How to fit a grazing muzzle and halter to your horse
There are AMPLE reasons why horses can benefit from a grazing muzzle. AMPLE, I say! Here are some tips to fit a grazing muzzle to your horse for the best fit and max comfort.
Steps to fitting your horse’s grazing muzzle
- Use a halter that is a breakaway. This should be the norm, anyway!
- The halter should snap away at the crown piece, and the muzzle should ideally be able to snap away from the halter. As a breakaway, you can use a nylon halter with a leather crown piece. It’s crazy easy to switch out a nylon crown piece for a leather one.
- Some halters that are permanently attached to a muzzle need to have a breakaway mechanism. This is usually some heavy-duty velcro and part of the design.
Make sure the muzzle is lined up correctly before you attach it to your halter.
- Some muzzles are not perfectly square or round. You may find a mark or notation that indicates which way is forward. They are typically longer front to back, to mimic the shape of your horse’s face and to give the jaws room to move.
- Your horse’s lips, the muzzle’s flat part, and the ground should all be parallel when your horse is chomping away. If the muzzle is tipped toward the front or the back, there’s a lot of room for your horse to get rubs.
- Your horse’s lips must line up with the hole in the muzzle! Otherwise, he will manipulate the muzzle forward or back, also causing rubs. Some thinner muzzles are easy to cut out and adjust the opening. For longer-lasting muzzles, the eating surface is slotted all over, so your horse feels like he has a lot of options.
- Keep the bottom of the muzzle, the eating side, about an inch away from your horse’s lips. This allows him to set the muzzle on the grass and then get a bit, minimizing friction.
- You will need to watch your horse eat with the muzzle to see how it moves with your horse’s face and mouth. This is easiest on short grass. It’s even easier when you take a video of your horse and play it back a bit slower. This will give you possible areas to adjust.
- Sometimes the attachments between the muzzle and the halter get a bit “floopy” and the muzzle has too much play and movement. You can remedy this by tightly taping up the attachments so they are firmer. This also helps to prevent rubs.
Check this out when your horse is standing, and when his noggin is smushed into the grass.
How to prevent grazing muzzle rubs.
- Fit, fit, fit. And then get to work on any friction that you see. It’s sometimes apparent where the halter rubs, you will see broken and ruffled hairs. This is the time to adjust, not when the skin is open!
- Use fleece or sheepskin covers. These are easily ordered and can be cut for an exact fit. Keep any velcro closures pointing outwards.
- Use a deodorant-style friction blocker stick.
The original hole in this muzzle had to be adjusted to line up with the horse’s mouth. It’s usually easy but beware of sharp-ish edges.
- Make the halter’s noseband wider so that it’s less likely to touch your horse’s face, and if it does, it’s not taut enough to cause a rub.
- Find a larger size of muzzle. There should be enough room for your horse’s face to move front to back and side to side without hitting the sides of the muzzle.
Preventing houdini-like escapes from grazing muzzles
- If your horse can remove his halter over the ears, you have some options. The throat latch needs to be adjusted. You can also braid a thick and well-secured braid in the first few inches of the mane, and feed the crown piece through that.
- For horses that can pop a muzzle off their nose and behind their chins, fashion a halter strap that goes from between the ears to the noseband. This prevents the noseband from coming down, and that’s how your horse is poking over the top of the muzzle. You can also tie, or use tape, from attachment to attachment if your horse is getting his mouth out of one of the sides.
This is the underside of Mig’s noggin, showing the GG-Equine muzzle’s throat latch contraption. Genius!
Other things to consider when using a grazing muzzle
Look at his teeth regularly. Weekly, even.
- Some horses will show signs of teeth wear when using a grazing muzzle. You and your vet will need to figure out why. Some reasons why your horse may be rubbing his teeth on his muzzle:
- The muzzle doesn’t fit properly. Start here and work on the fit before you go nutso!
- The muzzle is dirty and gritty. Please clean your horse’s muzzle regularly. Gritty muzzles plus teeth equal wear and tear on the chompers. Pasture grass that is quite short may contribute to this problem and the grazing muzzle is being pressed into the earth.
This muzzle needs to be cleaned! Pronto!
- Your horse’s teeth are softer than normal. This may be because of genetics, diet, or a mineral problem.
- Your horse is struggling to get grass through the grazing muzzle’s opening. Taller grass tends to fall over, which means there are rarely any leaves of grass poking through the openings. Shorter grass allows your horse to set the muzzle down and use his lips to remove the leaves that pass through.
- His mouth and lips are not lined up with the openings. Like the grass height issue, this can be helped with a muzzle with a grate instead of just a hole. For muzzles with holes, you can adjust the size in one direction so things line up easily for your horse.
More tips for using grazing muzzles
- When you are first introducing a muzzle to your horse or using a new style of halter or muzzle, do daily checks and adjustments until it’s all set.
- Yes, you may need actually to train your horse to wear a grazing muzzle. Don’t let your horse talk you out of using a muzzle – the only time his lips touch that sweet, sweet grass should be when he’s wearing a muzzle. It’s for his health! Many horses will learn quickly that no muzzle = no grass and will play along. More tips on that here!
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