While you’re putting blankets into storage for the winter, take a few minutes to pull out your grazing muzzles.
A muzzle limits the amount of grass a horse can eat while still allowing him the other benefits of turnout, such as exercise and socialization with other horses. It is the most effective tool you can use to protect against pasture-related laminitis. Indeed, any horse with a history of laminitis, insulin resistance or equine metabolic disease is safer when his access to grass is restricted—especially in the spring.
If your horse wore a muzzle last year, give it a quick inspection. In addition to checking the buckles, snaps and straps, make sure the hole at the bottom of the basket hasn’t been widened by your horse’s grazing efforts last year. Also slip the muzzle on his head: Stretched-out straps might make it too loose.
On a well-fitted muzzle, the “basket” portion that covers the nose and mouth is snug enough to stay in place but not so tight that it rubs the skin. Check fit by tipping the basket forward and back to see if the horse would be able to displace it enough to bypass it and graze normally. Then, slip a finger between the top edge of the basket and your horse’s face. If you can move your finger in and out easily, there’s enough room for your horse to chew comfortably. If it’s a tight squeeze, the basket will pinch and rub the sensitive skin of the face as his jaw moves.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #451, April 2015.