DIY Pasture Hay Feeders

Last fall I started trying to figure out a plan for how I would feed hay in the winter at home. I didn’t want to leave hay on the ground so I planned ahead and waited for a sale at TSC and picked up two Rubbermaid 100 gallon water troughs. Then I picked up some wood which my husband cut to shape so that the hay would be off the bottom of the trough and stay dry or drain in the case of rain. The trough has a drain but it’s not all the way at the bottom. So we got that together and gave it a try.

One pony about to throw hay on the ground

Mess makers

As you can see from the pictures, the ponies mostly just flung the hay out onto the ground and then cleaned up their favorite pieces of scraps out of the troughs. Fun! So I started reading around to see what other people did. I had three main hang ups:

  1. I didn’t want to ruin the troughs for water use in the future (many people drilled holes down lower)
  2. I didn’t know if Stampede would eat from a hay net. He won’t eat on a trailer so I had never seen him use one
  3. I needed a feeder that allowed for eating at ground level or close since Stampede had tie back surgery years ago

Finally after much indecision I ordered two Tough-1 slow feed square bale hay nets. I picked these nets because the holes were quite large (I don’t want to restrict eating) and they were at a lower price point so if the whole thing failed I wouldn’t be out too much (more) money.

Thankfully, after some initial fear my horses would never learn how to eat from the hay nets and a few iterations of design we reached a solution!

Finished product

The hay net is attached to the trough using 4 carabiners tied on with string to the trough. The trough already had these holes (you can see more of them in the photo) although some were not fully open so we drilled those out. The horses quickly started knocking over the troughs so they are also tied to a fence post for stability.

EDIT: Soon after this post I updated to locking carabiners to keep the horses safe from potentially catching their nose or clothing in one. Highly recommend!


It’s really amazing how well they can clean out a net!

Ready for a refill! You can see our self draining bottom here

Some key things I’ve learned setting these up and using them.

  1. The horses were much happier once I figured out to place the bales side up in the trough so that the hay sticks out more for them to grab (see first trough pic)
  2. You want to use the carabiners in spots to make the net across the top as tight as possible so the horses can’t fling the net around so much
  3. Definitely secure the trough to something. We have them tied to fence posts but I think I’d also like to add some weight under my drainage wood piece to keep them steadier. I hear the horses thunking the troughs against the wood posts all the time and one post is actually a little loose now.
  4. The horses don’t seem to eat at a steady rate. I can never guess how much will be left. Also they sometimes prefer a certain trough and demolish that net together while leaving the other.

Doing what they do best

Having these feeders gives me so much peace of mind while I’m gone at work all day that my horses have hay and keeps my husband from having to put hay out throughout the day too. Not to mention how much money I’m saving not having wasted hay getting trampled and pooped on!

This last picture is totally unrelated, but I found this blood spot in the special needs horse’s stall the other day and I still cannot figure it out. He doesn’t pee that far forward (although it spreads there) and he was not gushing blood anywhere. Stampede mysteries!

At the top is his second stall door and you can see where his front feet were. He stands here with his head outside the stall to pee. Then random blood?

Happy Monday everyone, let’s hope the work part goes by fast and the horse time slow!



  1. martidoll123

    this is pretty cool and if it works even better!! I often wonder about throwing hay on the ground (it is what we do at our barn, I board so i have no say in this). They get haynets in the stalls so not sure why that never carried through outside. But anyway, this is a pretty good idea. However at the old barn Remus was at he was known to climb into those tubs and stand in there with the water. I can see him jumping in to get the hay even closer to his face. HA! I hope you are feeling better and hope the blood came from an errant rodent or something LOL!

    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      The boarding barn Maestro is at throws hay on the ground outside but it’s just a flake per horse so they hoover it up pretty well over their 4 hour turnout. My only really dislike about throwing it on the ground there is that when there isn’t snow they are eating off sand in some places. Phoenix is such a pig I had to do regular sand clear treatments because of it. I’m quite thankful the boys have never thought to climb into anything like that! Thanks, I’m doing okay. I’m riding regularly but finding myself exhausted at night which isn’t normal for me. Guess moving in the right direction at least!

  2. Leah

    I’m so glad you figured out something that works so well for them! 🙂

    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      Me too! Thanks for helping me with my ranting and worrying along the way, lol.

      1. Leah

        Haha it was fun! I really had to stretch my brain a little because your horses have different needs than mine 🙂 but it was a fun creative exercise regardless, and I’m glad something good came out of it!

        1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

          You mean Stampede and his special needs? 😉 Next up is mud management outside by the feeders and water troughs and dust/level surface management in the aisle of the barn if you want to sign up, lol.

          1. Leah

            I might have some thoughts 😉

  3. Stacie Seidman

    Good thinking with those troughs! Do you worry about them getting their feet in there?
    So weird about that blood! Is that by the foot that had the abscess? Maybe that’s the rest of the nasty inside? So odd! Maybe he stepped on a rodent?

    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      Neither of my boys has ever shown any interest in getting involved with a trough with their feet so I haven’t worried about it. I did however choose a thinner string that’s only a couple hundred pound test to attach the carabiners just in case. Certainly would have loved to get them porta-grazers but omg $$$.
      P is the one who had the abscess so that’s not it. Maybe it just looks worse because it’s in a wet spot and it was really a very tiny amount of blood from some kind of tiny cut? Only Stampede knows and he’s not telling.

  4. Jan Levin

    My vet recommended not using those type carabiners as he has seen too many torn nostrils and lips from those. Also, if the horses are wearing halters they can get caught on those type carabiners or snaps. We use the chain link fasteners that have the screw closure, nothing can get caught on them. You can also use any type of snap that doesn’t have a sharp clasp like the carabiner.

    1. stampyandthebrain (Post author)

      In a later post I updated to locking carabiners. Literally the same thing but with a piece that twists to cover the opening so it stays shut. I went and added an edit to my post to mention that. Thanks!


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