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Introducing a grazing muzzle?

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  • Introducing a grazing muzzle?

    I think I'm going to need some handholding here... and sorry about the novel.

    The New Girl is chubby... (she's a 22 year old 14h App). Been home with me since August of last year. She was a bit thin then (dry summer, not much grass), so the vet suggested I put about 100 pounds on her. No problem - I have plenty of nice pasture, and between that and a ration balancer (Buckeye Grow N Win) she was looking great after about a month. Problem is that she's still doing really well on winter pastures and has continued to gain weight. I've cut the ration balancer down to a couple of ounces a day and am working on eliminating it entirely (though the Princess will NOT be amused by that), so that's underway, but I don't think that's going to solve the weight issue, especially come spring when the grass begins to grow again. (Pasture is a 3 year old stand of fescue, FYI.)

    Pony does not appreciate stall confinement - and I really don't want to do that unless I have to (she's currently out 24/7 with access to her stall and a run-in). I can limit her to the "night pen" which is about 30' x 50' and attached to her stall if need be, but I want her to have as much turnout time as possible - I think it's better for her mental and physical health.

    Currently, she is not getting worked - between our crappy winter weather and the lack of daylight both before and after work. I plan to fix that once we get some actual daylight after 5:30pm, but for now, I'm stuck.

    So - it looks like a grazing muzzle is pretty much a no-brainer, right?
    I've never used one before - does she have to wear it 24/7 (I hope not!) or can I take it off at night in the big pasture? I've got one on order, so I can introduce it gradually, but does any one have any tips/guidance on using one? Hate to do it to her, but better an annoyed pony than a laminitic one... I want to be prepared when the grass starts growing again.

    I'm just used to having the opposite problem - Old Guy was a very hard keeper, and honestly, that seemed like a much easier problem to deal with!

  • #2
    Buckle it on, enthusiastic use of duct tape around the noseband area a few times and the throat-latch area, a halter on top of that, more duct tape.

    She'll be fine. See if it will be enough to have it on just half a day, may need to dry lot her when it's off. Definitely DON'T stall her.


    • #3
      When I had to do this for my mare, I started with 12 hours on and 12 hours off and eventually did end up having to keep it on 24 hours because she was turned out full time. You will just have to see what works for you, but I would suggest starting with 12.

      There are two kinds - one that is attached to a halter and one that you attach TO a halter. After using both, I preferred the all-in-one kind. My mare did develop rubs, not from the halter piece but from the actual "cup" piece that covered her muzzle. I bought nice thick fleece (hot pink - nothing else for a princess pony right?) from the fabric store, and hot glued it all the way around. Fixed the problem instantly.

      It was almost more trouble for me with the 12 on/12 off because she would see me coming with it and run.

      My vet always told me to start putting it on St. Patty's Day! Good luck to you. A muzzle is definitely better than laminitis and then she still gets to "graze" all the time.
      "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

      Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue


      • #4
        Sounds like you've got a good setup. Pasture with muzzle during the day, drylot at night with a measured amount of hay. If you drylot her at night, do you even need to do the muzzle at this time of year? I wouldn't leave it on 24/7 at any time of year because of rubs, unless you buy it really large.


        • #5
          Whether she needs it 24/7 will depend on the horse. Some feel deprived with it on, and become extra-hoover-like when you take it off- meaning they consume almost as much as if it hadn't been on at all. If you move her to the dry-lot at night, you can certainly take it off them.

          It's really simple. Put muzzle on horse, walk away quickly so you do not succumb to the sad pony face. Check on pony only from a distance at first so you cannot give in to the sad eyes. Check the water level to make sure horse has learned that she can drink with the muzzle on. Continue resisting the sad eyes.


          • #6
            Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
            Whether she needs it 24/7 will depend on the horse. Some feel deprived with it on, and become extra-hoover-like when you take it off- meaning they consume almost as much as if it hadn't been on at all. If you move her to the dry-lot at night, you can certainly take it off them.

            It's really simple. Put muzzle on horse, walk away quickly so you do not succumb to the sad pony face. Check on pony only from a distance at first so you cannot give in to the sad eyes. Check the water level to make sure horse has learned that she can drink with the muzzle on. Continue resisting the sad eyes.
            I WISH I got sad eyes! I get "You better lock your door tonight B!tch!!" eyes.


            • #7
              Originally posted by GoForAGallop View Post
              I WISH I got sad eyes! I get "You better lock your door tonight B!tch!!" eyes.
              LOL! Me too. I never got sad eyes, my mare was just pissed.
              "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

              Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue


              • #8
                I just snapped it on and walked away. My mare literally stood in the exact same spot for several hours and didn't even try to eat for the first 12 hours. I just let her figure it out and now she understands that if she wants to go out, the muzzle needs to go on. Most adapt just fine if you can resist the sad eyes. You are doing this for her health and she will adjust quickly.


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks, y'all!

                  I'm definitely going to have to put it on and then run for the house (whether that'll be to escape the sad or angry faces, I don't know yet - I'll feel terribly guilty no matter what!) She's a smart little thing (she's an App after all!), so hopefully she'll figure out how it works without too much guilt on my part!

                  I went ahead and ordered the Schneider's house brand one - basically a halter attached to a cribbing muzzle with a rubber insert. Hopefully it'll work, but if not, Chick's is just a short drive away and I can pick up a different one to try.

                  With luck and more exercise (for both of us), we'll be able to get away with 12 hours on/12 off in the big fields, but I'm glad I'll have the dry lot as a fall back (if I have to resort to that, I guess I'll need to invest in a small hole hay net, too...)

                  We'll do a dry run when it gets here to see what kind of faces La Princesa makes and I'll report back!


                  • #10
                    I have an airfern pony and what worked really well for me was to do a kind of trace clip on him last winter and rarely blanket, that kept his weight pretty perfect and allowed him to eat as much hay with the herd as he wanted. (This year, I have to say, he's a bit plump :-( ). Then in the spring, I could have him out on a big pasture with his herd as long as the muzzle was on at night and off during the day.

                    I always put a treat at the bottom of it so there's an incentive to get it on. Also, I found the best strengthening for *my* willpower to put it on was to read a few of the "my horse foundered" threads on here in the spring.
                    Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


                    • #11
                      My mare hated her muzzle ( it fit fine, no rubs or irritation) and if I had it in hand I couldn't get within 10 feet of her. I would make her dry lot bigger, keep it mowed short and let her out morning and evening for several hours to graze muzzle free in the pasture ( adjust time to suit desired weight), keeping her in the dry lot when not grazing. She can still nibble on the short grass in her dry lot and it will keep her happy.


                      • #12
                        First, go back and remove "princess", "she will not appreciate", and "will not be amused" from your mental dialogue about the horse. You are her caretaker and are committed to not seeing her founder--her opinion, therefore, is not as important as yours. She would eat until she died, like every other horse, given the opportunity. Don't anthropomorphize too much and self-inflict any guilt over this. It's a minor nuisance and she will be FINE.

                        Make sure it fits well, make sure it's escape proof (I zip time mine, with ample halter fuzzies to avoid rubs) to a SNUG nylon halter and take my time making sure it fits, and also affix a cribbing strap to the crownpiece and attach that snugly as a throatlatch--virtually escape proof!) and make sure she knows there's a hole in the bottom--stick some treats and bits of yummy grass up through there. She'll get the idea.

                        If you're squeamish, by all means go hide. She'll figure it out and be healthier for it.

                        Good luck!

                        PS, as others have mentioned, a partial clip can help with calorie burning, too.
                        Click here before you buy.


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks for the kick in the butt, deltawave!
                          I call her the Princess, but in jest - At my place, I'm a benevolent dictator - it's entirely my job to make sure that my "subjects" (dogs, horse and cat) are healthy, happy and well cared for, and while they're welcome to have opinions about things, I get ALL the votes. This is definitely not a "negotiable" issue - but it's a new one for me - and I think my lack of experience in this particular wheelhouse makes it more challenging, mentally, for me.

                          I'm definitely going to keep some zip ties ready if we need to reinforce the halter - I haven't had reason to find out how talented she is at removing halters yet (though if anything will give her incentive to try, I'm sure this will!). And I'll make sure I've got some fleece on hand if we need to pad things up.

                          The partial clip is a good idea - though she hasn't actually got much of a winter coat (compared to every other horse I've known). Then again, fat is very good insulation, isn't it?


                          • #14
                            I've been muzzling my Haffie for years, so I have seen what works and what doesn't work for him...

                            1. Definitely put treats in the bottom before it goes all the way on...make it her happy place, or it can become a real nightmare. My boy broke 3 in one month, after I made a change to it.

                            2. I use the muzzle that connects to the halter. I too, use zip-ties to connect the two together. I cut off the end of the tie as short as possible, wrap the zip-tie in vet wrap, then duct tape around that.

                            3. I tried to hot glue fleece to the muzzle, but he is really rough on everything...it just ripped off. I bought the sheepskin Best Friend brand noseband piece...that helps a lot! I also put fleece over other parts of the halter because, you guessed it- he's rough and gets rubs everywhere!!

                            4. Don't just leave it on for 12 hours as soon as you put it on. Do it gradually, and it makes for a much happpier horse. A few hours at a time....more treats inside, and she'll gladly put her face right in it!

                            5. Use bag balm on her muzzle in the beginning, rubs will happen, but the bag balm really helps. I also used this glide on stuff that runners put on when running, so their thighs don't chafe. You can get it at places like REI, but not sure where else. bag balm or something like it will definitely work!!

                            Have fun with the whole thing- it's a pain in the butt, but better than the alternative. Enjoy!


                            • #15
                              Hopefully she's good with the muzzle. I see some horses who are totally fine with them and I agree they are necessary in certain cases, but man, they did not work for my guy.

                              My guy had always been on a round bale 24/7 and he'd self-regulate his intake like a champ...until he was retired.

                              The first winter he retired, he continued eating hay like he always did except his work had gone from heavy work to nada. He was BIG.

                              Stalling him wasn't an option, nor was dry lot, nor was removing the round bale and throwing flakes. Enter the muzzle.

                              My BO was going to put it on him every morning at 8 and when I went around 6 I'd take it off. It was an old-school metal basket style muzzle. I introduced it with some cookies and got it on him just fine the first 3 days.

                              The fourth day, my BO calls me and tells me my horse won't let her get near him with the muzzle in her hands. (Keep in mind, we were putting the muzzle on him sans halter in his paddock). She'd hide the muzzle behind her back, he'd come up to her, and as soon as he saw it, he'd take off.

                              So she halters him and brings him in, muzzles him, and puts him out. This worked for two days, then we couldn't catch him. Not at all. And this was a horse who has always, since the day I got him 13 years ago, comes UP to the gate to see people. Not once had he ever been hard to catch.

                              Then the day came when the BO bribed him with crunchies, got him haltered, brought him and he pulled back when the muzzle appeared. He'd never pulled back ever before. Finally realized the muzzle was causing more problems than it was solving. BO bought less nutritionally rich hay for him and he lost the weight.

                              There was no reason for him to not like the muzzle - it fit, it didn't bang into him, it didn't rub...he just quickly figured out it meant he wouldn't be able to stuff his face and that was enough for him to hate it.

                              Interestingly enough, the muzzle experience was more than 8 years ago and then he never wore a muzzle again. This past fall, my new BO switched to feed bags for the horses' grain...and my horse flipped whenever it went near his face. You couldn't PUT it on his face; he clearly remembered the muzzle being put on the same way and thought that was what was going on. Instead, you had to put the feed bag on the ground - like a bucket - and only do it up once he put his nose in. The things they remember.

                              ETA: After that one winter, the weight dropped off him even with richer bales. He started slowing down his hay intake to match his newfound lazy days.


                              • #16
                                Don't feel bad at all about the grazing muzzle - it is far kinder to your horse than being stalled and/or foundering. Our horse unfortunately has to live in a grazing muzzle for much of the year; here's what we've found. We started out with the Best Friends grazing muzzle, which worked pretty well, but he is also prone to anhydrosis, and he gets too hot in it. So a few years ago we switched to one called an Easy Breathe, which works much better for this horse (and seems to hold up a teeny bit better too). Definitely keep an eye on the size of the grazing hole - they will expand over time and need to be replaced. They do tend to smell very plastic-y right out of the box, so we usually leave it in the grain bin for a few hours before putting it on the horse, and he seems to be happier with a new one that way. We did do treats when he first started wearing it, but phased that out years ago, and he really doesn't mind it. I don't remember the source of information, but two things I was told about these - one, they reduce the grass intake by about 1/3, and two, horses consume the most grass in their first two hours of turnout. I can't swear that those are accurate because I can't remember the source, but it seems to be true enough. So, I use that number as a starting point for how many hours he needs to wear the muzzle, and also if he's not going to wear it for the entire turnout time, I put it on before he goes out and take it off later (incidentally, with ponies you often have to do this anyway, because you won't be catching them with a grazing muzzle in hand :-)).


                                • #17
                                  My Shetland comes RUNNING (towards me, LOL) when I go out with the muzzle--when I do she knows she's going out on grass and has made up her mind, I guess, that this is worth the indignity.

                                  This willing attitude does not, however, prevent her from trying really hard to remove it. Which she does about 1-2x per year--just enough to compel her to keep trying.
                                  Click here before you buy.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Thanks again to everyone!

                                    I'm printing this thread out so I can refer to it (for both info and moral support) in the barn!

                                    I hadn't even thought about the possibility that the muzzle might smell plastic-y at first - and since that would make me pretty uncomfortable, I bet it would be much more unpleasant for a horse! I think I'll do a short fitting session when it gets here and then give it a few days to off-gas before I really introduce it.

                                    Pookah, that's great to hear about the Easy Breathe - that's one of the ones that Chick's carries, and it looks like it's very reasonably priced, so once I figure out the fitting issues, I may just use that as an excuse to go shopping and get one as a back up/alternative. It does look like it would be more comfortable than some of the more dense basket styles.

                                    Will also pick up some bag balm or Body Glide type stuff in case we get rubs. I hadn't even thought of that!

                                    THIS kind of thing is why I love this board so much - so many people, so many useful ideas!


                                    • #19
                                      Yeah, I didn't think to mention - unless you are lucky enough to live near a store that reliably stocks them, it's definitely worth keeping a spare on hand. Not the kind of thing you want to just skip a few days if one breaks!


                                      • #20
                                        FWIW - my friend always used the Best Friends brand, but her mare kept getting rubs from it (it was the correct size). She switched to the Smartpak grazing muzzle, and it is much softer...no more rubs. I might have to muzzle the new pony, so I'll definately be ordering the Smartpak one!