Because they limit a horse’s grass consumption while allowing him the benefits of turnout, grazing muzzles are one of the most effective tools a horse owner has for preventing laminitis, especially during the spring.
Horses who wear muzzles, however, can’t appreciate these benefits. Some are very adept at removing the headgear, rubbing masks off on fence posts and even enlisting the help of pasturemates in games of “tug-of-war” that end in broken straps. There are a few ways, however, that you can help muzzles stay on.
First, make sure the muzzle fits. Contact points can be padded with fleece or moleskin, but a muzzle that is too small will be uncomfortable to the horse, giving him extra incentive to pull it off. On the other hand, if the muzzle is too large, the horse will be able to get out of it easily. Fit the muzzle’s headstall as you would a halter or bridle, then make sure the “basket” portion rests well above the horse’s nostrils.
If you’ve got a Houdini horse who manages to work off even a well-fitting muzzle, you may want to reinforce it. Attaching a browband and throatlatch from a bridle to the muzzle’s headstall will foil most attempts to remove it. For safety, however, use leather pieces that will break if the horse gets entangled.
Finally, just in case, wrap a piece of brightly colored tape on the muzzle so it will be easier to spot if it ends up lying in the pasture.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #440.