We decided to look at what’s currently hanging out there in hay bags. What we found was there’s a lot of variation in design. There are some good ideas out there. There are also a few that could be executed better.
Several of the bags had flaps over the top to keep a horse from snitching hay out that way instead of pulling it through the front window. We liked this idea. Most of the bags with top flaps used hook-and-loop fasteners and none of our test horses argued about it.
Another idea was to have the front opening divided down into smaller windows so the horse will eat slower and the hay will last longer. That sort of worked with some of our quieter horses. But our eager eaters found the restricted access frustrating and tore at the bags trying to get at the hay. They made quick work of the web strap window dividers on the Fabri-Tech No-Mess hay bag and, slowly but surely, they pulled out even the tough dividers on the Tough-1 Slow Feed Hay Bag.
We found that having the front window of a hay bag divided with nylon webbing or ropes usually resulted in at least some of the dividers being ripped out, sooner or later. The Classic Equine Top Load, however, held up well.
Getting the hang of it
One of the hardest parts of using a hay bag can be hanging it up. The type of hardware that comes on the bag can make it a snap or a struggle. We found grommet holes the hardest to deal with. You need to have a way to attach to them. We didn’t, resorting to baling twine and finally adding carabineers to some of them so we’d have something to snap onto.
One exception was the Triple E Canvas Hay Bag, which had good, leather-reinforced grommets in almost the right position so we could actually hook directly to them with a snap. The grommets on the Partrade bag were too low, so we had to attach two carabineers to them.
What we really liked instead of grommets were rings. Rings made it easy to click on a snap and hang up the bag. The Horse Sense and Triple E Pony/Mini hay bags both had good rings sewn into the top. The Horse Sense bag also had a ring on the back to tie the bag down.
Some of the more elaborate bags we tried came with their own hanging systems. The easiest was the simple single center strap, snap and ring on the Wrangler hay bag and on the Tough-1 Slow Feed Hay Bag.
We also liked the web straps and plastic buckles on the Classic Equine, Cashel, Centaur and Roma bags. On a cold morning we found it much easier to squeeze a plastic buckle open and snap it back closed than fumbling with a snap.
The double-strap system on the Classic Equine Top Load Hay Bag was complicated, but sturdy, with good snaps. The straps came criss-crossed, which made it easy to sling the filled bag over your shoulder to carry it. But for stalled horses it was easier to open and close the bag when we rearranged the straps to go straight over at each end.
Fill ’er up
Filling a hay bag can be a chore. One of the neatest innovations in the bags we tried was having dowels or some type of rods along the top to keep the opening rigid. There’s no question a stiffened top line made it easier for us to open a bag with one hand and drop in hay with the other. But they needed to be done right.
Most of the bags had larger dowels, which we felt were safer (Classic Equine Top Load, Cashel and Fabri-Tech Portable Hay Bag). The Roma bag had thin metal rods and the end of one poked out through the fabric midway through the test, which worried us.
The Centaur bag had a thin metal dowel holding the bottom feed-trough portion open. It was bent back along the sides and secured at the back seam. It stayed put.
The Wrangler bag was left at the mercy of a big, playful gelding and its large metal tubes in the top eventually wore through the fabric at both ends.
Tether or not
We found having a tie ring or loop on the back of a bag is a good idea. If the bag wasn’t tied down, some horses got them turned around, so they couldn’t get at the hay. But tying down a hay bag that has smaller, divided windows isn’t optimal either. Some of our more extroverted horses, including a young Chincoteague Pony, got so frustrated with the smaller, divided windows that they tore the bags trying to get at the hay.
One feature we really like was a mesh bottom. Not only did this allow dust and dirt to fall through, it helped air circulate inside the bag. The Classic Equine, Wrangler and Cashel bags all had mesh bottoms, while the Fabri-Tech Mesh Hay Bag was made entirely of mesh. One caution: Breathing in dust isn’t good for a horse, so we were careful not to hang these bags so high that the horse would have any dust falling out into its nostrils.
Our top choice was the Classic Equine Top Load Hay Bag. The Fabri-Tech Portable Hay Bag was a close second for its sturdy material, large capacity and ease of filling. Right up there with these innovative designs was the simple Horse Sense hay bag that was made better by having rings at the top instead of grommets. And the fact that it retails for around $12 makes it the Best Buy.