How to Introduce and Train Your Horse to a Grazing Muzzle
- There are some things that you need to give your horse some time with. Learning flying changes, getting used to a new barn, and even using a grazing muzzle. Yes – your horse needs to learn to use one.
- Before we get started, a few thoughts from my soapbox if you think muzzles are horrible and cruel. Skip this next paragraph if muzzles are a necessity in your horse’s life and you get it.
- Muzzles are not cruel. Laminitis is cruel. Muzzles are not expensive. Laminitis is expensive. And as much as I think chubby ponies and fat horses rolling their extra blubber around a lush green pasture is oh, so romantic and dreamy, it’s also a load of dangerous horse poop. Situations like that lead to heartbreak. Muzzles can help your horse be healthy and happy! I promise.
Ok, soapbox finished.
Muzzle = grass.
No muzzle = no grass.
Most horses need to be trained and acclimated to using a grazing muzzle.
- This can hopefully prevent some mishaps and Houdini-like removals down the road.
- As with all things horse training – your horse must learn that wearing his muzzle is a GOOD THING. The muzzle must only be associated with his favorite times of day – eating and relaxing and meandering around.
- If wearing the muzzle results in a fight to put it on, you grumbling aloud about how you know this sucks for him, and any sort of negative vibes from you, your horse will pick up on that. Remember “you’re the leader” ? Take the lead and make the muzzle a positive experience. Really. You need to make silly faces and have an upbeat voice and praise your horse till you wanna puke.
How to acclimate your horse to a grazing muzzle
- During the spring and fall, as laminitis risk spikes, your horse should be acclimated to pasture anyway. Ease into it. A little bit at a time.
- Teach your horse that muzzles = grass, chill, happy times. Start by hand grazing your horse with his muzzle on. This allows you to look for a few things:
- Did you get the dang thing on correctly? Horses need about an inch between their lips and the muzzle bottom. Then it gets more complicated. My horse prefers to have nothing else touching him, otherwise, the hair is gone. So I use a basket-type muzzle which allows me to create a large cage around his face where nothing can rub. Other horses need a muzzle that touches everything and is lined with only the best fleece. Or an old leg quilt.
Your horse needs lots of room! This is a GG-Equine basket style muzzle.
How he moves his jaws in the muzzle.
- Checking for fit while he’s standing is one thing. You also need to watch him eat with it. From the sides, from the front, from everywhere. This can warn you of possible adjustments to make, to the basket itself and the halter that is holding it. Use sheepskin, old leg quilts, and body glide for runners to help ward off rubs.
How the halter fits.
- Some horses can get the muzzles off because they are not latched strongly to the halter, and they can pop the noseband behind their chin. Halters with a center strap from the crown to the front of the nose can help prevent this.
- Other horses have halters that gape too much at the throat latch. YES, there are halters designed to cinch up the rear of the halter so a horse can’t get it over his cheeks.
- Still, other horses pull off the crown. Create a long, thick braid and secure it with a proper hair tie. Thread the crown piece through the braid, this will help.
- And even though the goal is to keep the muzzle on, it must be breakaway in case he gets hooked on something and unable to free himself.
This GG-Equine halter has an adjustable throat latch so you can tighten things up and stop the Houdini horse from escaping.
And how effective is your horse at actually grabbing the grass?
- Look for “Goldilocks” grass to train your horse to wear a muzzle. Grass that’s too short won’t be able to be eaten through the muzzle’s opening. Grass that’s too long will be folded over or bent over and tricky to eat, too. The grass that’s just right will be able to poke through the opening a little bit for easy chomping.
Now go slowly with the muzzle!
- You still need to slowly introduce your horse to the idea of a muzzle. You are going to be hand grazing for a few days. Maybe more? Then move onto a pasture that you can watch him in.
- It’s not good to send him into the pasture with a muzzle for a little bit of time, then take it off and let him be naked. This will encourage him to try and remove it. Also – remember that study about ponies that learned how long their turnout time was? And then used that time to speed up the eating to the point of gorging? Yeah – horses are that smart.
- If Muzzles = Grass then the opposite needs to be true: No Muzzle = No Grass. You must encourage your horse to learn this. In the early stages, if you see him trying to remove his grazing muzzle, time to come in. Don’t worry – he will be FINE.
- Do be aware that herd dynamics can change when muzzles are introduced into the mix. This is especially true for horse herds that are new. Look for changes in behaviors between the horses, any new bites on rumps, and make sure the low guys on the totem pole are still safe if they wear muzzles. There’s a lot of communication that happens with a horse’s mouth!
Please clean the muzzle daily!
After your horse is a champ at wearing and using a grazing muzzle.
- Keep up with daily inspections of his face! Look for broken hair and ruffled up patches that warn you a rub is coming.
- Change halter styles to find the best fit.
- Use body glide stuff to counteract rubs. You can absolutely use this on his face.
- Invest in some sheepskin halter covers to puff up any areas that bang against your horse as he’s mowing the lawn.
- And absolutely CLEAN THE BASKET regularly! They can get gross! I dare you to smell the basket daily and wash as needed.
Add fuzz as needed.
Remember that your horse’s health and laminitis risk can be changed for the better with a grazing muzzle.
- A horse in a muzzle can enjoy hours upon hours of pasture time. Muzzles reduce grass intake by about 80%. A horse turned out for one hour in an attempt to cut back will just learn to be a fast eater. VERY fast. This also puts a huge amount of sugary grass in his belly at once, which can be similar to him gorging in the feed room on a huge bag of grain. Slow grazing over time prevents that wallop of sugary grass from hitting all at once, which is also better for his body.
- When your horse can be out for longer periods of time, his legs, heart, and most importantly, his BRAIN and mental health will all benefit.
And, you can find muzzles in all sorts of styles and colors (!!) now to suit your every matchy-matchy need.
Shop for some muzzle stuff here. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, and this is ZIPPO extra charge to you! Every drop helps me keep this website alive.
The best muzzle in the land – order one here! Also in raspberry and black colors.
Greenguard muzzles and houdini proof halter can be found here.
Halter fuzzies can be super helpful.
Gold Bond Chafing Defense Anti-Friction Formula, Unscented 1.75 oz (49.6 g)(Pack of 1) – to make rubs slick and slippery