Grazing muzzles can be a necessary evil when owning an easy keeper type of horse. I understand the pain as I own one of these horses. It is challenging for horses to learn how to use a muzzle, but the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to their health. A steep learning curve is better in the long term, then having to deal with laminitis from being overweight or from too much sugar in the grass.
“ Research shows that using grazing muzzles on ponies that were stabled but turned out on pasture for three hours resulted in an 83% decrease in pasture intake. Other studies have found decreases of just under 80%. Being on pasture, especially in a group situation, has a number of benefits, especially for horses otherwise housed in stalls” -thehorse.com
In this week’s #TackTipTuesday you will see Pi’s first time wearing a muzzle. Pi is a smart horse, and very food motivated. He can eat out of a ½” slow feeder and a 50mm hay ball. I do know he will be able to figure out the grazing muzzle but like all new skills, it takes time to learn. - Update at a much later date. Pi has had the Green Guard Muzzle for two seasons now and it is still going strong. He is very respectful when it goes on and when it comes off.
As in all horse training, patience is key. Very few horses will have no problem with the muzzle the first time they wear one. They are going to try to rub it off, paw it off, look at you like with their broken heart and puppy dog eyes.
When introducing a muzzle, keep sessions when learning with the muzzle short, if possible, and make sure you keep them supervised so they do not get hung up or stuck while wearing it. Use grass that can easily get into the muzzle, not too short that it is hard to reach, and not too long as then it will bend out of the way. Make sure they are turned out in a safe area or hand grazing to start.
One of the keys to having a safe grazing muzzle is a well fitted grazing muzzle. To check the fit of a grazing muzzle you should make sure:
your horse can comfortably open and close their jaw to graze.
the muzzle should sit roughly an inch from the end of your horse’s mouth to the grazing hole of the muzzle. You do not want consistent contact.
the muzzle does not hang too low that your horse can move it to the side.
there is a safety release on the muzzle so the muzzle will break if it is stuck.
the muzzle does not rub or cause hair loss.
Other options besides grazing muzzles for weight management can be dry lots, slow feeders, and increased exercise. It is important to work with your vet to keep your horse on a correct weight management program as each horse will have different needs.