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For horses in muzzles--when/can they go without it on grass?

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    For horses in muzzles--when/can they go without it on grass?

    My title might be confusing but I wasn't sure how to word this. My 23 yo paint gelding has been wearing a muzzle since March due to a diagnosis of Cushings and IR, after two bouts of mild (no rotation!) laminitis. He's an air fern type, but we've managed his weight very well after adding 1/2 tab of Prascend and the muzzle. He is turned out on grass about 4-6 hours a day in addition to his orchard grass hay in a dry lot paddock. He looks fantastic, vet is thrilled with his body condition (are those ribs?! why, yes, you can finally see them a bit! no more fat pads, crest or heavy hair coat! go me!), and farrier is amazed by his hoof recovery. there a point during the year that you can let him graze without a muzzle? Amount of time? Grass here is in the late summer stage-- brownish, dry, a bit of green here and there. I am guessing mid-winter he'll be good to go, as grass is fairly dormant in our area at that point. Or am I delusional and he'll need to wear his lime green plastic bucket (that's what the UPS guy thought it was!) every time he is out of the sacrifice paddock?
    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

    I think for a confirmed metabolic horse, most vets would say “never” because dormant grass and the few things that grow in the winter can be just as high in sugar.

    But FWIW, three of mine on pasture full time wear muzzles 24/7 in late spring/summer/early fall. They get them removed completely once I start needing to feed full rations of hay. When I stop needing to put hay out, the muzzles go back on. They do fine over the winter.
    Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


      Original Poster

      That's kind of what I was thinking, too, Texarkana. He was fine from late fall, through early spring on the very limited grass in my back field-- dare I call it overgrazed? I'll consult with my vet, before I attempt anything, but was hoping to allow them "free range" in October to February about 8 hours a day (they are in at night). You are giving me hope!

      My main reason is he cannot eat hay with his muzzle on, and I am gone at work during the day, so cannot put it on/take it off/turn in/turn out repeatedly. Sigh. Horses!!
      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


        It depends. My horse wore his muzzle during turnout time for three years. He stopped wearing a muzzle in 2015 and has been in remission ever since. He has about six acres of quality pasture to himself, with free access to the barn and tested hay when he wants it.

        He goes to pasture around 8:30 AM and comes in for the night at whatever time dusk occurs. During the miserable hot days, he either goes under the trees and naps or comes in the barn, in front of a 42” drum fan to keep the flies off him.

        FWIW he seriously foundered in 2012 and his insulin numbers were so high Cornell told the lameness vet, he should not have been alive.

        I have figured out how to skin the NSC numbers back, starting with testing the hay every year (I buy seasonally). It doesn’t sound like it but I do indeed micro-manage this horse and I realize many owners don’t even have their horses at home to micro-manage them.

        My set up is by my design and also unique. I am down to two horses, which means the other horse gets the 19 acres with all the hills and bumps, I keep the IR horse on six acres of yard and pasture so I can monitor him - he also has a twice fractured sacrum.

        so no, not every IR horse needs to spend the rest of their days in a muzzle but the majority do because most people can’t or won’t put the time/money into the horse so it doesn’t have to wear a muzzle



          Safest time for them to graze is between 4am and 10am... that said there are a lot of factors in play when it comes to starch/sugar content of grass.. the website I linked above has a lot of great information for you.
          Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
          Quiet Miracle 2010 16.1h OTTB Bay Gelding
          "Once you go off track, you never go back!"


            You've gotten great responses so far, so I can only add my experiences. I'm fortunate that I have large pastures so grass is plentiful here in SE PA.

            DD's welsh/TB cross - VERY sensitive to new grass, on Thyroid L and Remission - muzzle from April through November and in a stall for 8hrs during heat of the day with limited hay

            Shetland pony - muzzle on all year round - large hay bales in field when grass dies off. Thyroid L and Remission and in stall for 8hrs

            Draft cross - muzzle spring through fall - Prascend for Cushings - stall 8hrs a day

            I have two others that wear a muzzle but don't have any other conditions that require medication. I think if what you have is working for you, don't mess with it! The above has been just the right amount for us and we only take the muzzles off once the grass is no longer able to support them. Usually about the same time that we switch from night turnout to day and they are in stalls longer (more like 12-14 hrs a day vs 8).
            "Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons"


              I have two who wear grazing muzzles. Please note I'm in Florida so my winter grass is a bit richer and grows better than you'll find in states that are lucky enough to get seasons.

              My Welsh/Haflinger (11.3hh) came to me with the beginnings of laminitis and we were able to quickly correct it. The vet qualifies him as "recovered but at risk". He is cleared by the vet to go without a muzzle in the winter providing my grass is not lush and providing his weight is kept in check. He is also allowed brief periods (1-2 hours) in the morning without it but only if the paddock is overgrazed and I know he'll stay on the round bale.

              My Welsh/Andalusian (14.1hh) is an air plant, never shown signs of laminitis or sensitivity to grass/sugars but will gain weight just by looking at a good pasture. She gets to wear it all year and only gets if off if the paddock is overgrazed to the point of looking like a sandpit (very rarely with my management system). Her weight is good now but my vet would prefer to see me manage it with adding extra hay to her diet as we can control that through testing and working with my supplier.

              Both my ponies are out for 16+ hours a day but if I were to stop using the muzzles then my vet would want the Andalusian to go down to 2-4 hours a day and the Haflinger to 6-8 hours because of their issues. At the end of the day, I would ask your vet and go by what they say. I would love to let the Andalusian go without her muzzle in the winter but with her tendency towards being fat that just is not possible.


                It all depends on the individual horse. My mare was in her muzzle all but 1 hour when Spring started. As the grass has matured she is now unmuzzled from 7am to 2:30 pm and her weight is fantastic and her one little place where she has a fat pad on her neck is soft and pliable. I just watch her daily as well as our night time temps / rainfall for if the pasture will change. So she currently only wears her muzzle from 2:30-6pm. Last year it was the whole time she was on grass. It just varies for her.

                She comes into the dry lot at 6pm where she has some hay for overnight and that is constant until the grass is brown/ dormant and then she is out 24/7 unmuzzled and it works for her ( and me).


                  I had a horse in my barn for a while who wore his muzzle for turnout any time the daily high was above 50 degrees. He was a metabolic mystery, as he was not the type (early teens TB) and his blood work was always normal, yet he had these pasture-associated low-grade laminitis episodes. The 50 degree rule worked well for him.

                  For the flamingly metabolic fat ponies, my general answer is "never". I also prefer those types in a dry lot if possible, though one year we had so much rain that my dry lot grew grass and they ended up wearing muzzles in the dry lot for a bit. They were not amused.


                    Isn’t metabolism an amazingly unpredictable thing? Just like in humans, we are all so different.

                    When my beloved Duke (RIP) was diagnosed in 2007 with metabolic issues, he never had a laminitis episode, nor did he need a muzzle. all I did was shorten his pasture time and that was not short by Dr. Kellon’s standards.

                    My other horses went on his metabolic diet as they were easy keepers. They also enjoyed (not) the same, shortened pasture time. So imagine my shock when Joker seriously foundered in 2012 and his insulin numbers were three times higher than normal. How the Hades did that happen? Same hay, same feed pan stuff, same pasture. I quickly learned Joker’s lifestyle needed micro-managed and he has been in remission since 2015. He now has Cushings but his IR is in remission—-


                      Around here in the dead of winter we may have a short period when there is no green in the grass'. It's hay on the stem. You must check the root tops though. some grasses retain some green.
                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                        Every fall I thought I was in the clear with my Cushing horse and every fall I was not. So I started removing it only once we have a freeze\snow that truly killed any grass
                        "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                          rarely and not for long •
                          Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "