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Does My Horse Need a Grazing Muzzle?

That seems like a pretty straightforward question if you're trying to prevent your horse from overeating grass, but it's not as simple as you might think.

What is a Grazing Muzzle?

A grazing muzzle is a device that restricts how much grass your horse can eat. There are a wide variety of designs, but they all have holes or slots that allow some grass to peek through. Whatever your horse is able to slip through those holes is all he or she will get.

Why Does My Horse Need a Grazing Muzzle?

There are a number of reasons why it's a good idea to limit how much grass your horse can eat. Getting too many calories, high sugar content of the grass, or maybe your horse has a metabolic condition that can be made worse when he gets too much greenery.

Horse with thick cresty neck
A thick cresty neck is a sign your horse's immune system is working overtime and his body is in an inflammatory state.

What Can Happen if My Horse Gets Too Much Grass?

The most common symptom, and most worrisome for owners and horses alike, is laminitis. Laminitis is inflammation of the foot. When there's inflammation in the hoof, blood flow is restricted to the tissue, the laminae, that hold your horse's coffin bone suspended in place.

Laminitis is painful and can do serious damage to your horse's feet.

Your horse can also suffer from other physiologic issues like ulcers, joint pain, hind-gut acidosis, and behavioral issues. Weight gain or loss can also occur.

Is a Grazing Muzzle the Answer to My Horse's Problems?

In my opinion, no. Here's why. In theory, the reason why grass is causing trouble for your horse is that there's too much sugar and starch in it. The fluctuations in the growth cycle due to weather, time of year, etc., and soil conditions alone may have an impact on a horse who is already compromised. Notice I said, "compromised." I'll come back to that in a moment...

The question is, IS your grass high in sugar and starch? It may not be. It IS likely to be deficient in nutrients, and overabundant in others, that can cause your horse's body to be in a generally unhealthy state, i.e. compromised. It may technically be directly related to the grass. Stress and pain can create inflammation in the body too.

It Could be Your Horse's Hooves

Yep, poor trimming can cause laminitis too. I've seen lots of horses that have chronic undetected laminitis due to hoof imbalance and dysfunction that were having a problem before the grass-triggered issues kicked in.

Mycotoxins - What Are Those??

Mycotoxins are common in grass. They are created by molds, bacteria, and endophytes that live in many species of grass. They are inflammatory and restrict circulation in the extremities.

If your horse is sensitive to mycotoxins, a grazing muzzle will reduce exposure. You can also try this product that I developed to mitigate this common yet hardly-known-about problem.

What's the Solution?

The first place to start is to make sure your horse is on the proper diet. Your horse needs the right nutrients and a healthy gut to absorb them in order to have healthy hooves. Next, the trim has to be correct so your horse's feet aren't subjected to unhealthy mechanical forces.

Reach out to me for a Nutrition Consultation and/or Hoof Health Consult. I have restored many horses to grass-eating happiness and would love to help.

It would be a super great idea to have your pasture tested too. Then you'll know if your grass is causing trouble or not. Testing for mycotoxins can be a bit tricky, but putting your horse on Kombat Kleer along with an anti-inflammatory forage-based diet will help.

If nothing else, your horse may be able to graze for short periods of time, or do okay with a grazing muzzle.

Which One Should I Use?

There are many grazing muzzle options to choose from. Here's what to look for:

  • Breathe-ability - There should be zero restriction of air intake.

  • Heat Buildup - Muzzles are worn in hot weather. Make sure they don't make your horse even hotter.

  • Comfort - The muzzle shouldn't cause any sores or rubs. If your horse avoids having it put on, check the fit or try a different one.

  • Ability to Eat - Some muzzles are too restrictive. That leads to hunger, stress, and an increase in systemic inflammation. Your horse needs 24/7 access to forage to maintain health and should always be able get enough to eat to feel satisfied.

  • Safety - Some horses are Houdinis when it comes to taking the muzzles off. Make sure it will release without getting caught half-way over an eye, etc. It should also release immediately if it gets caught on something. Velcro releases are the best way to go. If you're not able to safely and comfortably muzzle your horse, switch to a dry lot or track and feed hay instead.

How to Fit a Grazing Muzzle

The muzzle itself shouldn't touch your horse's face until he's pressing it into the grass to eat. There should be a small gap about the width of your finger. Make sure it's not so loose that it's easy for him to rub off. Check the straps and buckles to make sure they won't rub or pinch around the face, ears, or eyes. Your horse will be wearing the muzzle for hours a day. Whatever style you choose, it needs to be comfortable as well as effective.


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