Horse people frequently complain about all the hay their horses waste. We want to provide hay 24/7 but the cost to that is wasted hay. Horses pick through what they want and don’t want.
I have covered a number of ways to feed hay about a year ago in Hay, Hay You! What’s New?. Finally, after over two years officially writing The Green Horseman, I’m coming around to regular product reviews.
On this installment, I am reviewing the Tough-1 Original Hay Hoops.
You can find the Tough-1 Hay hoops at several locations. I purchased mine from Horse.com for under $25 each.
The Tough-1 Hay Hoop is a metal frame that gets mounted to a solid surface. I began using them in Blade’s stall when I was boarding. With the permission of the farm owner, I hung the hoop up in the corner of Blade’s stall. We actually purchased four as a group to hang in multiple stalls.
Inside the package, I received the hay hoop and an attached net. Around the outside of the frame, a net is attached with spiral fittings; the spiral fittings allow the net to be replaced.
The hoop itself measures 17″ x 12.5.”
The hay net has 2″ holes and fits roughly 3 flakes of hay from the average small bale, sometimes 4.
To attach to the wall I received the screws (5 for the hoop and 4 for the upper attachment) and the upper hook which secures the hoop once it has been filled.
I began by selecting a location (about chest level) where I wanted to hang the hoop. I secured the central screw first to hold it in place.
Using a level I then secured on of the top corners. Once the two screws were in place I finished the other three corners.
The hoop also comes with a hook that secures the top of the device when it is filled. To determine the proper location I closed the hay hoop as if it were full. I positioned the hook attachment where it would go at this closed position. Holding steady I screwed the piece in place. A few empty test tuns confirmed it was hung properly..
Slide the hoop up and it will rotate outward in the open position. This makes loading hay a breeze since the net is held open for you.
The net that is provided can hold about 3-4 average-sized flakes of hay. You CAN pack it tightly but the net will stick straight out until your horse has eaten some of it.
Note: If you overpack the net it will also be more difficult to close. If you need to feed more hay I recommend multiple hoops or a larger net.
Once the net is filled with hay, tip the hoop vertically and it will slide down. You will need to hold the lip of the hook so the hoop will catch it just right.
…and that’s it.
The Change the Net:
Once you learn HOW to change the net it’s actually quite easy.
The hoop has 22 sprial fittings; 5 on either side, and 6 down the length. The best way to start is to count how many loops you have on the NEW net and plan accordingly. I find that I have to double up somewhere so I double every other…or whatever I need to do to make sure it looks even all around.
To put ON the net…grab one loop on the opening of your net and pinch it into a smaller loop. Next slide the loop UP between the hoop frame and the spiral fitting. Pull the loop towards the center of the hoop and around the lip of the spiral.
To REMOVE the net. Pinch the net and push it towards the center of the hoop. Try to catch the loop and flip it up and over the spiral fitting. It should pull off easily from there.
Since it’s easier to show than it is to explain I’ve attached the video below:
- Compared to the competition this is very affordable at about $25
- Easier to load than just a net
- Although I don’t find nets to be terrible to load, some people hate it. This hoop holds the net open so all you need to do it pop the flakes in.
- Reduced hay waste
- My horses will leave piles of hay on the ground when I get lazy and toss flakes into the pasture. With the hay nets, the nay stays out of the mud and my horses consume a lot more of it.
- Extends grazing time
- Some horses can be hoover vacuums and eat their hay too fast, then stand around waiting for more. By feeding in nets the horses “graze” which keeps the hay in front of them longer. The more time they spend chewing and grazing the more saliva they produce when then buffers the stomach acid. This is especially good for those horses susceptible to ulcers.
- Replaceable Net
- For the horses that destroy everything, for the horses that need a smaller hole size, or for the horses that need a larger capacity. Once you learn how to take the net on and off using the spiral fittings changing nets out is simple.
- Designed with no sharp edges
- I don’t have to worry about my horse bumping himself on anything sharp.
- Size of frame
- The average hay flake is larger than the hoop frame. I often have to load 1 or 2 flakes at a time and shake the bag down. It would be a lot easier if the frame was large enough to put in 4-5 flakes all at once.
- Net quality
- It may come with the hoop but it’s not the greatest quality. I have had to replace several of them.
- I have now installed a total of 8 of these and the net varies in size. It’s not a big difference but noticeable enough when you compare side to side.
- Ease of Use
- The hoop doesn’t always move smoothly. It can get jammed and needs to be smacked a couple times in order to loosen it up again.
- Annoyance factor
- Getting the small hook piece to stand straight up shouldn’t be so difficult. Many times I have needed to be very dextrous to pick the hay up, unjam the hoop frame, hold the hook piece vertically and guide the hoop perfectly into position. At this point, I am not bothered by it but for others, it may be a deal-breaker.
Don’t mount the nets too high. Mount them about chest level in order to keep the horse’s neck in a neutral or lowered position.
If your horse eats more than 2-3 flakes I highly recommend getting a larger net and replacing it from the start. The hoop is a lot easier to close if the net is under-stuffed.
For shod horses, keep the net off the ground (or consider another option if he/she paws).
Don’t leave your horse with a non-breakaway halter. The clasp can easily hook to the net if your horse rubs its face. This actually happened to Blade once. He didn’t panic…he stood quietly waiting for help to arrive.
Of course, there are other products similar.
HayChix: This is the one that comes to mind first. Specifically, the free up feeder. The free up feeder is also a metal hoop. It now comes in TWO sizes….12″x24″ and 24″x24.” The hoops are of great quality, closing it is simpler, and the nets are of superior quality. The caveat? They are understandably more expensive (As of January 2020 the original is $77 and the XL is $115. They ARE worth it if you have the money and want longevity.
DIY Nets: This is another company that has a number of great options, There are various sizes and dimensions available. They even have a hoop for minis. They are also double/triple the price of the Tough-1 hoops.
I chose to save my money and purchase the Tough-1 hay hoops over the HayChix nets. They are cheap and effective and I have no trouble changing out nets. If money were no issue HayChix would have been my first choice.
At the end of the day if you find yourself interested in this feeding style, you must choose between lower cost and higher inconvenience or higher price with more convenience.
The Tough-1 Hay Hoops are good products and good value. I use them daily. They keep my horses eating happily, keeps the hay out of the mud, and helps make sure the hay ends up where it belongs…in their bellies.
I have 4 located in different spots around my barn. Even with two horses, I use them all. I will put 1-2 flakes in each…throughout the day they migrate and move from net to net.
If you are considering this purchase, I recommend it.
You can purchase them at:
or even at