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A Helpful Guide to the Fundamentals of Grazing Muzzles

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Are you considering investing in a grazing muzzle for your equine? Not every horse needs to wear one, but they can be life changing for the ones that do! Here is some of what you need to know about how they work, safety concerns, and how to successfully introduce them to your horse or do grazing muzzles really work?

Pasture turnout offers horses many benefits, but it can also come with drawbacks. Turnout allows your horse to move around freely, which promotes good gastrointestinal health. It also helps maintain low-level fitness and increase calorie utilization, which are important considerations for overweight horses. However, turnout in pasture can result in large, typically uncontrolled, intakes of forage. That can easily lead to weight gain and its associated health risks of equine metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and laminitis in some cases.

When fitted correctly, a grazing muzzle helps restrict grass intake but does not completely prevent the horse from eating. Research has shown that using grazing muzzles on ponies that were stabled but turned out on pasture for three hours resulted in   This makes grazing muzzles a useful tool for allowing your horse or pony to reap the benefits of turnout while limiting the potential for undesirable weight gain.

The Perfect Fit For Grazing Muzzles

Fitting a grazing muzzle correctly is very important, and numerous styles are available to choose from. Here are a few tips on how to ensure a proper fit:

  • Make sure to follow the fit instructions for the brand you purchase.
  • Pay particular attention to areas that might become rubbed by your horse’s grazing muzzle, including the ears, points of the cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, and on top of the muzzle.
  • Be sure that the muzzle is not constantly touching the horse’s mouth. There should be a gap of about an inch from the end of your horse’s mouth to the muzzle.
  • Check that your horse can comfortably open its mouth while wearing the muzzle.

 Introducing a Grazing Muzzle to Your Horse

Introducing the muzzle to your horse takes patience and a positive attitude on your part. If you approach the situation with the energy that you are about to do a terrible thing to your horse you can guarantee that your horse will pick up on this energy and be very wary of the muzzle. How your horse reacts to this new accessory will depend largely on its personality and temperament.

Always start slowly. Using the principles of pressure and release (negative and positive reinforcement), place the muzzle alongside your horse’s head. When your horse relaxes, remove the muzzle. Do this until your horse appears completely at ease. Then progress to putting the muzzle over your horse’s nose. Again, remove it after a couple of seconds and reward relaxed behavior. Slowly increase the length of time the muzzle is over the horse’s nose and eventually completely secure the muzzle on your horse’s head for a short period of time. Reward the horse by feeding treats through the muzzle, which shows the horse that they can eat with the muzzle on.

Take your horse out to hand graze in the muzzle. Be aware that the height of the grass is a vital component of succeeding with your new grazing muzzle. Grass that is too short won’t protrude through the muzzle far enough for the horse to eat, and this can really annoy and frustrate some horses. Very high grass is also hard to eat because it bends over and doesn’t protrude through the holes in the muzzle very easily. Consider how long your pasture grass is before turning a muzzled horse out on it. Grazing Muzzle Safety Concerns

Once your horse is safely and happily hand grazing in the muzzle for extended periods of time, you can consider turning them out on their own. Make sure to check the pasture area carefully for areas where a muzzle might get caught and fence off any unsafe areas. How long you leave the muzzle on varies by situation, but it shouldn’t be left on for longer than 10 to 12 hours. If you have questions about how long to keep the muzzle on, contact your veterinarian to come up with a turnout plan for your horse.

Keep in mind that once the muzzle is removed your horse might indulge in extra food intake if on pasture. Horses are capable of eating large amounts of their daily forage intake in a relatively short period of time. Removing the muzzle while still on pasture might undo all the hard work of restricting access if your horse begins to binge eat.

Be sure to monitor your horse’s behavior and note any uncharacteristic changes as a result of wearing the muzzle. Also, keep track of its body weight and condition so that you can adjust feed and pasture access as necessary to maintain ideal condition.

 Questions About Grazing Muzzles?

These are some basic guidelines to get you and your horse started with a new grazing muzzle. When fitted and used properly, they can play a key role in keeping your horse healthy and at an ideal body weight. Of course, they are just one of many tools you can use to care for the specific needs of your animal. If you need a horse vet in Guilford County, N.C., or have questions about grazing muzzles or any aspect of your animal’s health, call the experts at Carolina Equine Hospital: 336.349.4080, or book an appointment with us online.