Horses are physiologically designed to graze nearly constantly (up to 15 hours a day), but health issues such as obesity and high risk for grass founder can make it necessary to restrict their grass intake. Though the idea of strapping a contraption on a horse’s face can seem like cruel and unusual punishment, it’s important to remember that by not using one on an at-risk horse, you may be literally “killing him with kindness.”
No matter which type of muzzle you choose, it’s important to know a few things:
◆ The length of the pasture grass will affect how a muzzle works. If grass is very short, the horse’s teeth won’t be able to grasp it through the hole in the bottom of the muzzle.
◆ Horses should not wear muzzles 24/7, so a modified turnout schedule may be necessary.
◆ Muzzle use can affect herd dynamics; adjustments to turnout groups may be needed.
The original plastic basket-style grazing muzzles have seen many design upgrades to help keep them in place with less rubbing. Here’s a look at some of the different options on the market today.
$39.99-$59.99; available from most online tack shops
Features:◆ Multiple sizes available◆ Comes with breakaway halter for improved safety◆ Higher sides make it more difficult for horses to remove◆ Five adjustment points◆ Padded noseband helps prevent rubs◆ Synthetic material deters mildew and rot
Features:◆ Lighter and softer than other muzzles◆ Durable yet pliable◆ Easy on equine teeth◆ Less restrictive of behaviors like mutual grooming◆ Well-ventilated◆ Size of grazing hole is customizable◆ Has UV protection for sensitive skin◆ Comes with six-month warranty
Features:◆ Less likely to rub◆ Larger holes along basket allow moisture and debris to move through◆ Multiple sizes available◆ Drains water well after drinking◆ Durable and lightweight◆ Made of strong plastic material◆ One-year warranty for breakage or wear◆ Adjustable
Mini to draft sizes available, $37.88-$52.88;jtidist.com
Features:◆ Large breathing holes for comfort◆ Short sides offer improved airflow◆ Bottom of muzzle is extra thick◆ Added attachments available for ponies◆ Can be purchased with or without attached halter
Features:◆ Adjustable noseband for hard-to-fit horses◆ V-strap makes it harder to remove◆ Two breakaway buckles for safety◆ Durable
Features:◆ Cut-back design to avoid pressure points under chin◆ Fleece padding around nose to protect delicate structures◆ D-ring allows lead rope to be attached to muzzle◆ Head and throat snap have anti-chafe padding◆ Fully adjustable breakaway harness◆ Taller sides of muzzle mean less chance for horses to remove it
Features:◆ Crafted from strong plastic◆ Hole size can be customized◆ Moldable in hot water to each horse’s unique shape◆ Lightweight and breathable◆ Multiple sizes available◆ Mold-resistant
This article about grazing muzzles appeared in the March 2022 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!
Based in Lexington, Ky., Sarah Coleman has a soft spot for chestnuts with chrome, including her off-the-track Thoroughbred, Chisholm. The pair competes in the hunters.
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