Building my Perfect Barn, Part 3: Feeding, Haying & Watering Systems

As the owner of a hard-keeper (and feed tub pooper-in-er), you can rest assured that what I will not be using for feed tubs are those corner feeders that either screw into or clip onto the wall; main reason being that I like to be able to scrub out feed tubs every day, and the more steadfastly they are attached to the wall, the more difficult this is to do. Also, I firmly believe horses should eat head-down, a much more natural feeding position than chest level. A nice, sturdy rubber feed tub (you know, the old fashioned kind) is hard to beat. They’re tough, you can give them a good scrubbing every day, and if a horse steps on it, it will collapse under him, making it much safer than a plastic type.

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In keeping with my theory that ground-level feeding is more natural for horses than chest-level, I also plan to go sans-haynet and feed all hay from the ground. Well, sort of. Because I believe that horses should graze all day, but because I won’t be home to hand out several feedings of hay in the winter days (only to watch it blow around the paddocks), and because I don’t like to see horses stand ’round gorging themselves with their heads stuck in a round bale all day, I have two words to describe my perfect prospective haying system: Slow Feeders.

Schneiders Slow Feeder Saver; image found at

With slow feeders, I can ensure that my horses have enough hay to last them the day while keeping them from hoovering up way more hay than they really need. A slow feeder will also solve one of the biggest issues I have with round bales in paddocks, which is the sheer wastage of hay. I don’t know about you, but whenever my horses have been fed using round bales, they ate about a third of them, laid down on another third, and pooped on the final third. That’s a little too much hay ending up in the manure pile for my liking.

Of course, I’m lucky enough to have a very handy husband, and I’ve already got him thinking of ways to make these himself. I’m sure he’ll come up with something workable and durable that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

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I’m so interested in the idea of slow feeders, I’m even looking into ways of using them, as unobtrusively as possible, indoors in the stalls (because, as we know, rather than run-ins, the horses’ stalls will do double duty as shelters from rain, sleet, heat and bugs while I’m at work, and I’d rather not have them strew hay all about the stalls if I can help it). If anyone has a non-haybag-type of slow feeder usable in stalls, I’d love to hear about it!

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When it comes to watering, I’m a traditional kind of girl. I’ve just never liked automatic watering systems. I know, I know. They’re not the same old waterers that broke and flooded and froze in the winter and could never give you an accurate measurement of just how much your horse was drinking… but I still don’t like ’em. It’ll be good old fashioned water buckets for my barn, thank you very much. Two buckets per stall, and heated ones in the winter (after suffering through an 8 hour day in the corporate world, the last thing I want to have to deal with when I do finally get to my little barn haven is a frozen water bucket)!

As for watering during turnout, in the winter with the horses staying pretty close to their stalls in their cozy little winter paddocks, they can just drink from the heated buckets inside. I know keeping the buckets warm all day and night will cost me a little extra in electricity bills, but it’ll sure cut down on vet bills by preventing colic caused by horses not wanting to drink cold water. Also, with the electrical cord coming out from under the bucket through a small hole in the wall, and plugged into a very safe outlet like this, I will not be concerned about curious horses getting into trouble with the heated buckets.

Photo credit: Pam Levy

Photo credit: Pam Levy

As for watering in the outer paddocks during the warmer months, I don’t want the horses to have to come all the way back to their stalls to get a drink of water. Again, I’ll keep it traditional with the good-old-fashioned rubber tub. They’re lightweight, so they can be easily dumped for daily cleaning.

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Don’t forget to come back for my next post, when I’ll be talking about bedding and stall care!

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