Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Grazing Muzzle Application

Cost

Grazing muzzles reduce the amount of forage consumed by an equine. They can be useful for managing insulin resistant and laminitic horses and ponies at pasture. They also have a role in slowing feed consumption for horses that consume feed too quickly and have a tendency to choke. Grazing muzzles have a small hole at the mouth, allowing only a small amount of feed into the mouth at a time.

There are many different brands and models of grazing muzzle, varying in materials and design.

Grazing muzzles must fit properly. The straps should not be too loose, potentially catching a hoof or tree branch. Straps should be constructed of breakaway material in case the muzzle becomes caught on something.

YOUR VET’S ROLE

Your vet suggests a grazing muzzle as part of an overall plan of weight management and general health.

YOUR ROLE

Know how to fit and monitor your horse’s grazing muzzle. It is very important to monitor a muzzled horse’s body condition.

It is important that horses gradually become accustomed to wearing a grazing muzzle. You do this by applying it increasing lengths of time over consecutive days. Horses gradually increase their speed at eating through a grazing muzzle.

Be sure that a horse knows they can drink with the muzzle on. Monitor their water consumption as they become accustomed to the muzzle.

Consider Potential Side Effects & Complications

A grazing muzzle fit too tight or that is too small will rub the hair off the muzzle or prevent a horse from opening its mouth fully and may inhibit normal chewing.

Fit too loose, there is a possibility of a strap catching a hoof or tree branch. I have seen horses die as a result.

Rarely, a horse will not realize it can drink when muzzled. Water intake must be monitored as horses become accustomed to drinking through the muzzle.

Consider Reasons Not To Use This Treatment

Keep herd dynamics in mind. In some cases, horses in groups may not be able to protect themselves when muzzled.

Is It working? Timeframe for effect

Horses and ponies that are muzzled take time to adjust. Their intake of feed drops right away. It gradually increases thereafter as they become accustomed to it, but the intake rate should never reach the level prior to application of the muzzle.

Questions To Ask My Vet

  • What brand of grazing muzzle do you recommend?
  • How should I monitor my horse's weight?
  • What is the target body condition?
  • What other management and medical factors do I need to consider?
Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

RELATED REFERENCES

Venable EB, Bland S, Braner V, Gulson N, Halpin M. Effect of grazing muzzles on the rate of pelleted feed intake in horses. Journal of Equine Behavior: DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2015.10.001.

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