Contestant #2 is R - a super fancy, super adorable (somewhat broken) KWPN who is currently on round 3 of resting a torn ligament (heart breaking). That leaves Mr. R lots of time to sit in his stall and play with a slow feeder. His model is designed to hold a full bale, and is made int he "horizontal" fashion, which makes loading a full bale easier, but loses convenience of the BO being able to "toss" hay from the loft.
Though, I'm not sure she'd be tossing bales down anyway...
The idea is to give about a 3-4 day supply of hay, and allow the horse to maintain a mostly natural headset while snacking.
So, here it is. R was suspicious of me snapping pictures and immediate came to inspect whether or not I had any treats to offer...
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The grate floats loosely under the lid of the box, so that as the hay level goes down, the grate pushes down with it, always resting on top of the remaining hay.
Aside from that, the box construction and lids are super safe, firmly latched and seem as horse proof as possible.. though even typing that statement tempts fate a bit.
The BO and I did discuss the unintended consequences of going to things like automatic waterers and slow feeders.
She was discussing how much she used to learn just from standing in front of stalls and filling buckets. Even just 20 seconds of standing at staring, you can notice a lot. Has that horse been rest his right hind all day? hmm, the poop looks different, that mare looks more lethargic than normal.. no shavings in that tail, hay not cleaned up.. blanket looks loose, etc.
Obviously these are all things that we tend to notice anyway, but it's interesting how many things your brain can observe when standing still and just staring at a stall for a few seconds, as opposed to jogging by it as you go to turn out horses.
I have every confidence in the care at my barn, and I know that the BO has a great eye and those horses get more observation time than most, but it's an interesting philosophy to consider. Sometimes doing things manually allows you to absorb information you would otherwise miss. Thankfully our crew goes out of their way to still get that info. But somethings would be hard to stay on top of, even with diligent checking.
Take for example, a full bale slow feeder. Last fall we ended up with a chunk of our hay being "off." It wasn't moldy, smelled fine, not dusty, etc. But about 3/4 horses who were fed from a neighboring set of bales got the runs and were out of commission for a few days. Although more horses were exposed, the symptoms were obvious and correlated directly with who was getting fed from what hay bales. The problem was fixed right away. Inside horses needed new hay, the horses who slept outside were fine, because they hadn't gotten any of the contaminated hay in their outside hay shed...
Consider what would happen if a bad bale in it's entirety was shoved in a slow feeder. No other horses would be eating from it, and any symptoms could potentially emerge in only one horse. My brain goes through different diagnostics if one horse appears sick, than if many do... It's not rocket science, but it is different than the "flake tossing" mentality that happens many times a day. Also, if P ignores a meal, I know about it at at most 12 hours later (dinner --> breakfast). Given a slow feeder, that hint of being off her feed would be less noticeable over a short time window...
What do you guys think? Even with meticulous checks, can you fully replace the awareness and observations made from casual horse care?