A horse that is set free all day long and has access to unlimited grazing may be prone to undesirable weight gain. It is imperative to limit the horse’s intake for the sake of its wellbeing. However, a grazing muzzle can control the horse’s weight. When correctly fitted, horse grazing can limit but doesn’t completely stop the horse from eating.
Being outdoors stimulates the horse and keeps them happy. It allows for social interaction as well. The drawback, however, is an increase in calorie intake. Horses grazing throughout the day can eat more than required, thereby affecting the horse’s weight. Isolating them in a stable is not the solution as this has adverse effects on their mental health.
Several research pieces have illuminated that using a grazing muzzle on ponies that were stabled and let outdoors for 3 hours can reduce pasture intake in horses by 83%.
It is absolutely imperative to fit a grazing muzzle properly. With the numerous styles and designs available, selecting your horse’s right fit can become challenging. Follow the instructions carefully from the brand you choose. It is crucial to notice the grazing muzzle areas that may rub against your horse’s face. Ensure it doesn’t always touch the mouth; a gap of around 1 inch is recommended from the grazing muzzle to the end of the horse’s mouth. Note that this is not done to eradicate horse grazing but to limit it. The horse must be able to open his/her mouth comfortably.
Introducing your horse to a grazing muzzle takes time, energy, and patience. Furthermore, it would help if you had the right attitude as well. Approaching it with the sentiment that you are harming your horse can adversely affect your horse’s behavior and grazing patterns.
Once you have a positive mindset in place, introduce the grazing muzzle at a slow pace. Slowly place the muzzle alongside the head and remove it when the horse is relaxed. The idea is to acclimatize the animal to the new addition to its life. Repeat this until the horse is entirely calm and at ease. It is essential to also reward the relaxed behavior with some treats or food. This will help the horse associate the muzzle with positivity. Progressively increase the grazing muzzle’s duration on the horse and eventually completely install it for a short period. Ensure to reward the horse with food when it has the muzzle on. This will help him/her understand that they are capable of consuming food with it on.
Now introduce the horse to a new concept of horse grazing. Take him out to the pasture and allow your horse the time to figure out grazing with the new attachment on. The success of the grazing muzzle is vitally dependent on the height of the grass. Too short, and the grass will not be able to fit through the muzzle into the horse’s mouth. Long grass is also a bane to horse grazing with a muzzle as long grass bends over and generally won’t find its way into the muzzle. Keep the grass adequately trimmed before allowing your horse to graze. Failing to do so can frustrate and annoy some horses.
Once your horse is comfortably grazing in the fields for extended durations, you can confidently turn him out into the pasture completely. Ensure to inspect the horse grazing area thoroughly to avoid the grazing muzzle getting caught in unsafe areas. The duration of leaving the muzzle varies from time to time but ensure you don’t leave it on for a period longer than 10 – 12 hours.
Pay attention to the fact that your horse may indulge in compensatory eating if left on the fields once removed. They are capable of eating in large quantities of their daily calorie requirements in a relatively short duration. Therefore, taking off the grazing muzzle while still on the pasture may undo all the hard work. Ideally, it should only come off while stabled.
Observe the horse’s behavior as well. Are there any atypical changes? Or is he adapting to the grazing muzzle well? Monitor the horse’s weight as well. Please keep track of it so you can adjust feed and pasture access as desired to maintain his/her ideal body weight.
A grazing muzzle is a powerful tool to affect horse grazing behaviour. An overweight horse causes many health complications, and this tool can help keep the horse’s weight in control. This can also mean that the horse can benefit from the benefits of extended grazing without having to be bothered about unnecessary weight gain.
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