Grazing Muzzles and Your Horse’s Teeth
- I’m here to give you all of the information about your horse’s teeth and grazing muzzles. There is some information on the great, wide ‘net that links teeth wear to grazing muzzles. And it’s not wrong. But don’t throw out the muzzles – you can easily work around this.
- And our job as horse owners and caretakers is to gather the research, keep track of our horses, and make adjustments accordingly. Let’s go!
Do grazing muzzles hurt a horse’s teeth?
- There’s simply no formal research on this topic, and we don’t need any. We know that some horses will wear their teeth down on a muzzle in an attempt to eat as much grass as possible. We also know that laminitis and colic are much more awful.
- Tooth wear happens when a horse’s teeth press and scrape around the hole(s) of the muzzle. Lots of factors influence this:
The material of the muzzle.
- Some are super flexible; others are more rigid. Muzzles can be stiff shells, fabric, and everything in between.
This muzzle has worn thin, and has even cracked.
Your horse’s tooth health.
- There’s a huge genetic factor here and a nutritional component too. And let’s not forget regular dental exams by your vet to assess your horse’s chompers!
What’s the pasture like?
- Short grass is harder to grab, and horses are forced to press down and scrape. Tall grass folds over when the muzzle places down, causing horses to press down. Goldilocks grass of a medium height is just right.
- You must keep your pastures mowed if they are tall, which also helps with weeds and ticks. Letting pastures rest when they are short benefits your horse and the root systems of the salad.
How many holes does the muzzle have?
- Single, small holes could be mentally restrictive, and many horses get frustrated. Multiple holes may, in theory, let more grass through, but your horse won’t be able to grab all of it in one go. He will be moving around more, with more options to snack from, reducing frustration.
The Greenguard grazing muzzle allows for movement and airflow within the muzzle.
How long should horses wear grazing muzzles?
- The UK’s National Equine Welfare Council released grazing muzzle guidelines suggesting a maximum of 10-12 hours of use. Here’s a bit more about that.
- Depending on where you live, that might work out well! Many parts of the country don’t have enough grass to support 24/7 turnouts. Other parts are so miserably buggy and hot that night turnouts in summer are best, with dry lots and shelters during the day.
- It depends on where you live and if your horse needs a muzzle. And if a horse needs a muzzle, he shouldn’t be on grass all day and night anyway!
How to make sure your horse’s teeth stay healthy!
- Inspect those chompers! And better yet, take photos of them regularly so you can track things over time. Weekly checks are a good idea.
- Notice wear and tear of the muzzle itself. Clean your horse’s muzzle daily to remove mud and grass bits. You will notice any sand or grit on the bottom surface that acts like gritty sandpaper on teeth.
- Try different brands! How lucky are we that the horse industry is clever with the design of so many things – from muzzles to saddle pads and more!
Some brands are lightweight and flexible, but this one had to be modified so cheating noses don’t poke out the sides.
- Make pasture maintenance a priority. Notice, up close, how your horse eats through the muzzle. Is the grass at a reasonable height? Mow or rotate pastures as needed.
- Make sure he goes out to pasture with some forage already in his belly. If he’s in all night and the first few hours of the day he’s getting a tiny amount of grass, there’s room for annoyance. Let him have some long-stem forage before muzzle time to curb hunger and frustration.
- Let your horse continue to have a slow feeder lifestyle when he’s back in his dry lot or house. Keeping his chewing and digestion going all day and night with slow feeders and hay nets matches the slow feeding of a grazing muzzle.
- Make sure the muzzle and halter fit properly! A large problem with single-hole muzzles is the fit – does the hole line up with your horse’s mouth?. Multiple small openings provide airflow and more freedom to move comfortably.
A grazing muzzle’s primary purpose is to provide a slow feeding situation for your horse’s safe grazing. With a bit of observation and detective work, you can keep your horse’s teeth healthy AND help protect against laminitis, obesity, and colic.
Safety break-away halter for grazing muzzles.
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