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Hand-Knot a Hay Net for Your Horse

Turn baling twine into a hay net in under 30 minutes.

The hand-knotted hay net.

Here's a simple way to make a hay net out of used baling twine. Use this net to feed up to a flake of hay when on a trail ride--either daylong or overnight. (For day-ride feeding tips, see "Trailwise," Horseman's Handbook, Horse & Rider, February '03). The net's easy to store--and, since you're recycling materials, it's good for the earth--and won't cost you a dime.

What You'll Do
First, you'll make the bottom of the net, by tying together the ends of 10 lengths of twine in an overhand knot. Then you'll tie the twine into 5 rows of knots, 5 inches apart, creating a diamond-shaped pattern. For the sixth row, you'll make a series of loops for the drawstring. Then you'll braid a drawstring from three 4-foot lengths of twine, and thread it through the loops to close the net. You'll fill the completed net with hay, tying or hanging it from your trailer, a sturdy tree branch, or hook.

What You'll Need
Nylon or plastic baling twine; measuring tape; scissors; felt-tip marker; five clothespins; cigarette lighter.

Step 1. Use the tape to measure, and the scissors to cut, 10 lengths of baling twine, 7 feet long, from 5 bales of hay. These lengths will form the net. For the drawstring, cut three 4-foot lengths of twine. Discard any frayed twine.


Step 2. To tie the net's bottom knot, even up the ends of the 7-foot twine lengths. Measure 5 inches from these ends, then tie the lengths of twine in one large, overhand knot. Pull the knot tight by first tightening all the lengths together, then pulling each length individually.

Step 3. Nail the bottom knot to a wooden post or wall, at about eye level, for tying ease. To prepare the 10 lengths of twine for knotting, divide them into five pairs, placing adjoining lengths together. Clip the pairs together with clothespins.

Step 4 -- Starting the first row of knots working from the bottom.

Step 4. To start the first row of knots, pick up one twine pair, and measure 4 inches down from the bottom knot. (Remember, you're now working on an upside-down net.) Mark with the felt-tip pen. At this mark, tie the two lengths in an overhand knot. Tie the other four pairs similarly.

Step 5. To start the second row (and the diamond pattern), pick up two adjoining, knotted pairs and separate one adjacent length of twine from each pair; on each length, measure and mark a point 5 inches down from the first row knot. Move a clothespin from its first row position down over these marks, clipping the adjacent lengths together.

Step 6. To finish the second row of knots, continue pairing adjacent lengths of twine from adjoining pairs, clipping them with clothespins. Carefully spread out the net-in-progress, making sure no twine crosses over in the space you're creating for the hay. If it does, you're not clipping adjacent pairs, and you need to start over. After this check, tie overhand knots at your marks.

Step 7. To make the third through fifth rows, repeat Steps Five and Six until you have five rows of knots. Make sure each successive row is 5 inches down from the one above it.

Step 8. To make the sixth row and the drawstring loops, first separate out a pair of twine lengths, as though you were going to make another row of knots. But instead of tying the lengths, form a small loop with the double lengths of twine, 5 inches from the last knot. Then pull through a larger loop, about 2 inches long, using slack from the "free" (non-knotted) side of the twine. Then pull the small loop as tight as possible around the bottom of the larger one, to form a knot. To secure this knot, tie the two "free" lengths of twine (those leading to the ground, not to the net-in-progress) into a square knot directly underneath it. Repeat this step until you have five 2-inch loops.

Step 8 -- Making the drawstring loops near the top.

Step 9. Trim the twine 2 inches from the bottom of each loop. With a cigarette lighter, heat the twine at the net's top and bottom, melting the ends to prevent fraying.

Step 10. To make the drawstring, plait the three 4-foot lengths of twine into a hair-type braid. Tie off both ends with an overhand knot, heating them to prevent fraying. Thread the braided drawstring through the loops in the net. You're done!

Here are some safety and caveats to keep in mind.

  • Use only plastic or nylon baling twine. Your horse may be tempted to chew on twine made from cotton or other natural fibers (such as jute); these fibers also rapidly deteriorate.
  • When not using the net, put it out of your horse's reach. Even with synthetic twine, he may chew the net out of boredom, and fiber ingestion could cause digestive problems.
  • Always hang the net high enough to prevent your horse from getting a hoof or leg caught in it.
  • Always tie the net with a slip- or quick-release knot, in case your horse does happen to get caught up.

    Our thanks to Susan Mason of Republic, Wash., and Melinda Johnson of Houston, Texas, for submitting this project idea, and to Horse & Rider Contributing Editor Barb Crabbe, DVM, for veterinary advice.This article first appeared in the June 1999issue of Horse & Rider magazine.

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