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Should your horse wear a grazing muzzle 24/7?


Technically yes, but is it the best idea? Some horses must wear bell boots or blankets all the time, but for grazing muzzles, a horse needs a bit of freedom. Most muzzle manufacturers and vets alike suggest that 10 to 12 hours of muzzle wear is terrific.



Why use a grazing muzzle?


  • A horse that wears a muzzle needs to eat less grass. The speed of eating also needs to slow down. This slowing down of eating helps prevent colic and laminitis in high-risk horses.


  • Most of us learn that horses that get into the feed room and gorge themselves on grains or feeds can end up with fairly instant colic and laminitis. When high starch and high sugar food, like grass and feeds, hits the digestive tract quickly, a chain reaction starts.


  • The microbes in your horse’s hindgut have an absolute party, eating up those sugars. The by-product of this process – think of it as microbe-poop – changes the pH of the gut and creates a lot of gas. A change in pH can alter and kill the other types of microbes, throwing everything off balance. The gut’s wall may also allow endotoxins from these reactions to get into the blood, where it can affect the hooves and create laminitis.


  • All of the gas sets the stage for uncomfortable colic. With large pockets of gas and very little escape of this gas, the intestines may twist and displace. Neither of these situations is good.


  • Getting back to the escaped horse in the feed room. Let’s say Mr. Houdini eats 8 lbs. of feed before he’s found. This amount of food is perfectly safe to feed a horse when it’s spread out over several smaller feedings. The speed of consumption is the problem.


  • Horses that are on pasture may need a muzzle to slow everything down. Think of a muzzle as a slow feeder that your horse wears. As a bonus, calories are reduced, helping many horses maintain a healthy weight.


  • Horses that are not overweight are less likely to develop equine metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, a big risk factor for laminitis.


horse looking to the side wearing a green grazing muzzle

This is the bright and fun Greenguard Equine Muzzle


Can my horse wear a muzzle for part of his turnout?


  • A horse that is out for 12 hours and only wearing a muzzle for six will outsmart you and the muzzle. They learn that they don’t have to wear one to graze and may be more likely to attempt muzzle wrangling and removal.


  • And, they compensate by gorging when not muzzled. Researchers discovered that ponies started to eat faster and faster to make the best of their time on the grass when not muzzled.


  • Here’s the point – A horse that is not muzzled part of the time will still be at risk.


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The best of both worlds


  • Some pasture-kept horses need to wear muzzles for their health. If possible, use dry lots and slow feeders or hay nets in addition to pasture turnout. Many horses can still play, socialize, enjoy turnout, and move freely in dry lots. It’s a lot less to mow when you use paddocks, and your horse can get a break from the muzzle while still being a horse.


  • On rare occasions, a horse’s teeth may start to wear because of muzzle use. There are lots of preventative measures for this, including keeping the grass a bit taller and letting your horse have his forage from slow feeders instead of wearing the muzzle continuously.


  • Your vet is the best place to get advice for your particular horse and stabling situation. It’s also handy to track your horse’s weight every week to make sure his body score is holding at a healthy level or moving towards a healthy level.


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Safety break-away halter for grazing muzzles.



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