Grazing muzzles are a staple in the tack room of many pony and horse owners. These muzzles fit over the mouth and nose of a horse and restrict grass intake while allowing access to pasture.

Grazing muzzles have been shown to reduce dry matter intake by between 30 – 80%. [14][15] These devices can help prevent laminitis and obesity in horses or ponies by decreasing calorie and sugar intake.

If your horse is over-conditioned and needs to lose weight, using a muzzle while on pasture will help you manage your horse’s weight without needing to isolate them to a stall or dry lot. [1]

Grazing muzzles allow the horse to be turned out in a herd, enabling social interaction and providing more space to move around. These devices are safe when used properly and have not been shown to cause psychological or physiological stress in horses or ponies.

Why Use A Grazing Muzzle?

The image of a horse spending all day grazing on a lush, green pasture may seem idyllic but, in reality, those lush grasses could seriously harm your horse.

Horses evolved as efficient grazing animals, capable of deriving all the energy they need from relatively poor-quality pastures. But the pastures used for grazing horses in domestic management settings tend to contain improved grass species with significantly higher nutrient density.

Lush pastures or paddocks contain high levels of nonstructural carbohydrates (NSCs), consisting of simple sugars, starch and fructans.

The most problematic of these is the hydrolyzable carbohydrates (HC) capable of being digested and absorbed in the small intestine. High HC causes insulin to surge in animals with equine metabolic syndrome. This high insulin level is what causes pasture-associated laminitis.

Unrestricted access to high-quality pasture can also cause bloating, diarrhea and excessive weight gain.

This is particularly problematic in the spring and summer when horses naturally have a higher appetite. Horses respond to the increased length of daylight by eating more in preparation for decreased availability in winter. [2]

Although free-choice access to pasture can be a health risk for many horses and ponies, turnout onto pasture has several benefits, including the ability to express foraging behaviours and socialization.

Fitting your horse with a grazing muzzle lets you give your horse freedom of movement and contact with their social group without letting them consume unhealthy amounts of sugar.

A grazing muzzle slows down the rate at which your horse can consume grass. You should also consider good pasture-management techniques to keep your horses safe while turned out on grass.

Mad About Horses
Join Dr. Chris Mortensen, PhD on an exciting adventure into the story of the horse and learn how we can make the world a better place for all equines.
Apple Podcasts Spotify Youtube
Mad Barn - Equine Nutrition Consultants | Mad Barn Canada

Carbohydrates in Grasses

How do you know whether your pasture is safe for your horse to graze on or w