Grazing Muzzle FAQ’s
There’s no time like the present to give your horse a slow-feeder – for his noggin!
What do grazing muzzles have to do with colic and laminitis?
- Before we get rolling on this fascinating topic, a few things to remember about our dear horse friends. Grass and pasture, although romantic, harbor dangers for some horses.
- Any horse can colic, or worse, with a sudden diet change. Diet changes do include going from little or no pasture to many hours at once. A sudden diet change is also lush spring grass popping up suddenly, as it does.
- Grass also contains lots of tasty starches and sugars, which come with calories! Lots of calories. Weight gain is easy for some horses.
- Any horse can react negatively to those starches and sugars entering their digestive tract too quickly or in too great of a quantity. When this happens, the hindgut microbes have a feast! These feasting microbes release endotoxins, change the hindgut’s pH, and contribute to colic and laminitis. Metabolically challenged horses are at higher risk of this. Insulin resistance and PPID (Cushing’s) increase the risk of laminitis in horses.
What do grazing muzzles do?
- Grazing muzzles are slow-feeding hay nets that your horse wears! The purpose of a grazing muzzle is two-fold. One, muzzles slow down the amount of starch and sugar that hits the digestive system at one time. Two, it decreases the overall volume of starch and sugar that enter your horse’s digestive system.
- Muzzles essentially put the brakes on the speed of grass eating and the volume of grass eating.
- A horse that goes out for 2 hours without a muzzle will quickly gobble a lot of grass and have that pile of starch and sugar hit his belly in a short amount of time.
- The same horse can go out for much longer, all day even, and eat the same amount of grass. BUT – it’s safer for his belly as the muzzle spreads out the sugars and starches over the day.
Are grazing muzzles cruel?
- No. Laminitis and colic are cruel. While non-surgical colic may resolve in a relatively short amount of time, laminitis can devastate a horse’s hooves and create crippling lameness. Some horses recover in weeks or months. Some take years and are never sound again.
Do horses need to wear them all the time?
- If a horse who needs a muzzle is going out on pasture any given day, he should wear the muzzle the entire time he’s out. Otherwise, you give him the opportunity to snack safely, then engage in a gorging session after removing the muzzle.
- Horses will quickly learn that muzzles = turnout. When this boundary is confused, your horse is confused. Allowing the muzzle off part-time also encourages your horse to try and remove it himself.
- Some horses also need to wear muzzles all year long. Grass doesn’t lower its starches and sugars simply because it’s not technically spring. Hot temps and direct sunlight cause sugar spikes in the summer. Brisk mornings in fall create sugar spikes.
- Fall is often more dangerous than spring for laminitis as a horse’s hormone levels fluctuate in the fall, influencing their metabolism to be more susceptible to starch and sugar spikes.
Do skinny horses or young horses need muzzles?
- Sometimes, yes! Any time a horse transitions to pasture, it’s a diet change. Safely ramping up your horse’s outdoor snacking time is helped with muzzles.
- I would also muzzle any horse that goes from dry and crusty winter pasture to fresh spring grass. It’s a quick transition in nature, and the muzzle extends the transition period.
How can a grazing muzzle be a good thing for a horse?
- Muzzles provide the same benefits as a hay net. There is lots of chewing, and less starchy, sugary grass entering your horse’s hindgut.
- When a horse can enjoy pasture turnout with a muzzle, he can stay out longer. He will walk around more, he can interact with his herd mates for a longer time, and he keeps his chompers and body busy!
- Grazing muzzles also contribute to a healthier lifestyle for the overweight horse. Excess weight on horses can create insulin resistance, a key risk factor for laminitis. Overweight horses may have trouble thermoregulating, and they are putting added stress on their joints.
Do grazing muzzles do anything for the pasture?
- Absolutely! Using grazing muzzles can save your pastures from being eaten down. You will find fewer bare spots, and there is usually less root damage when muzzles are worn.
- Using muzzles allows your horse to have all of the benefits of turnout in the winter, without eating the dormant grass down to nothing. You might stave off some mud and be able to use the paddocks throughout the winter.
Using grazing muzzles is the epitome of caring for your horse’s health! You’re doing what’s right for him to prevent colic and laminitis.
Read more about colic risk factors.
Read more about laminitis risk factors.
The best muzzle in the land – order one here! Also in raspberry and black colors.