and talked and figured out my issue. And Nay’s.

Basically, I asked for the canter and if Nay is set up properly (hind end to the inside), he’ll pick up the correct lead. If I feel him bulging, I immediately want to course correct. If I do so right away (because he feels out of control in all ways — speed yes, but mostly balance and steering), Nay thinks, “Oh! Right, we only canter on the RIGHT lead. I’m sorry!” And trots. If I canter a few more strides no matter how ugly it feels, he is able to establish the canter and then we correct the shape. Then once the shape is corrected (hands to the inside, outside leg, even cutting the corner some and staying closer to the jumps than to the grass to give us more space to make the turns), we can adjust the pace (close and opening my fingers seems to work well for rating the canter.

We did this a few times and worked on the right lead (and trotted too…). Nothing exciting that direction. LOL.

Jumping wise? Nay has changed from a quiet horse to a forward and BOLD horse over fences. I’m not really sure who he is except that I think he thinks jumping is FUN. We started off with the Astroturf brush box single to the left, trotting in and he jumped the crap out of it, almost jumping me out of the tack (theme). Being the good boy he was, he landed left and we cantered in a few times, trying to rate coming in. He was pretty good collecting once we were straight, but on the circle approaching? He wanted to get to that jump. On the final circle, he spooked at something and we had to halt/back and had a discussion (me, not him) about the necessity of halting immediately when stuff like that happens… It wasn’t a bad spook and my plan was to circle and keep coming, but my trainer’s point was he’s green and she wants the halt and back to bring his focus back to be. Point noted.

To the right? More of the same except I struggled with the rating and straightness to the fence as Nay REALLY wanted to go. We took a couple of long spots because I just didn’t collect hard enough (he was strong, not out of control, just strong and determined). Point noted.

We ended with a new fence that my trainer wasn’t sure we’d be successful with. It was the in of the outside line. Just some boxes with a gate (though the gate might not have been visible at our height). 2ft-ish. Last year he’d have had a heart attack. This year he was pissed off I made him look at it (well, he refused to look at it). We paused in front of it and chatted at my love for trot fences. Yes, I’m strange, but I adore trot fences and I know everyone thinks they are hard, but I adore them, I’m confident at them, I can see distances to them, and if I’m nervous, give me a trot fence any day. I spent 6 months trotting fences on Subi 2x/week when I first got him (up to 2’6″) and I’ll pretty much trot anything. LOL.

Anyway, we trotted in and again, Nay jumped the shit out of it, landed left and continued back around. We very much had to worked on collecting because someone thought this jump was awesome… Once we landed wrong and I asked too late (hind legs were already to the outside). Once Nay even tossed in a full change on the landing to show just how special he is. And once I didn’t hold enough and we took a flyer. Really. And almost crashed into a standard on the landing (no steering — Nay doesn’t steer on his own). And somehow I managed NOT to fall off? I mean, I almost did, but I saved it.

And with that, I have a new horse. He says he doesn’t want to be a hunter, but rather a jumper. But whatever he is, he’s bold and brave and it’s very different. I’m also going to have my trainer hop on him at the start of my lessons here and there (thinking 1x/month) just to make sure I’m not screwing him up too much.

Maybe this weekend I’ll have media?

Nay Nay-locks and the Three Rides

Nay Nay in cross ties sticking out his tongue wearing floral boots
He has the best personality

For the first time in a month, I FINALLY took a lesson on Nay Nay (no media at all because why would I have media?). The lesson was wonderful, the rest of my rides were… less so. It seems like I had 3 different horses on my 3 different rides. All (well, many) of Nay’s personalities came out this week.

I’ll start with the lesson. It was Tuesday morning and the weather was absolutely fantastic. It was warm and sunny and just perfect. The majority of the lesson focused on flatwork. Bending, using my inside leg/spur, and making sure Nay moved off the pressure. He’s SO MUCH BETTER going right vs left. To the right, because he is SO MUCH stronger now, we focused the order of operations: leg/spur, inside hand to get the bend, then take hand off the neck.

Eventually, the canter. Right lead is good, but we’ve lost the left lead. I mean, we got it, but it took a few tries.

We kept our jumps small. Just a small astro-turf covered box which we trotted over once and then cantered over in a circle a few times each direction. To the right, he’s super quiet while to the left? He’s fine, just occasionally gets a touch… speedy. Not fast, just speedy. The right used to feel speedy and then we found balance. Now the left feels that way. So we need to figure that out. We trotted then cantered a small gate a couple of times before calling it a day and going home.

We followed up Tuesday with a Saturday ride. It was sunny, but windy. Not like Friday (50-60 mph gusts), but still crazy windy). I considered riding outside but after putting a jump back up (as well as chairs back up), they promptly fell over. I decided to take advantage of the indoor. What I had was a tense horse. I lunged and still felt like Nay was ready to jump out of his skin. He was quiet when I led him around the outdoor, but inside? Eh. He wasn’t bad, just not good. I never even cantered. I felt like I valued life and chickened out. We did a lot of halting and backing and trotting (and scooting). It was fine, just not fun. I did trot him over some poles and a cross rail and he was fine. He even jumped a small vertical with flowers and never got fast, but I wasn’t able to get rid of the tension the entire ride. His tension brought me tension. I was out at the barn solo so I didn’t push very far either.

Nay Nay grazing next to the ring of fallen jumps
Hanging out next to the ring of fallen jumps
Marble with the lilac
Lilac season (and Marble — it’s always Marble season)

Sunday? I anticipated an empty barn as it was listed on the schedule book as a no lesson day but there were several cars when I arrived. I dragged my husband as I wasn’t feeling well. Wind came back, but nothing terrible and temps were back up in the 80s. By the time I was out in the ring outside, all other horses had cleared out. Nay didn’t have the calm aura of yesterday when we first walked outside, but with the warm weather, I decided not to lunge. We started off with some tension, but mostly energy. We trotted for a while, just working on moving over when I asked. I held him together to the left (scooting stopped after a minute or so — too hot for antics), but to the right? I finally gave in. He wanted to canter. All he wanted to do was canter. So if he wanted to canter? We’d canter for as long as I wanted to canter which was much longer than he wanted to canter. I then tried to canter to the left but failed. I could not uncurl him and before either of us got frustrated/confused, I stopped. Instead, we trotted our green astro-turf brush box, landed the left lead, and cantered for several minutes. Nay decided to play as much as he possibly could, but he’s Nay. He doesn’t (usually) buck or bolt, just tosses his head and flings his front legs without actually doing anything.

We ended by trotting and cantering the same jump to the right and he was quieter that way. I could have done more. He probably needed more. But we were successful and I was tired. Sometimes you end on a good note.

There are times that you think, “My horse feels like he’s going to run off with me!” But Nay was never actually running off with me. He just had energy. Why this week brought excess energy, I don’t know. I’m sure he needs to be ridden more, that can never hurt. Regardless, if he keeps up this level of energy, I’ll learn to ride it. It’s better when it’s without the attitude! Sunday was much better than Saturday, but he was still a dream to ride (and much less of a workout) on Tuesday!