There are lots of different ways to feed horses both hay and hard feed and everyone has their own preference depending on the individual horse and how he is kept. Hard feed can be fed in a flexible trug, in a rigid manger usually made of plastic which either fits into the corner of the stable or hooks over the door or field fence or, you can use a grain bags for horses to contain the ration.
A grain bag fits over the horse’s nose and is secured over the ears by a strap called the crown or head strap. Grain bags were very common many years ago when there were a lot of working horses who were often in harness all day long and could be offered a feed whilst they were resting in the traces, a situation which precluded them from eating from the floor.
Why use a grain bag?
There are lots of reasons and scenarios which make grain bags a good idea for horses:-
- Some horses are just really messy feeders and quality feed can be spread around the floor, trodden underfoot and lost – a grain bag ensures the horse food goes exactly where it should and is not wasted or spoiled
- Grain bags are excellent at competitions when the horse is stalled in a vehicle or in a temporary stable and there isn’t either the space or the opportunity to allow him to eat from the floor, it also keeps the ration private from adjacent horses
- If a horse is being fed medicines within a feed then a grain bag is a great way to ensure that all the feed and medicines are consumed without any loss or spillage on the floor which can often be the case with a standard feed bowl or manger
- Horses kept in a pen with others who tend to be difficult or aggressive over their feed can eat in privacy without any risk of bullying or injuries, the grain bag will help them relax and is a good solution for nervous feeders who are easily put off eating
- Some field horses mess around with their feed, tip it over and then wander off whilst another horse finishes it up, this doesn’t matter in the stable so much although feed can be wasted but in the field, it can be almost impossible to ensure that the horse eats enough. A grain bag is ideal for slow or distracted feeders out at grass where you can’t leave the feed with the horse unattended as you can do in the stable because they spend so long eating it. It also saves you from having to bring them in every time to feed them which not be either possible or practical
- Grain bags will show you exactly how much feed the horse has eaten which can be important if you are feeding for a specific purpose
- For long-distance trail riding and overnight camping, grain bags are a great way to feed a bunch of horses at the end of a long day
Top 5 grain bags for horses
This newly designed grain bag from TrailMax hs a reinforced nylon mesh construction and an adjustable strap. The new design has built on customer feedback and features reinforced and stitched seams so there are no edges which could rub or chafe or for a horse to grab hold of and chew. The TrailMax Heavy Duty Mesh Feed Bag is just a bit wider and shorter than previously so that it won’t fold over or collapse when the horse pushes his head right down into the bottom to reach that last bit of feed.
The tough vinyl-coated mesh prevents any food loss but does allow dust and water to filter through. The top strap has a slider buckle which you can adjust to fit most head sizes. This is a great grain bag for travel as it packs up small and compact and is very lightweight but is equally useful at home in the stable or field. Durable, easy to take on and off and quick to rinse out. Available in one size but with precise measurements so you can check that it is a suitable fit for your horse.
Available in four different sizes and a smart black colour, the Cashel Feed Rite Bag has a spill-proof design which works hard to keep the feed inside the bag where it should be. The bag is constructed of sturdy, breathable coated mesh which is tough but flexible and has a lovely feature of snap and elastic straps that retract as the feed is eaten meaning the horse doesn’t have to push his head right down into the bottom of the bag. Feed Rite have thought of everything with a spill catch flap to prevent spillage and wastage under the chin and there is even a white tag to write the horse’s name on which can be essential if you want to avoid feeding the wrong horse or if you are giving medicines.
A traditional nosebag design that wouldn’t look out of place on a film set, this avoids the use of nylon or PVC and features a leather bottom with leather also extending up the sides by around six inches. The straps are also leather and the material top is made from ironcloth also known as bear cloth which is incredibly durable – it won’t rot or mildew and is super resistant to tearing – versatile and washable. This is definitely a pricier option compared to some of the alternatives but is virtually indestructible as well as really looking the part. It features a traditional hole and buckle strap.
Available in two sizes, cob or full, the head strap on this smart brown grain bag from Cotswold Sport has a sliding buckle to make for adjustable fitting and is made of super-tough material with a soft polycotton lining. This is one smart grain bag, smart enough to almost double up as a shoulder bag. Vents allow the horse to breathe properly whilst eating. The buckles and eyelets are finished in a gold colour which looks very stylish against the brown colour of the bag. This grain bag is fully machine washable at 30 degrees.
The Prairie Horse Supply Feed Bag features a unique spill-proof design meaning every last morsel of feed is eaten up with no waste. It is the solution to bullying within the herd or a sloppy eater who routinely throws their food all around the box or field. This grain bag is made from a durable and sturdy breathable coated mesh with an adjustable strap and a quick clip durable snap buckle. Offered in three different sizes, the easy adjustments of the head strap means that the Prairie Feed Bag will fit almost any horse. User reviews suggest that this particular brand holds its shape well which not only makes it easier to fill but also means it won’t distort or crumple over whilst the horse is eating.
Key factors when choosing a grain bag
- Some grain bags are only available in one size so take careful measurements before you buy. Other grain bags may be available in a variety of sizes but check whether there is the option to adjust within that size choice. If you only want to use the grain bag occasionally such as for travel then it might be worth buying a full-sized product because then you will have the option to use it on different horses
- Look at the buckle on the crown strap – are there a variety of sizing options or a slider buckle which offers multi-adjustments?
- Would retractable straps help you if you want to leave the horse for a short period whilst he eats the feed? The length of the grain bag will automatically retract ahs the feed is eaten making access to the bottom easier and less troublesome
- How easy will the bag be to clean out? Most are rinse designs but there are some which you can machine wash
- If you are feeding multiple horses, is there a designated area to mark the horses’ names or somewhere you can attach a plastic tag for identification purposes? This is essential to avoid mixing up feeds but especially if you are feeding medication and have horses competing under rules
- Look at the flexibility of the mesh design – whilst you don’t want a totally rigid grain bag, it is important that the bag doesn’t crinkle too much otherwise feed can get caught in the creases and is either wasted or the horse will start pawing at his nose to try and access it
- Think about the feed you are using as some mesh grain bags will allow very fine particles to drop out, particularly annoying if you are feeding powder-based supplements
- If you are going to use the bag for different horses, should you choose a design which is machine washable particularly if you are feeding medication to ensure every last trace is removed? Machine washable bags are also a sensible option for sticky molassed feeds as it is harder to remove all the residue from the mesh with these feeds
Introducing a grain bag
Start slowly by holding the bag for the horse to put his head into with some tasty treats in the bottom of the bag like carrot or apple slices. Gradually introduce the feed to the bag and hold it for the horse to eat from. Choose your moment to clip the bag over the horse’s head once the horse is happy and comfortable to eat feed from the grain bag – this might be the first occasion he uses it or it could take several attempts, it just depends on the individual horse. If you rush this process, there is a risk that the horse will panic because he feels his airways are obstructed or he doesn’t like the feel of the bag on his head. Like all things – rugs, travel boots – horses have to get used to the concept and horses which are difficult to bridle or who don’t allow you to touch their ears may not be candidates for grain bag feeding.
Horses must be kept under observation whilst using a grain bag so that it can be removed when the feed is finished. Horses can and will drink whilst wearing a grain bag so don’t feel you have to remove the water buckets at feed time. When the bag is not in use, just keep it hanging up on a hook. Most of the mesh bags will compress down into a very compact parcel if you want to take the grain bag with you on your travels competing or trail riding or camping.
Grain bags for horses are a very handy addition to the feed room even if you don’t use them all the time. There is always that odd occasion when a horse has to be separated or supervised with a particular feed and a grain bag makes this so much easier. Popular with some groups of equestrians like trail riders, grain bags can be viewed as rather old-fashioned but they can be incredibly useful in certain circumstances so keep one handy on the yard and in the lorry.