For Marie Racine, Handy Hay Nets is as much a business as a labour of love aimed at improving the lives of animals and their owners.
Racine grew up small town Québec, where she had horses in her life from a young age. Now a resident of Winlaw, British Columbia, she still loves horses and keeps two of them on her property in the beautiful Slocan Valley. “I ride just about every single day when the weather permits,” Racine says. “I plan my days around it and I always have time for the horses every single day. They’re very important to me.”
But with a small piece of land she had to get creative in how she keeps her horses healthy and comfortable, and slow feeders were a necessity for their digestive health and overall happiness. “I had to create more of an environment for them, so they’re not just standing in a square space. So I created stations throughout the pens and the horses naturally push each other from one bag to the next.” Slow feeding not only helped improve the health of her horses, but also helped reduced waste and cut her hay consumption by two tonnes per year, while making the process of feeding the animals much simpler.
The only problem was, when Racine went looking for slow feeders, she couldn’t find anything she liked that was affordable and made close to home. So she decided to start making her own – and Handy Hay Nets was born. “I started the business because a lot of locals and friends had slow feeders, and they saw the ones I made and preferred mine,” Racine says. “They started asking me to make them via word of mouth.”
Community Futures Central Kootenay also helped Racine get her business off the ground. “It’s an awesome group of people who work there,” she says. “Their feedback is so important and I’m extremely grateful for them being there. What they’re doing is incredibly valuable to our community.”
Racine now sells her Handy Hay Nets online through her website, as well as through shops across Canada. What has made her slow feeders so popular? Racine says it’s the combination of affordability and quality. “Others are way more expensive, which limits the people who can buy them,” she explains. “My feeders are more accessible for the average farmer. I put a lot of time and research into finding materials that have a good balance of quality and cost effectiveness.”
What’s more, they’re hand made by a person who truly loves and cares about the end users of her product – the animals and their owners. “They’re made with love,” Racine says. “The welfare of the animals is what really motivates me every single day to do what I do. It’s about making them have better lives; so they live longer, are healthier and aren’t suffering. For humans, it eliminates waste, saves money and simplifies the feeding process for your animals.”