How much should your horse’s grazing muzzle restrict grass intake?

 

A horse grazing muzzle is a wearable hay net for your horse while on pasture grass. Just like hay nets for hay, the larger openings allow for bigger bites. Small-opening hay nets take much longer to consume; the same applies to grazing muzzles. The basket openings should be large enough to reduce frustration (if needed) and small enough to slow down eating and reduce overall intake. But how much does a muzzle restrict grass intake? It depends, so let’s start from the beginning.

 

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greenguard grazing muzzle on a halter

Basket-style grazing muzzles may help keep the sides away from your horse, reducing the chance of rubs. 

 

Sugars, laminitis, and grazing muzzles

 

  • Any horse that is overweight or has a previous bout of laminitis or founder should wear a grazing muzzle on pasture and use hay nets for hay. For horses with metabolic disorders like pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, formerly Cushing’s) and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), the risk of laminitis and founder increases with pasture, too. Sometimes, these horses should avoid fresh grass and only use dry lots with hay nets and other slow feeders. Your vet can help you determine your horse’s overall risk of laminitis and how safe grazing is.

 

  • A high laminitis-risk horse has a compromised hormone chain that ultimately affects insulin. Insulin is directly related to blood vessel health in the hooves. When a horse eats sugars and starches rapidly, the hindgut microbes go into a feeding frenzy. 

 

  • The resulting microbe “hangover” changes the pH of the hindgut, killing off some other microbes and creating endotoxins. These endotoxins then ride through the gut’s lining, bloodstream, and the hoof. And perhaps the vessels in the hoof are already compromised by insulin dysregulation, making these endotoxins more likely to harm the laminae. 

 

  • One classic example is the clever pony unlocking and raiding the feed room and ending up with laminitis. Incidentally, many horses will get gas colic, too, as the microbe party also creates a lot of gas.  

How muzzles help

 

  • The primary purpose of a grazing muzzle is to reduce the volume of grass your horse eats. This reduces calories and laminitis-inducing sugars and starches that make their way to your horse’s hindgut. As a bonus, muzzles also slow eating down, spreading out the sugars and starches, helping the hindgut avoid the overwhelming microbe feeding frenzy.

pink muzzle on a pony in a very green field

 

How much do grazing muzzles reduce grass intake REALLY?

 

  • Well, um, it depends on who you ask and the conditions in which researchers gathered estimates.  For example, this article from the University of Minnesota Extension suggests muzzles reduce forage intake by an AVERAGE of 30%. Read about the study here. 

 

 

  • Incidentally, that study also revealed that unmuzzled ponies on limited turnout used that time to GORGE themselves. If your horse or pony is overweight, limited time on grass is NOT the answer. They will make up for it with vacuum-like feeding skills.  

 

  • But what’s the real answer? Somewhere between a 30% and 80% reduction in grass intake? Probably – depending on a few things, mainly the muzzle design and the grass’s height. 

 

Where to start with grazing muzzles

 

  • The ultimate goal of using a grazing muzzle is for your overweight or high laminitis-risk horse to enjoy the movement, herd companionship, and grazing that pastures provide.

 

  • First, your horse must learn that wearing a muzzle and grazing are joint activities – no exceptions. 

 

  • Horses are keen observers of time on pasture and will quickly learn that a shortened turnout time means they must eat faster. If a horse knows that muzzle-wearing is only part-time, they will use the “naked” time to chow down as much grass as quickly as possible. This is the absolute worst thing for your horse’s hindgut!

 

  • The best time to train your horse to use a muzzle is anytime except the spring and fall when the grass is the most reckless with its sugar and starch content. Use a muzzle with ample openings, encouraging your horse to “figure it out.” Most horses catch on immediately. 

 

  • If you start with tiny openings, horses can become frustrated and think of ways to remove their muzzle. Naughty horses!

 

  • As your horse becomes accustomed to wearing the muzzle, you can change the style or size of the openings.  

 

plastic grazing muzzle with worn center

This style has sections you can pop out, but not back in again. 

 

The height of the grass matters, too.

 

  • Most muzzle brands work best when some bit of grass pokes through the holes for your horse to grab. Grass that is too long, even longer than six inches or so, will fold over when your horse places the muzzle down. Grass that’s too short barely pokes through, and most horses will scrape their teeth to get to the short pieces. Find that Goldilocks grass that is just the right height.  

Read more about tooth wear and muzzles here.

When do horses need larger openings? Smaller openings?  

 

  • Your horse’s needs dictate the best grazing muzzle design. Low laminitis-risk horses on low-sugar grass can have larger holes on their grazing muzzles. 

 

  • Higher-risk horses and grass in peak growth season or stress need dry lots or smaller holes. Then there’s everything in between.

 

  • If your horse needs help maintaining a healthy weight to avoid some metabolic issues, you may be able to vary the size as the seasons change and your horse’s weight stabilizes. 

 

  • Diet changes are another time to consider using muzzles. Equine nutritionists and vets suggest diet changes occur over two weeks to minimize gut disruption. The sudden bloom of spring grass is often so quick it equals a diet change. Or, a horse moving to a new barn or pasture may need a muzzle to acclimate to the change in food safely.  

muzzle inserts for grazing

These inserts snap into the GG-Equine muzzles to change how much grass is available. 

 

How to change the openings of your muzzle

 

  • Some grazing muzzles are rubbery, and you can cut the opening to allow more grass to come through. The downside is that it may be hard to make the space smaller again.  

 

  • Other designs have slots that you can pop out, but once they are out, they stay out.  

 

  • Some muzzles have removable inserts that alter the size of the openings. This allows for easy acclimatization to grass and adjustments based on your horse’s weight. 

 

Does your horse have the right muzzle to restrict grass intake?

 

Help the overweight horses 

 

 

  • Use a weight tape monthly (at least) to track your horse’s progress. Measuring your horse’s weight is fast and easy with this formula:

 

    • (Girth in inches x Girth x Length) / 300 = Approximate weight in lbs.
    • (Girth in centimeters x Girth x Length) / 11,900 = Approximate weight in kg.

 

  • The girth measurement is around your horse, just behind the elbows and the highest point of the wither. The length of your horse is the distance from the point of shoulder to the point of buttocks – and this may not be a horizontal line, which doesn’t matter. 

 

very fat pony on short pasture grass

This is not my pony; if it was, they would be wearing a muzzle. 

 

For the horse with metabolic disorders 

 

  • For metabolically compromised horses, their weight is also worth monitoring. EMS and insulin resistance (IR) go hand-in-hand with obesity in horses. Other metabolic disorders, like PPID may cause muscle and overall weight loss.

 

  • For any horse with metabolic issues, have your vet run regular bloodwork to monitor your horse. PPID horses often need medications, and bloodwork values of essential hormones can track the effectiveness of meds.

 

  • Horses with EMS can fluctuate in their sensitivity to sugars, which can also be monitored with bloodwork.  

 

  • Pair your horse’s weight, bloodwork, and the sugary-ness of pasture to gauge the ideal restriction of grass intake. Your vet can certainly help you determine all of this.  

 

For all horses, monitoring their weight and providing as much turnout as possible is the best for their overall health. Grazing muzzles can make that turnout safer, and longer!

 

 

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Grazing Muzzle by GG Equine

Basket-style grazing muzzle to help keep a horse at a healthy weight and help reduce the risks of colic and laminitis in some horses.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for savings sitewide on muzzles, halters, slow feeders, and more.

Grazing Muzzle Accessories – GG Equine

Help your horse have the best-fitting grazing muzzle.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for a site-wide discount on halters, muzzles, slow feeders, and accessories.

Gold Bond Friction Defense Stick, Unscented 1.75 oz Pack of 2
$31.55

I can't stress this enough - this magic stick has prevented so many rubs from worsening, and is great for breaking in a new pair of riding boots or shoes.

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Tough 1 Halter Fleece Set, Natural
$11.88

Only the best *affordable* squish for your horse's cute face.

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Halters – GG Equine

These grazing muzzle halters have adjustable throat latches and extra strapping to help prevent removal.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for a sitewide discount on muzzles, halters, accessories, and slow feeders.

Rub Protector Lycra Fly Mask – GG Equine

These fly masks are fantastic for protecting ears and eyes, and do great under halters and grazing muzzles to stop rubs and hairless patches.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for a sitewide discount on muzzles, halters, accessories, and slow feeders.

Jolly Pets Horsemen's Pride Amazing Graze Toy
$59.99

Keep your horse's brain happy!

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FORTEX INDUSTRIES Feed Saver Ring
$18.00

Great to use with buckets to discourage cribbing

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Grazing Muzzle by GG Equine

Basket-style grazing muzzle to help keep a horse at a healthy weight and help reduce the risks of colic and laminitis in some horses.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for savings sitewide on muzzles, halters, slow feeders, and more.

HayPlay Slow Feed Bag XL – GG Equine

One side of this innovative slow feeder is solid - perfect for pastures! It will hold a small bale of hay.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for sitewide savings on slow feeders and more.

HayPlay Slow Feed Bag – GG Equine - 2 sizes available

2 sizes of this slow-feeding hay toy - snack size holds a few flakes, and the half size holds 1/2 bale.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for sitewide savings on slow feeders and more.

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Big Hoss Equine Supplement - Outlaw Nutrition

The best Omega 3's and gut health in one package.

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Ernst Grain & Livestock Midwest Agri Shredded Beet Pulp with Molasses, 30 lbs
$49.99

The molasses makes it more delicious, but that's not great for all horses.

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Metabarol Horse Supplement Pellets with Resveratrol, Metabolic Support Supplement, 3.3 lbs
$176.50

This supplement for metabolic disorders is vet recommended and has science to back it up!

07/25/2024 04:43 pm GMT
Big Hoss - Outlaw Nutrition

Omega 3's plus gut health support in a delicious cold milled flax formula. It's delicious and it will turn your horse's coat into a mirror.

07/24/2024 08:15 pm GMT
Halters – GG Equine

These grazing muzzle halters have adjustable throat latches and extra strapping to help prevent removal.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for a sitewide discount on muzzles, halters, accessories, and slow feeders.

07/25/2024 04:17 pm GMT
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Metabarol Horse Supplement Pellets with Resveratrol, Metabolic Support Supplement, 3.3 lbs
$176.50

This supplement for metabolic disorders is vet recommended and has science to back it up!

07/25/2024 04:43 pm GMT
Quiessence (Large-14 lbs)
$128.99 $85.98

This supplement helps high-laminitis risk horses and has calming ingredients like magnesium.

07/25/2024 04:33 pm GMT
Grazing Muzzle by GG Equine

Basket-style grazing muzzle to help keep a horse at a healthy weight and help reduce the risks of colic and laminitis in some horses.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for savings sitewide on muzzles, halters, slow feeders, and more.

Grazing Muzzle Accessories – GG Equine

Help your horse have the best-fitting grazing muzzle.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for a site-wide discount on halters, muzzles, slow feeders, and accessories.

07/25/2024 05:13 pm GMT
Halters – GG Equine

These grazing muzzle halters have adjustable throat latches and extra strapping to help prevent removal.


Use code 15PROEQUINE for a sitewide discount on muzzles, halters, accessories, and slow feeders.

Thank you!

 

 

 

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