Many ponies and horses are overweight which puts them at a higher risk for obesity, insulin resistance, laminitis and equine metabolic syndrome. These diseases are associated with the animal eating high intakes of nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) which causes caloric intake to exceed the horse’s requirements. For horses with the above problems, feed restriction and stall/dry lot confinement are recommended. The use of a grazing muzzle may allow the horse to be turned out on pasture. It is best to allow animals at risk for laminitis to graze during the overnight hours and early in the morning when NSC are likely to be lower in the pasture.
Grazing muzzles are a tool to help horse owners with decreasing or maintaining weight in horses turned out on pasture. The muzzle offers an effective method for reducing forage intake while still offering exercise. Thus because they are allowed to roam freely, the horses can burn more calories compared to housing in a stall.
The horse and/or pony needs to be gradually acclimated to wearing a muzzle. Properly fit the grazing muzzle so it is not too tight nor does it hang too low. If the muzzle is too loose horses can figure out how to pull them off. Sizes are available from miniature horse size to draft horse size. Use a muzzle with a safety strap or breakaway halter.
Make sure the horse is drinking when wearing the muzzle. They have to dunk the muzzle into the water to drink. Grazing muzzles can be used on a continuous basis up to 10 hrs. The grazing muzzle does not allow the horse to protect itself. Therefore, if the horse is in a group, make sure the horses are grouped by dominance. Regular weight monitoring is recommended as some individuals can still gain weight when muzzled.
The grazing muzzle is a useful tool in weight management of horses housed on pastures. Just remember there is always the equine that learns how to remove the muzzle.
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