Tricklenets, one year later

A little over a year ago, my first two Tricklenets arrived, and I blogged about how the horses adjusted to using them over the course of a couple of days.  (Hungry Hungry Hippos vs Tricklenets)

Tricklenets are not cheap, coming in at about €50 per net once postage is added, but I was so happy with how they were working out that I ordered another two soon after, and I took to hanging two nets in the feed boxes and two off trees lower down in their field, so that there would be two slow-feeding hay stations on the go all the time.  When a third horse was turned out with them, I changed my system, and took to feeding a small amount of loose hay twice a day in the feed boxes, and hanging all four nets at the ‘lower’ feed station.

How are they working out now?  A video is the simplest way to show you.

In the video, I mention that I think there are a couple of issues causing the wear and tear on the nets.

The first issue is this dude.

Odji.  Or perhaps he could be renamed Gnasher.

Within weeks of Odji being introduced to the mini-herd, I noticed and repaired the first hole in a net.  How did that happen, I wondered.

I got my answer a couple of days later when I was watching the three horses feeding from the nets.  Odji had developed the ‘make the holes bigger to get the hay out faster’ technique.  He would snap aggressively at the net a couple of times and then start pulling the hay out through the widened hole in a more sedate manner.

I wasn’t too thrilled, to be honest – my expensive nets were being damaged by someone else’s horse.  Should I complain? I wondered.  What would I hope to achieve if I complained?  Odji had been put with my guys for his own psychological well-being (long story, will tell you later if you’re interested…) and the three of them had bonded very well.  Having a third horse there made my life easier too – Aero hates to be left alone, and with Odji there, I no longer had to worry about him fretting if I took Flurry out.  So, no.  When I thought about it, I was very happy with the little herd of three and did not want to split them up.  I would just carry on repairing nets as necessary, but I would look for other slow-feeding solutions at the same time.

The little herd of three

I’m currently spending about an hour a week on repairs.  It’s annoying but doable, for someone with a small number of horses.  It would be completely impractical in a situation where there are 20 or 30 horses to feed.

NB While writing this post, I checked on the Trickenet website and found that a) they sell a repair kit (duh, that would be a lot prettier than baler twine!) and b) if your nets are damaged within 6 months of purchase, they’ll repair them for free. Too bad Odji was put with my guys in February…

The second issue is the one that I point out in the video.  While there are no sharp bits of branch poking any of the nets, there are a couple of rounded bumps and sawn off stumps, well smoothed off.  Oak trees have a very rough bark at the best of times, and the constant friction caused by the nets swinging back and forth while the horses eat from them could be contributing to the holes.

The third and final issue is one of climate.  Coming from mild, temperate Ireland, I’m not used to thinking in term of damage caused by extremes of temperature.  I suspect the cumulative effect of two (very) hot summers and one coldish winter have weakened the cord from which the nets are made.  It’s noticeable that the newer nets have less damage than the original two, which goes some way to supporting this theory.

a closer look at a worn section on one of the nets

My conclusion is that Tricklenets, or indeed any other slow-feeders made with ‘string’, are not for me.  They’d be fine in a more controlled environment, hanging in a stable for example, where they’re not exposed to the elements and they have a smooth wall behind them.  There’s no doubt that they do a great job of providing a slow, steady stream of food throughout the day, but they are not suitable for the rugged, natural life that my horses live.

I’m exploring other methods.

Watch this space.


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