Can a Horse Eat and Drink With a Grazing Muzzle?
Some horses will easily be able to eat hay and drink with a grazing muzzle. Others may become frustrated, but it’s more than just how hard your horse is willing to try. Of course, it helps if your horse’s waterers are the appropriate size, and any forage they eat will fit through the muzzles opening.
Why would your horse even need to eat hay with a muzzle?
- Sometimes, pasture needs supplementation with hay. This might be a round bale in winter or a few flakes if the grass is eaten down and you are waiting for rain. Ideally, any hay would be given in slow feeders in an area away from the pasture so that any muzzle-wearing horses can partake without effort. For round bales that live in the fields, muzzle-wearing horses may be able to eat with their “wearable slow feeder.”
- For horses that eat fencing because of a wood chewing habit, wearing a muzzle for grazing and eating supplemental hay is necessary to save the fencing. Not to mention keeping your horse from inevitable splinters.
- But, a grazing muzzle should not replace a slow feeder or hay net. Grazing muzzles are for grass, and if hay and grass are the options, your horse may be able to eat both. If the only choice for forage is hay, don’t use a muzzle.
Waterers may be a tight squeeze
Eating hay with a grazing muzzle
- For a horse to successfully eat his hay while wearing a grazing muzzle, the hay must be able to fit through the openings. Some muzzles have a single space; others have many slots. Either way, thinner and wispier grass hay is easier for a horse to pull through. Thicker hay, like oat hay, or forage with many stems, like alfalfa and timothy, is darn near impossible to eat through a grazing muzzle. But I’m sure a clever pony could make that happen.
- The length of the forage also matters. Shorter stems are easier to pull through, just like pasture grass. Long grass blades tend to fold over, making your horse do some fancy maneuvering. The thickness of the muzzle itself blocks very short grass. Grass that is a few inches long sticks up directly into the muzzle – think of this medium length of grass as the Goldilocks for grazing muzzles.
Your horse’s teeth
- Some horses use their teeth aggressively when trying to eat grass with a grazing muzzle. Aggressive eating usually happens with short grass, as they need to get close to the ground to rip up the blades. With such determination, a horse’s teeth may spend some time rubbing the inside of the muzzle.
- Depending on your horse’s eating style and dental health, there may be wear and tear on the front teeth. This is easy to see and in some cases, is easily remedied. Make adjustments to your horse’s muzzle fit. You may need to mow the pasture or let shorter or sparse fields rest to find the perfect grass height.
Drinking with a Grazing Muzzle
- Horses need access to fresh drinking water 24/7, with no exceptions. There are many options for your horse’s drinking water; you need to ensure your horse’s muzzle fits into the opening. This is more of a concern for automatic waterers and not troughs.
- If your horse wears a muzzle that is 10 inches in diameter, it may not be feasible for the waterer to be 10.1 inches in diameter. Give your horse some breathing room to access his water.
- It’s also perfectly fine to provide water in a giant muck tub or trough in addition to your automatic waterer. Most horses figure out which one to use when the muzzle is on. Some horses, well, that’s another story.
- Your horse also needs to learn to dunk the muzzle to get the water. This is rarely an issue! You may need to clean your waterers more often, though, as bits of grass will end up in the water.
- Some muzzle manufacturers will give you details about different automatic watering systems and compatibility with the muzzle. Check out this great example here of popular waterers.
Sometimes horses need to wear a hay net! It’s your job to ensure grazing is safe with access to fresh water.
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