Many of us are faced with the dilemma of an easy keeper - these horses seem to get fat just by looking at pasture, much less being turned out on it! We know we need to limit their intakes, but it feels cruel to lock them away from the green grass, especially when their more slender pasture-mates are able to graze for hours every day and not put on an ounce (I have a friend like that, and I work hard not to hold it against her!).
The health and well being of these easy keeping, plump horses and ponies can greatly benefit from a reduced caloric and controlled starch and sugar intake. Luckily, horse owners have a tool that can be utilized to help with this problem – grazing muzzles. Grazing muzzles allow horses to run, roam and feel like they are grazing all day, but still have their intakes reduced. The basic make up of the grazing muzzle is similar to a halter, usually with a piece of rubber affixed to it that fits over the mouth and has a small opening. This greatly reduces the amount of grass eaten and can help with weight control on those chubby horses and ponies.
Additionally, it allows the horse to get the benefits of turnout, including socialization and exercise which can help alleviate some of the boredom related issues that may be found in horses that are kept in dry lot or stalled situations (weaving, cribbing, etc.).
Some key things to consider when using a grazing muzzle:
- Does your muzzle fit the horse properly? Similar to proper halter fit, the muzzle shouldn’t be too tight or too loose.
Is your fencing safe for use with a muzzle? Think about catch points like stray wires, etc. that the muzzle could get caught on. Some basic changes or repairs to fencing may be required.
- After you have turned your horse out with a muzzle, monitor water intakes. Horses can drink just fine with a muzzle on, but it may take some getting used to.
With the right management, grazing muzzles can be a wonderful tool to allow your horse the freedom of the pasture without adding extra pounds.