Tired of seeing your horse eating in mud? Or wasting hay that gets buried in filth? Here’s any easy, low-cost way to build a chore-efficient feeder. We built three, one for each horse in our group pen where we are temporarily housing horses while building permanent facilities for them. Since we moved in this summer we’ve been feeding on the ground – not a very satisfactory solution since horses that eat in dirt or mud can ingest soil particles with their hay. Soil particles can potentially accumulate in their gut causing sand colic, a very serious health threat.

To build our simple feeder we purchased used plastic drums (55 gal), the kind formerly used for fruit syrups or other human food products. Ours cost $30 apiece and we purchased them at the local feed store. You may be able to find this kind of drum through an industrial exchange program, a materials recycling program or Craigslist. Just make sure the plastic barrel didn’t hold something toxic in its former life and there are no rough edges or metal that can cause dangerous cuts.

Here’s how to assemble them:

  1. Cut out a large opening on plastic drum using a circular saw.  We made the opening on ours approximately 24” wide x 20” high.
  2. With a file, smooth out any rough edges.
  3. Using a mild dish detergent, a brush and a hose, wash the inside of drum to remove plastic particles and any residue.
  4. Drill holes for U-bolts.
  5. Attach drum to panel fencing or other secure object at chest height for your horse.  Position the U-bolt around the panel fencing so that there’s only enough of the bolt ends on the inside of the drum to put a washer and self-locking nut on.  This way there should be nothing protruding to poke your horse’s sensitive nose while he dines.
  6. Drill holes in bottom of barrel so rainwater can drain out.
  7. Voila! Your feeder is ready for use.

In just a couple hours and with a small investment you, too, can have an alternative to feeding in the dirt and the mud.