Mythbuster Monday: Hay Nets Can Wear Down a Horse’s Teeth

On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Can hay nets wear down a horse’s teeth?

It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Can hay nets wear down a horse’s teeth? Does it depend of the surface material? How often does a horse have to eat from the net to see effects? Read further to find out!

Myth: Hay nets wear down a horse’s teeth

Myth or Fact: Fact (if used incorrectly)


Hay nets have been around for a significant amount of time. They were originally made to keep hay off the ground and reduce waste. Traditionally, the holes were large so they did not limit the intake of the horse. However, recently, new designs known as slow feeders have become popular.

But, can they cause a horse’s teeth to wear down?


According to an article published by the Hay Pillow, yes. This is due to pilot error. Hay nets will cause a horse’s teeth to wear down if the horse cannot pull the hay out of the net with his lips. If the hay is stuffed too tightly into the bag, the horse is forced to pull it out with his teeth, rather than his lips, and the scraping of the teeth across the abrasive material of the hay net will eventually wear down the teeth.

The article goes on to discuss the three most common reasons a horse will use his teeth instead of his lips. The first is that the mesh opening where hay is extracted is too small. Secondly, the horse’s caretaker is filling the net too tight, and third, the horse’s owner is filling the hay bag with compressed bales or densely baled hay.


Another article by Listen to Your Horse interviewed veterinarian Bob Peters of McKinlay and Peters Equine Hospital. Dr. Peters stated that he’s been seeing an increase in wear and tear on horse’s teeth who eat from slow feeding hay nets. He provides the information that when the slow feeder hay net openings are too small, they repeatedly get stuck between the horses teeth and begin to wear them down. His recommendation is to use hay nets that have at least one to two inch openings.


An article by The Horse discusses how the benefits of slow feeding hay nets outweigh the risks. However, the number one risk they name in the article is teeth damage. With slow feeding hay nets, there is telltale wearing of the enamel, mainly on the upper incisors. There is also risk in the hay net cords hooking on loose, isolated, or decaying teeth. This is more common in younger horses with loose baby teeth and older horses with decaying teeth. It is recommended to only use cord-based hay nets with horses after their incisors have come in and to get a dental check on older horses before using.


After diving into the research, hay nets can wear down a horse’s teeth if they are not used correctly. This is especially true with young horses (under five) and older horses (over 20). To minimize issues, make sure to use hay nets that have at least a one to two inch opening.

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