We are excited to announce that we are now carrying the HelixFeeder made by KiwiFeeder! These revolutionary slow feeders are a safe way to promote heathy eating at home or on the go. Read on as RW crew member Josey goes over the benefits of these feeders and how the HelixFeeder performed when she brought it to a show.
If your horse is like mine, a lot of precious hay gets wasted. It’s not like my Holsteiner mare, Pistol Annie, doesn’t like to eat – she’s just a little picky. If I feed her on the ground and she happens to step on the hay or if it gets mixed into the shavings, it is deemed inedible. As an event horse who loses a lot of calories on a daily basis, I need her to get as much forage as possible.
She's really cute, but look at that mess at her feet!
When we go to shows, the temporary stalls don’t have feeders. Over the years, I’ve tried lots of different hay bag options and haven’t been overly happy with any of them. From falling apart within a weekend to being a pain to load, I was ready to try something totally different. When Riding Warehouse brought in the HelixFeeder, I was intrigued.
What is a HelixFeeder?
The HelixFeeder is a collapsible slow feeder that sits on the ground so that your horse is able to eat in a natural grazing position. No matter how much hay you fill it with (and it fits up to 60 pounds), the HelixFeeder will be as big or small as what is inside. Unlike traditional hay nets, it doesn’t have strings or ropes that might entangle your horse, yet the portable design allows you to take this feeder with you wherever you go. Made out of durable materials and complete with a high-density plastic slow feeder plate, the HelixFeeder is unlike any other.
The safe, collapsible design of these feeders sets them apart.
Why Slow Feed?
The founders of the HelixFeeder were inspired to create these feeders after their horse, Kiwi, developed laminitis. While managing this condition can be tricky, restricting the pace at which the horse eats can help. Believe it or not, having a free supply of hay that the horse is forced to eat slowly can actually help him lose weight. When a horse becomes stressed waiting for mealtime, cortisol levels in their blood increase, leading to a rise in insulin which tells the body to store fat. By having hay available at all times, eliminating the stressor of waiting for a meal, some horses can actually eat more and lose weight!
Slow feeding isn’t just for “easy keepers”. Horses that are prone to stomach ulcers also benefit from a constant supply of forage. It is estimated that a majority of domesticated horses have ulcers, so it can be implied that most horses could benefit from free-feeding hay. Since the equine digestive system is designed for grazing, it doesn’t work quite right when the horse is deprived of forage for an extended period of time. As horses eat, they produce saliva which is actually a buffer for the gastric acid in their stomach. The fiber from hay can also reduce the “splashing” of those acids as the horse exercises.
Grazing is Good for Your Horse
Many horses can benefit from eating out of a slow feeder.
Many horses can benefit from eating out of a slow feeder.
One of the features that makes the HelixFeeder stand out from other designs is that the horse is able to eat with their head down in a natural grazing position. This position has a host of benefits for horses’ well-being. By stretching down over their back, horses are able to eat with less strain on their bodies. They can move their jaw without restriction, which allows them to break apart food and wear down their teeth correctly. Grazing posture also gives the horse’s nasal passages the opportunity to drain, promoting better respiratory health. Horses associate the posture of lowering their head to graze with relaxation, so bored or worried horses might even have a change of attitude with the HelixFeeder.
When your horse isn't able to graze, a slow feeder will have to do.
The HelixFeeder Goes on the Road
Pistol is a competition horse, faced with the anxiety that comes from traveling and performing. Unsurprisingly, I have always noticed that her mental and physical condition is best when she has the opportunity to munch to her heart’s desire. I have always gravitated towards slow feeders for the digestive benefits, as well their ability to keep her occupied all day when trapped in a tiny show stall. While she is generally relaxed in the stall, she does have a tendency to kick at the neighbors and a constant supply of hay makes a huge difference.
Slow feeding promotes relaxation in the crazy environment during the show.
The HelixFeeder was hugely appealing to me because it allows her to stretch over her back while she eats, instead of reaching up towards a hay net or hay bag. Our sport can be exhausting on the horse’s body and the last thing I want is muscle soreness caused by something as simple as eating with her head up. I found that I needed to secure the Helix Feeder to the stall wall so that she couldn’t move it much, but other than that it was extremely easy to set up and fill with hay. It comes with two loops, one at the top and one at the bottom of the feeder. I found it was most successful to thread a piece of twine through both loops and secure the ends of the twine to the stall wall. This way the HelixFeeder stayed upright against the wall and was still able to collapse as she ate.
A little twine helped me keep the feeder right where I wanted it.
My horse gets a combination of grass and alfalfa and I noticed that the alfalfa was a bit difficult for her to eat through the 3.5” holes. I eventually decided to take the plastic slow feeder top off for her to eat the flake of alfalfa. When she finished, I filled it with grass hay and replaced the feed plate so she would enjoy eating all day without littering her stall with perfectly good hay. In the future I might consider purchasing the 4” feed plate so that I can give her both the grass and alfalfa at once.
When your horse trailer is as full as mine, a collapsible feeder helps.
Altogether, the HelixFeeder seemed to be made out of high-quality materials that can withstand life in a horse stall. It is comprised of rigid plastic pieces that help it keep its shape, with the helix structure that collapses allowing the horse to access smaller amounts of hay. While it did take a bit of fenagling to get it attached to the stall wall, it is well worth the time for my horse to have safe access to hay in a slow feeder. My favorite part of the HelixFeeder is the ease of transport, I foresee many horse shows with it in tow!
Visit Riding Warehouse for more information about the HelixFeeder and other Slow Feeder options. Happy riding!