Using a Grazing Muzzle, and Which Muzzle is Best

Chubby ponies are always cute, but, believe it or not, sometimes they can be too fat. When horses and ponies spend all day outside in a pasture, sometimes they can consume too much grass.  A common solution for this is using a grazing muzzle.

Some grazing muzzles are preferred over others for different types of horses, different situations, and different climates.  In this article, I hope to unpack the reasoning behind using a grazing muzzle, some common problems with grazing muzzles, and the most highly recommended grazing muzzles.

Why Use a Grazing Muzzle?

Every horse has different eating patterns and different metabolisms.  For example, it is very easy to keep weight on a pony, and ponies are typically food-driven.  On the other hand, Thoroughbreds are notoriously difficult to put and keep weight on, and they are frequently not food driven, to the point of ignoring their food if they don’t like it. That being said, when horses are turned outside in a grass pasture some horses will only graze until they are full, and some horses will graze every possible minute they have access to grass.

Grass is good for a horse’s digestive system, but too much grass can add too much sugar to a horse’s diet.  A heightened level of sugar can not only cause unhealthy weight gain but can also increase a horse’s likelihood of getting laminitis.  When a horse has laminitis, an important part of its hoof is inflamed, which most likely will cause the horse to be permanently lame.

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There are a few solutions to decrease a horse’s consumption of food, for health reasons.  One is to cut back on their grain and hay intake.  This isn’t preferred by horse-owners, as the horse’s grain and hay contain nutrients crucial to a horse’s diet.  Another solution is to cut back on the horse’s turnout time, thus decreasing the time it has access to grass.  This also is not preferred, because horses depend on turnout time to get exercise, exposure to other horses, and freedom to be out of their stalls.

The best solution to this problem is using a grazing muzzle.  Grazing muzzles can either be attached to a halter or come built into a halter.  They don’t prevent a horse from eating grass entirely, but they do decrease the amount of grass a horse can get to bite-by-bite.  Grazing muzzles allow horses to enjoy their full turnout time, with limited access to eat grass.

Issues with Grazing Muzzles
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Grazing muzzles can be the best choice for slimming down your slightly overweight equine friends, but they are not without their flaws.  Traditional grazing muzzles are made from canvas or nylon.  Several notorious problems with these grazing muzzles include friction rubs, durability, decreased drinking in horses wearing them, and airflow in extreme heat situations.

Think about what a horse does when it grazes.  The horse touches its mouth to the ground, right next to its hooves, and pulls grass out of the ground.  Dirt, stones, grass, and other debris is guaranteed to get stuck inside a horse muzzle while a horse is outside trying to graze.  This debris will then be stuck in the horse muzzle, rubbing against the horse’s face until the muzzle is removed.  This can lead to sores and general discomfort for the horse.

Using a Grazing Muzzle, and Which Grazing Muzzle is Best

I know when my 16-year-old horse goes outside for turnout, he turns into a 2-year-old stallion! He plays hard and runs around like he’s been locked in a stall his whole life.  He annoys other horses and would absolutely NOT keep a traditional grazing muzzle on.  Many horses are rough on their halters and wear muzzles out very quickly due to rough pasture play.  Some horses even find ways to get their muzzles off their halters (although I can guess that the majority of these are mischievous ponies!).

Another risk of using a grazing muzzle is that it can discourage your horse from drinking.  If a horse sticks its muzzle in its water trough, the muzzle can fill with water.  The water will drain out through the gaps, but it can drain out slowly.  This can cause your horse to choke or to panic, feeling like it cannot breathe or like it is drowning.  Horses that experience this often refuse to drink while wearing a muzzle.

Finally, horse muzzles can restrict airflow when a horse tries to breathe.  Horses should be able to breathe regularly while wearing a muzzle, but in extreme heat and humidity conditions, where there is no wind and the air is stale, horses have a harder time breathing on their own.  With a horse muzzle, this situation is escalated, which can be detrimental to the horse.

Recommended Grazing Muzzles

GreenGuard grazing muzzle

Equine companies have come to understand the problems with traditional grazing muzzles, and they have created products that combat them. One of the best grazing muzzles on the market right now is the GreenGuard grazing muzzle. Greenguard has created a design that doesn’t restrain a horse’s breathing, doesn’t trap water, doesn’t hold debris close enough to cause irritation, and that is durable enough to withstand pasture play.  It is pictured below and can be purchased here.

If you know your horse hasn’t had issues with traditional grazing muzzles in the past, they can also be used to reduce grass consumption during pasture time.  Some of these can be purchased from the following brands: 

Conclusion

Grazing muzzles can be a great tool to help horses reduce their intake of grass while in the pasture.  Some horses and ponies get too round or are more likely to develop conditions like laminitis. These equines need a solution to limit their intake of grass, while still receiving adequate turnout.  Thankfully, grazing muzzles can solve this problem, and there are companies that have created safe innovative grazing muzzles! I hope you enjoyed this article and please feel free to share your grazing muzzle stories with us!

FAQs

How long should a horse wear a grazing muzzle?

It depends on the horse. A few things to consider are: the horse's age, condition and temperament the amount of time you wish to keep him muzzled. However, it should not be used for more than 12 hours per day.
A grazing muzzle is a type of headgear that prevents the horse from eating that much grass while out on a pasture. It helps to slow down the horse’s eating habits and will help to keep him from eating too much and gain too much weight. Some horses are not comfortable wearing a muzzle for any length of time, but others can wear it for hours.

Is a grazing muzzle for horses cruel?

Surprisingly, there are people who think they are. But the fact is, it is not cruel at all. The only thing a muzzle does is prevent a horse from eating too much. Many horses don't like wearing a muzzle because they have sensitive mouths that are easily irritated. The trick is in choosing an appropriate grazing muzzle for your horse.
There are many different styles and shapes of headgear available on the market today. It is important to choose a style and shape that fits comfortably and securely, but also allow the horse to eat comfortably and remain calm while wearing it.

How do I know if my horse needs a grazing muzzle?

In brief, there are a few factors you should consider before deciding whether or not your horse needs a grazing muzzle: the horse’s age, condition and temperament; the amount of time you wish to keep him muzzled; and the amount of time he's out on pasture.
Your horse needs a grazing muzzle if he is overweight and cannot exercise properly because of it. A grazing muzzle is used to prevent a horse from eating as much grass as he normally would while out in the pasture. Horses can eat a lot of grass, and if they eat more than they need, it can cause weight gain.

Can horses still eat with grazing muzzle?

While the grazing muzzle is effective for most horses, some horses have shown that they can overcome the restrictions imposed by the muzzle to continue grazing and consuming grass. They can figure out how to to pull, push, or scrape the muzzle out of position so they can continue to eat without restriction.
In this case the grazing muzzle just won't work for your horse. You may have to resort to other methods of controlling your horse's intake of high-carbohydrate grasses.

Do grazing muzzles damage horses teeth?

If you choose the right style and fit for your horse, it will not damage his teeth. However, if you choose an inappropriate style or size you may risk damaging your horse’s teeth. An improper fit may cause soreness in the horse's mouth and result in discomfort while wearing the muzzle. This discomfort can be relieved by wearing the muzzle for short periods of time at first. 
You should also pay close attention to the condition of your horse's teeth. If you notice any changes since the introduction of the grazing muzzle, you should stop using it and consult with a vet to determine if the muzzle is still safe to wear for your horse.