The Forager: Science Borne Out in the Stable
By Kim Miller | Equestrian Writer
Equine nutritionists, veterinarians, product designers and scientific researchers have all weighed in on Haygain's Forager over the last several years. Computer assisted design software, mathematical calculations and stress tests in a research laboratory were all part of the process. None of that, however, means much if not melded with the feedback from horse owners' experience with the equipment in day-to-day stable life.
Now that the subtly refined Forager is fully on the market, they are happy to share their experience with fellow horse owners. The experiences are powerfully positive and plentiful.
Like Haygain Hay Steamers and Haygain's ComfortStall Flooring, Haygain's Forager delivers multiple health benefits. It slows down the horse's consumption, putting them on a pace nearer to that Mother Nature intended for digestive function. More time eating small quantities of forage keeps horses happily busy, reducing boredom behaviours.
Also following nature's design, The Forager enables the horse to eat with its head in a lowered position. This is ideal for musculoskeletal health and drainage of respirable irritants from the airways. A ring around the outside of the cylinder gauges consumption to help monitor weight or appetite.
By containing the hay, The Forager keeps it clean and prevents waste that occurs when forage is trampled into bedding, manure and urine.
From The Field
Chelsea Pearce's 3* eventer Kilnaboy Buffet has used The Forager for about three months. On the slightly small side, he needs to mind his girth to stay fighting fit. "It's nice for him to be able to pick away at his hay through the day," Chelsea reports. "It keeps him occupied a bit longer."
She has always been a fan of horses eating with their head in a natural position. "We like them stretching down over their necks and backs." The Forager base can be filled with sand to improve stability in the stable, but Chelsea's horse didn't require that. "It's very sturdy in the stable."
"And there's not the mess of the hay left on the floor and mixed into the bedding," she continues. "That is a massive plus."
Two of Hannah Biggs' dressage steeds have been enjoying the Forager for a few months. The 5-year-old Millie is "a little dramatic" and was shy of the equipment at first. "It only took her a day or so for her to get 100 % used to it," Hannah says. At the other end of the temperament spectrum, Dutchie "went straight in" for his hay on first use.
Hannah considers The Forager a healthy alternative to eating off the stable floor or from a hay net. The former leads to forage waste and the latter to concerns over the impact of
holding the neck in an unnatural position for extended periods of time. "I've talked to many physios who say hay nets can cause sore necks from the muscles wrenching to pull hay out."
Hannah's horses live out at night and come inside in the morning to a Forager full of hay freshly steamed in a Haygain Hay Steamer. "They're eating that all morning and afternoon."
She has already recommended it to fans. "Someone who had a horse that is greedy and messy asked me if it would be good and I thought it would be perfect for them. Using either of the two grids, it can slow the horse down but without making them feel restricted. Keeping a natural trickle of food into their bellies is really healthy."
Nicola Bell's Archie took a little longer than Chelsea and Hannah's horses to embrace The Forager. But he came around after a more gradual introduction recommended for initially reluctant horses. By lowering the regulator grid to a mid-point on the cylinder and placing loose hay atop it, Nicola enabled Archie to first eat his hay at a normal pace and effort, then comfortably segue into pulling small bits of forage through the grid to get the last segment of his meal. The adjustment is an example of how The Forager can serve a variety of horse health needs and preferences.
The Forager is now enabling hundreds of horses to enjoy more leisurely, more healthy meal times.
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