How to Keep a Grazing Muzzle on a Horse

 

Grazing muzzles are a valuable tool for horse owners who need to limit their horse’s grass intake. While many say that grazing muzzles are “cruel,” they are simply a slow feed that your horse wears. That is all. Whether the horse is an easy keeper, has insulin resistance (IR), or is at risk of developing laminitis, a grazing muzzle can help prevent the negative health effects of pasture grazing. But, some clever Houdini horses will challenge you to keep that dang slow feeder on their cute little faces. Never fear, I have some ideas on how to keep a grazing muzzle on a horse.

 

Table of contents

 

Why horses may need a grazing muzzle

Health concerns with overgrazing

Would your horse benefit from a muzzle?

Fitting a grazing muzzle

Preventing rubs

What to do to keep the muzzle on

FAQ’s

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lush pasture and horse using a grazing muzzle to eat

It’s diet grass now.

 

Understanding the Need for Grazing Muzzles

 

  • There are two types of horses that benefit from a grazing muzzle. Overweight horses and those at a higher risk of laminitis and colic.  These are often horses with metabolic disorders like IR and PPID (Cushing’s disease). The absolute brilliance of a grazing muzzle is that horses can still eat naturally, walk around, have herd interactions, and play with their buddies when wearing a grazing muzzle. High risk and overweight horses and ponies are often limited to dry lots and stalls and miss out on those essential horse behaviors. And, there is a lot of nutrition in turnout pasture that horses may miss out on.

 

  • There are other times when using a grazing muzzle is a good idea – it’s part of horse care and barn management for all equines, not just the plump or high laminitis-risk horses. As horses move from barn to barn, or back from a six-week show, or the spring grass is coming in long and lush, this is a diet change for your horse. Diet changes should be made over long periods – like weeks, not days.

 

Learn more about Equine Metabolic Syndrome here.

Read more about PPID (Cushing’s) here

 

Some low-risk horses benefit, too

 

  • A slow transition to grass pasture is good for all equines- in spring especially. Any horse can overeat, develop colic, and become laminitic regardless of their metabolic status or weight. The same is true in fall, when a horse’s hormone cycle and wild weather that triggers a pasture growth surge increase weight gain, laminitis, and colic risk.

 

  • Another situation to consider is helping an easy keeper stay fit. Muzzles can help with weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight when some horses gain weight by simply being in the vicinity of food regardless of feed intake and overall calories.

 

Read more about acclimating your horse to pasture here.

 

 

gray horse in far corner of green grass pasture

So much salad in a short period of time is a diet change for your horse.

 

 

The health risks of overgrazing

 

  • Overgrazing can have serious health consequences for horses, not limited to (IR), equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), and ever-horrible laminitis.

 

  • When a horse’s body becomes less responsive to insulin, it’s termed insulin resistance. A horse needs more insulin to manage glucose in the bloodstream. We know that high insulin levels can trigger laminitis—this is often done in research studies to induce laminitis for scientific reasons. With IR, your horse can gain weight, struggle to lose weight, and have a much higher risk of laminitis than healthy horses.

 

  • Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is a condition characterized by obesity, IR, and an increased risk of laminitis. EMS  is a wide-sweeping condition that encompasses many health issues and ultimately increases laminitis risks. Not to mention, the extra weight causes joint and hoof issues, sometimes influencing lameness.

 

  • Grazing muzzles are vet-approved and a great way to help your horse maintain a healthy body weight while maximizing their turnout and social interactions.

 

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Identifying signs your horse might benefit from a muzzle

 

  • Partnering with your vet to assess your horse’s need for a grazing muzzle is the best thing you can do for their future health.

 

  • You and your vet can establish a baseline by examining your horse’s weight, diet, age, exercise routine, breed, and history of colic and laminitis. Then, add a few blood tests to check for PPID (Cushing’s disease) and IR. Many metabolically challenged horses do not outwardly resemble a typical Cushing’s disease horse. Your vet will also perform a body condition score as a baseline.

 

  • Using a weight tape regularly on your horse also helps you track trends. Most horses will naturally pack on some pounds in the fall to prepare for winter, and some lose weight in extreme weather. Keeping your riding partner’s waistline checked starts with weekly or monthly measurements. You don’t have to have an exact number, you need to measure exactly the same each time and see if things are going up or down.

 

  • If you see fat pads on the flanks or shoulders, a cresty neck, sore hooves, hair loss, and other weird skin and coat things, it’s time to get your vet out.

 

Read more about colic risk factors here

Learn more about laminitis risk factors here

 

Tips for muzzle fit

 

There are various styles of muzzles and halters that act like wearable slow feeders. This is an experiment to find the best one for your horse, and it starts with the proper fit.

 

Proper fitting and adjustments

 

  • Fitting a grazing muzzle is a bit of trial and error as there are lots of straps and buckles you can change. But, there are a few simple guidelines that will help you get the best fit – for comfort, ease of eating, and prevention of rubs. And then there’s the big one – how to keep a grazing muzzle on a horse. It’s about fit, and sometimes it’s about tricks. But start with fit.

 

  • Make sure your horse’s muzzle and halter do the following:

 

    • Keep the muzzle parallel to their mouth and ground when they are eating. You’ll need to watch them every time you make an adjustment.
    • The bottom of the muzzle should have an inch or so of room between their lips and the muzzle.
    • There better be plenty of ventilation for proper breathing!
    • Your horse needs to drink with a muzzle on – and many automatic waterers allow this, and if not, a simple muck tub or trough is the remedy here.

 

up close shot of horse wearing a grazing muzzle

That strap in the center of the face can help stop a horse from flipping the basket. 

 

Step-by-step guide to fitting a muzzle

 

  • Start with a properly fitting halter. It must have a leather safety crownpiece that will break.
  • Attach the grazing muzzle to the noseband of the halter.
  • Adjust the straps on the muzzle to find the right distance between your horse’s mouth and the muzzle’s bottom.
  • I personally prefer basket styles of muzzles so they automatically rest away from your horse’s face and allow for more breathing room and a reduction in rubs.
  • The crownpiece should not be pulling forward on the ears.
  • The throat latch should be snug, but not too snug when your horse eats.
  • Check the fit of the muzzle regularly and make any necessary adjustments to ensure comfort and security.

Here’s a video with more details on fit and comfort:

 

 

Adjusting for comfort and preventing rubs

 

  • Horses should wear a muzzle the entire time they are eating pasture, and preventing rubs is important. Here are some ideas on how you can do that:

 

    • Use friction-blocking sticks that hikers and runners use to prevent blisters.
    • Add fleece or sheepskin padding to the halter pieces.
    • Have your horse wear a bug-eye slinky fly mask under the halter. This is one of the best ways to prevent rubs.

 

How to Keep a Grazing Muzzle on a Horse

 

  • The biggest thing you can do is to train your horse that in the pasture, the muzzle is on, no exceptions. They must learn that muzzles = pasture! It’s a reward for wearing the slow feeder!

 

  • If you choose to give your horse some naked time and some muzzle time when grazing, you are teaching them two things:

 

  • When naked, equines have to eat faster and faster. Researchers have found that equines know how much time they have for naked turnout and will adjust their eating to be more of a pie-eating contest than relaxing grazing. You have just successfully negated the entire purpose of a muzzle – to modify the speed and volume of eating.

 

  • You are also teaching them that they don’t have to wear a muzzle to graze, which only encourages them to try and remove it. You will never create that “muzzles = pasture” situation for your horse.

 

greenguard equine halter for grazing muzzle under the throat latch

This halter has a highly adjustable throat latch for maximum stickability and non-removability.

 

How do horses get their grazing halters off?

 

  • Clever critters will use a fence post, water trough, or their legs to pull the halter over their ears. Or, they will hook the basket under something and try to flip it under their chins. Many a horse has tried this and had it stuck in their mouths.

 

What to do if your horse is a Houdini halter remover

 

  • Check and double-check the halter fit, and observe your horse eating while wearing it. Is everything comfortable, and does your horse’s mouth align with the openings?

 

  • Do not allow grazing without a muzzle.

 

  • Check the throat latch area and tighten it as necessary.

 

  • Craft an attachment that goes from the top front of the muzzle to the halter, perhaps with duct tape or a velcro strap, that prevents your horse from hooking the basket under something.

 

  • I love these special halters that do both – the throat latch is fully adjustable and creates a T shape under the jaw for maximum security. And – there’s an added strap from the crown over your horse’s face to prevent basket flipping.

 

  • You could also add a browband or throat latch from a spare bridle.

 

  • Thread the crown piece through a thick braid in your horse’s mane. This can help with the “over the ears” removal. For maximum safety, make sure the crown piece is breakaway. You don’t need a leather halter, but part of should be to fail in a panic situation.

 

  • Use hot wire or hot tape on fencing. This also prevents legs and other horse body parts from fencing accidents.

 

  • Turn your horse out to graze with a belly full of hay! Empty stomachs are more likely to trigger Operation Get This Off.

 

bright green grazing muzzle and halter on a horse in clover

This strap also helps prevent horses from flipping their muzzles.  This halter is the same one that has the adjustable throat latch, too.

 

FAQ’s

 

How long can my horse wear a grazing muzzle each day?

 

Most pros and vets suggest no more than 12 hours in a muzzle. This is ample time for grazing, and using slow feeders for the remainder of the day will keep your horse busy and content. You should always check with your equine nutritionist or your veterinarian to determine the appropriate length of time for your horse.

 

Do muzzles affect herd behavior?

 

Science tells us that muzzled horses behave and interact with other horses normally. Researchers have also found that muzzled horses walk more than naked horses – which is great for fitness. It’s also important to remember that equine behaviors include slow feeding – smaller amounts of food over time, which is exactly what muzzles provide.

 

Can a horse still drink water normally with a muzzle?

 

Yes! Just ensure that your horse’s muzzle fits into their watering system. It’s also a good idea to monitor water intake anyway, so you can notice if your horse is drinking more or less than usual. Some horses are also talented enough to eat hay with their muzzles on, which is great if you supplement sparse pasture with hay flakes or round bales.

 

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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.

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.

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.

03/10/2024 07:17 pm GMT

 

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