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This might be a bit off to the side but couldn't help wondering...they may just be trying to stay warm. The digestion process is a prime method of producing heat. Blankets tend to work against them in that they mash the hair, make fur muscles atrophy, and create very uneven heating in the body, as in they are often too warm under the blanket and can't cool off and yet too cold where the coat isn't and that messes up their whole system.
Thermoregulation in horses
Anyway, it was just a thought. I vote for the netted round bale!
 

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In very cold weather, hay consumption can increase 30%. Feeding twice daily might mean the horses are without fiber for three or four hours which is painful. Chewing and eating wood supplies the fiber which helps the pain go away. Feed more hay. I'm feeding a round bale, over 5', for two horses which normally lasts them 2 weeks. A bale was set out last Sunday and again today as we've had a long stretch of nasty cold with no letup this coming week. Because they are getting enough fiber, they're not eating the barn.
 
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