How to Introduce and Use a Grazing Muzzle for Horses

An equine nutritionist offers tips for reducing your horse’s pasture intake with a grazing muzzle.
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How to Introduce and Use a Grazing Muzzle for Horses
Grazing muzzles are a useful tool that can allow a horse or pony to receive the benefits associated with turnout while at the same time limiting the potential for undesirable weight gain. | Photo: iStock

Q: My horse is an easy keeper and tends toward the heavy side, and I am concerned about him being overweight. He’s stalled overnight and receives grass hay and a low-starch ration balancer. During the day, he’s on pasture with other horses. We don’t have a dirt turnout available, and I like the fact that he’s out during the day and able to socialize with other horses. Is using a grazing muzzle on my horse a good idea? If so, how do I introduce it?

A: Kudos to you for being proactive about your horse’s weight. Certainly it sounds as though the unlimited grazing availability most of the day could result in undesirable weight gain, and grazing muzzles can be very useful in these situations. When fitted correctly, a grazing muzzle helps restrict grass intake but does not completely prevent the horse from eating.

Pasture turnout offers horses many benefits, but it also come with drawbacks. Turnout allows for increased movement. This is important not only for gastrointestinal health, but also helps maintain low-level fitness and increases calorie utilization, an important consideration for the overweight individual. Group turnout allows for social interactions between horses that’s not possible in most stall environments. However, turnout in pasture can result in large and typically uncontrolled intakes of forage, leading to weight gain and its associated health risks of equine metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and laminitis in some individuals

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Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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