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Why Your Horse Needs a Grazing Muzzle (and How To Fit One)

Learn how to give your horse the freedom to graze while avoiding health issues, in this article about grazing muzzles.
Gray horse wearing a grazing muzzle looks over a fence

Did you know that too much grass can actually be harmful to your horse’s health? Overgrazing can lead to weight gain, laminitis, and other health issues—which is where grazing muzzles come in. These clever contraptions can help your horse maintain a healthy weight and prevent health concerns associated with the sugars in grass. In this article, we’ll explore why some horses need grazing muzzles, how they work, and how to choose the right one for your horse.

Step 1: Decide if your horse needs a grazing muzzle.

A grazing muzzle is a basket-like piece of equipment that fits around a horse’s muzzle, allowing him to breathe and drink normally but consume only the blades of grass that poke through the muzzle’s mesh straps. Not all horses need muzzles—in fact, many do well on pasture year-round. However, muzzles can be literal lifesavers for some. Here are some reasons your horse might need one:

  • He’s a metabolically efficient breed of horse (e.g., ponies, Morgans, Paso Finos, Peruvian Pasos), meaning he gains weight easily and stores fat readily.
  • If you want to restrict his grass intake without limiting his pasture access (e.g., for weight loss).
  • He’s at risk of developing or has a history of equine metabolic syndrome, Cushing’s disease, laminitis, or obesity.

Step 2: Fit the muzzle properly.

Grazing muzzles come in many sizes and shapes so you can find one that fits your horse’s head and neck comfortably. It should fit snugly but not too tightly; if it’s too tight, it can cause rubbing and discomfort. If a muzzle is properly fitted on your horse, you should be able to fit two fingers between the muzzle and the horse’s face all the way around its circumference.

Step 3: Trial and error.

You might have to try a few brands and styles before you find one that fits your horse perfectly. You might also need to add padding or sheepskin to ensure a proper fit and prevent rubbing. Consider choosing a muzzle with a breakaway safety feature, such as a leather crownpiece, that will break under pressure.

Step 4: Realize you’re not being mean to your horse when you put him in a muzzle—you might be saving his life.

At the risk of anthropomorphizing—chances are, your horse will do his best to convince you the muzzle is evil and you should remove it promptly. But don’t give in. An obese horse or one with insulin dysregulation is at serious risk for developing laminitis and other potentially fatal complications.

By consistently keeping such horses’ grass intake limited with a muzzle—every day, with no time off for good behavior—you’re on the right track to help him drop some weight, improve his metabolic health, and keep him healthy for years to come.

Take-Home Message

When used correctly, grazing muzzles can be effective tools for managing a horse’s weight and diet. However, they should not be used in place of proper nutrition and exercise, as grazing muzzles alone will not correct nutritional imbalances or keep a horse fit. If you’re using a grazing muzzle to manage your horse’s diet, it’s important to make sure they have access to the necessary minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that they need for good health by providing high-quality hay, fresh water, and feed supplements such as ration balancers. If you’re not sure your horse needs a grazing muzzle, ask your veterinarian or nutritionist for advice.

Related Video: How To Help Your Horse Lose Weight

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