I like the horses I care for to have hay in front of them 24/7 in order to prevent ulcers. Having treated ulcers before, I can honestly say that preventing them is much less expensive than attempting to cure or manage them.
Even if it means buying a Porta-Grazer. Which is what I did (actually I bought two) when I went to the Equine Affaire last fall.
Ulcer prevention wasn’t my only reason. What actually prompted the expenditure was a new horse, who likes to take huge bites of hay, the bigger the better, dunk them and eat them. I’ve never seen a horse go through a flake as quickly as this one. I can throw a flake into his stall, walk down to the end of the aisle, and by the time I return, it will be gone. The only thing I’ve seen like it is my Yankee-Irish horse whispering boyfriend with half-a-dozen donuts from Mrs. Murphy’s.
They don’t have slow feeders for donuts, which I could definitely use, but they do have slow feeders for hay. When a slow feeder looked like the best alternative to two bales a day or an empty stomach all night, I immersed myself in the virtual world of slow feeders. In the process, I visited a lot of websites that reminded me just how unnatural natural horsemanship can be.
After looking at the alternatives, the Nibble Net looked like the best of the bunch (I have a client who loves hers). I thought I could save on shipping by buying my Nibble Net at the Equine Affaire and carrying it home with me.
I passed the Porta-Grazer booth on the way to the Nibble Net booth. Actually, I walked right past it and then turned around. The salesman was a little Shamwow…
…but I listened for a bit, until I decided I had to interrupt and ask questions (I had to go see Tina and Jimmy and Anne). The product looked good. My concerns were: how much hay could it hold, would the horses tip it over, what was wrong with it and how much did it cost?
The answers I got were: It can hold 30 pounds of hay, the horses don’t tip it over, there’s nothing wrong with it, and it would cost $229 if I bought it without the lid/water bucket and $279 if I bought the whole shebang. Shipping was free if I bought it during the show. Which, if you’ve been reading closely, you know I did (and you know I bought two).
I justified it by telling myself that the Porta-Grazers would pay for themselves with the money I’d save by not throwing out wasted hay. I thought there was a good chance that it was going to tip over and we’d see about the problems that caused, we’d see how much hay it would hold and what else was wrong with it that I didn’t know. We’d see if the horses would think it was a monster or whether they’d go on strike for a while rather than eat out of it.
I followed the directions that came with it, which told me how to fill it and told me to present it alongside the hay the horse is used to seeing. I stuck the flakes in, opened up the stall door and slowly dragged the big green pail into my voracious horse’s stall. He shot it a glance and went back to grabbing huge bites of hay in his mouth. I placed the pail alongside the hay that was on the floor of his stall.
He stuck his head into the pail and pulled out a few strands of hay, with the same mouth-motion he would make if he were eating grass. Then he knocked it over. Then he rolled it around his stall. Then he knocked it into the walls. And then he tipped it up and began eating out of it again. Okay! Throughout the afternoon, he alternated between hay on the floor and hay in the Porta-Grazer.
That horse has an easygoing temperament and isn’t spooked by anything, so I wasn’t that surprised by how easily he took to the Porta-Grazer. My retired TB is another story. He is sensitive with a capital S. Not spooky but likes his routine and likes it even more now that he’s retired and can count on it. He’s still protective of his food after all these years and will pin his ears when my Yankee-Irish horse whispering boyfriend throws hay. My boyfriend doesn’t understand why my horse hasn’t yet made the connection that my boyfriend is the one bringing the hay not taking it away.
I decided it was the safest solution to introduce the Porta-Grazer in the paddock rather than in the stall. So I dragged it (I still can’t lift a whole lot since I broke my back) and placed it, empty, in the center of the paddock. He walked right up to it and stuck his head in. Then he tried to lift it up with his teeth. Then he knocked it over and rolled it around. Then he stood it back up. I filled it with hay and put the lid with holes in place. He started eating hay out of it and wouldn’t leave it to go back to his hay on the ground.
His paddock mate, who sees monsters with great regularity, stood nearby, with his neck outstretched in the direction of the Porta-Grazer. I felt terrible that I hadn’t gotten him one of his own. And now I will.
You can find out more about the Porta-Grazer here (I should also tell you that it has a drain plug, so you can use it to soak hay and then just drain it and feed it). It’s interesting that the promotional video now shows the horses knocking over the pails and rolling them around…no matter. I’m a fan. Just don’t count on filling it with 30 pounds of hay. But count on feeding two flakes at a time in the way horses like best. Or try out the new XL size. It will only set you back by an extra thirty bucks. After all, you’re not keeping a running tally on your horse expenditures, are you? If you are, go here, where I present the alternative.