Feeding round hay bales is the most economical and efficient way to feed horses if you have more than two and do not stall your horses 24/7.
Other posts on this site review the types of round bale nets and the savings possible when using both a bale net and bale ring. This post will address the various styles and materials of bale rings and which, in my opinion, is best and safest for horses.
I’ll stipulate that there is never one right answer to any question about horses. After decades in the business and caring for horses in show barns, private barns, and in pasture, I’ve got a little experience and wanted to share what I’ve learned with you.
Bale Ring Styles for Horses
Anyone who has been around horses for more than a week knows they are very creative in finding new and different ways to hurt themselves. There’s little benefit to saving a boatload of cash on your feed bill if you have to turn right around and give it to the veterinarian who treats your horse after a run in with the wrong bale ring. In most cases, when a bale ring and horse argue, the bale ring wins.
Bale rings come in a variety of styles. They vary in height, material, open sides or closed, on the ground or off the ground, and with or without stantion-like dividers at the top to keep horses from pushing each other around. The safest style is the one that is LEAST LIKELY to injure a horse.
Any bale ring with dividers that extend above the horse’s chest level were discarded the moment I began searching for my first ring. Such dividers leave open spaces between the upright pieces that could easily trap a leg or neck of a foal or pony. For the same reason I did not consider any bale ring with an opening in the ring itself. My first bale ring was an 8-foot diameter blue metal Priefert ring with three looped supports to keep the bottom off the ground. We used the Priefert ring for three years and recently replaced it.
Which bale ring is best for horses, metal or poly?
The Priefert ring is a great product but has two flaws. The first is the connections where each of the three radius or curved sections come together. One section joins another by bolts that secure the sheet metal. Even finished edges of sheet metal are potentially bad for horses. The second problem is the material itself. I have horses who like to paw just a bit as they savor their hay and I regularly heard knees bump into the steel body of the ring.
The moment we realized that the little lacerations and hair loss on the horses chests was due to rubbing on the bale ring joints we wrapped the joints with Gorilla Tape and inner tube rubber. The covering helped a bit but did not solve the problem. Each of the six horses sported the same minor chest cuts in exactly the same place.
Why I switched from a metal ring to a poly round bale ring
After several years the dents and dings in the Priefert ring became obvious. The ring was still in great shape but knowing that each wave in the metal was caused by a delicate joint started to bug me. It was time to stop the minor chest injuries as well. To be fair, none of them were serious, but they didn’t look good and what horse wants to live with a chronic abrasion, laceration, or rub?
I looked for an alternative. There are complete round bale covers that look like little houses, but the companies were difficult to communicate with and my research didn’t lead anywhere positive. So, I checked out poly (plastic) round bale rings. The cost of the metal ring and the poly rings are similar, so price shouldn’t be much of a factor when making a decision. If you don’t live close to a supplier however, there could be a substantial difference when shipping in a metal ring versus a poly ring.
Two companies offered either the same or very similar poly ring that I wanted. One is in Canada and the other in the USA. The delivered price for what appears to be the same product was not much different but we chose the US company just because it is a US company. Both were pretty good communicators when I inquired about pricing and delivery by email or phone.
Poly Bale Rings are Far Easier to Assemble
Our new poly ring arrived in a week and is 7-foot in diameter rather than 8-foot. The Priefert ring was a bear to assemble, bending the pieces so they came close enough together to get the nuts on the bolts before the ends twanged away from us. My husband assembled the poly ring by himself in no time.
Placing the ring over the round bale usually requires tipping it on its side and dropping it over the new bale (wrapped in the bale net.) I couldn’t make the switch myself with the Priefert ring due to it’s weight and size. Moving the poly ring around is a breeze by comparison and I can do it without assistance.
The poly ring sits directly on the ground. The bottom edge of the Priefert ring was about a foot off the ground which gave nibbly horses the opportunity to drag the hay net out when it was nearly empty; allowed goats to go under and climb on the bale; and could possibly catch a horse’s leg is it lay down too close to the ring. I never had this happen, but some horses are more inventive than mine. I prefer the poly ring. It does not trap water and there are no legs or supports to worry about when rolling the ring from place to place.
Poly Bale Rings are Safer for Horses
The cuts on my horses chests disappeared quickly once we switched to the poly ring.
And, if they’re still drumming on the bale ring with their knees I can’t hear it and the ring doesn’t dent. Another plus for us is the difference is diameter. Because the poly ring comes in shorter sections you can actually change the diameter if you wish.
Poly bale rings have variable diameters
The 8-foot ring was a bit too big to let the horses reach the hay in the very middle. We had to take the bale net and ring off for them to finish up the hay. With the 7-foot ring the horses can finish the hay, can’t drag out the net, and we have even LESS WASTE.
Some folks actually tie their bale nets to the bale ring itself which requires something to tie to. That something must have an opening in it and the poly rings do not. For me that won’t work. There may be another new and better way to feed a round bale, but for the moment I have nothing that needs improvement.
Conclusion – What is the best round bale ring for horses?
To save money, reduce waste, prevent injury, and do less work, I highly recommend using poly round bale rings for horses. You will find links to the various products and resources mentioned in this post. If you have a question, I invite you to send it in the Comments section or by email using the CONTACT button at the top of the page.
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Comparison of Round Bale Nets - Texas Haynets and Cinch nets
Reduce cost of feeding horses using a bale net and bale ring
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