Keeping healthy is imperative for longevity and soundness in horses, which means horses should not be allowed to over eat. Serious, serious health problems like laminitis, insulin resistance, and equine metabolic syndrome are just some of the issues caused by excessive weight.

So what can be done? In addition to cutting back grain, limit the amount of hay or grass your horse can eat. This can be done with less stress using horse grazing muzzles. These muzzles allow your horse to spend his or her usual time in the pasture, preventing stress on your horse and your time.

What are Grazing Muzzles for Horses

Grazing muzzles are a piece of equipment that can be attached to the halter and allow them to eat less grass than they would otherwise. Think of it as a wearable slow feeder. According to some studies, horses that wear grazing muzzles eat up to 30% less grass while in the pasture. This reduction, as part of a weight management solution, can help prevent your horse from obesity, thus reducing the risk of getting/having:

  • Laminitis
  • Insulin Resistance (IR)
  • Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)
  • Poor thermoregulation: unable to maintain body temperature
  • Colic

Grazing muzzles go over the horse's mouth and restrict how much grass your horse is able to eat. Instead of a whole mouthful, a horse is only able to graze on the shoots of grass that come through the holes in the mouthpiece. You can learn more about How to Measure Your Horse's Weight here. The two main designs for horse grazing muzzles.

  1. Standard Grazing Muzzle:
    Standard grazing muzzles are usually made of nylon and plastic. The muzzle itself has a hard plastic base that attaches to nylon webbing. These muzzles look similar to halters, with a short basket shape covering the horse's nose. The muzzle typically has one or more holes at the bottom, allowing grass to come through so the horse can eat it. These muzzles can be bought with or without a halter attachment.

  2. One-Piece Molded Grazing Muzzle:
    One-piece molded horse grazing muzzles are much more comfortable than standard muzzles because they hang away from the horse's mouth. This prevents rubbing and sores that could be caused by other muzzles. They are usually made of molded materials such as plastic or kevlar, and have only one piece with holes to allow grass to pass through. These horse grazing muzzles are typically more expensive but they are more comfortable and have better airflow than the standard design. These muzzles are usually attached to the horse's halter with leather straps.

What are the best grazing muzzles for horses?

The best grazing muzzles for horses are ones that are comfortable and fit, and restrict your horse from overconsuming grass. To help you determine the best, here are some of our picks:

Dura-Tech Breathe Rite Grazing Muzzle with Breakaway Halter

Dura-Tech® Breathe Rite Grazing Muzzle with Breakaway Halter

The Dura-Tech® Breathe Rite Grazing Muzzle with Breakaway Halter is an all-in-one, durable nylon halter with an attached muzzle. It features breakaway leather tabs for optimal safety, comfortable padding to prevent chafing, and a stainless steel grate bottom to allow horses unlimited water and won’t wear out. This muzzle is great at aiding weight control and reduces the chances of laminitis, obesity, and cribbing. The metal bars on the muzzle are also very useful on aggressive horses in the pasture that may bite.

Dura-ech Grazing Muzzle with Halter

Dura-Tech® Grazing Muzzle with Halter

The Dura-Tech® Grazing Muzzle with Halter effectively controls grass intake on horses prone to laminitis, founder, and obesity, with a lightweight feel and fit. With a 1" nylon web adjustable halter and muzzle, Cheeks and crown piece adjust for a perfect fit, and a hard rubber bottom with a water access hole, this muzzle will work to help maintain weight control and bad behaviors such as cribbing.

ThinLine Flexible Filly Slow Feed Grazing Muzzle

ThinLine® Flexible Filly Slow Feed Grazing Muzzle

Have a horse that is more sensitive and needs a grazing muzzle? The ThinLine® Flexible Filly Slow Feed Grazing Muzzle is the perfect solution. Designed softer, lighter, and less behaviorally restrictive. Constructed of durable and pliable material, this grazing muzzle is effective while also being soft on equine teeth and lips. It also has UV protection for your horse’s sensitive nose.

Why Use Grazing Muzzles for Horses

You would use a horse grazing muzzle because they are a proven solution to manage your horse's weight. As stated above, research proves that horse grazing muzzles decrease your horse's forage intake by about 30% on average, regardless of the kinds of grass in your pasture. This is a significant number that can help your horse lose weight without disrupting their turnout schedule.

Horse grazing muzzles are a great alternative to keeping your horse in their stall while their herd is in the pasture. Stall confinement can be effective for weight loss, but it can also lead to loneliness, frustration, and boredom. This, in turn, can cause stable vices like cribbing, weaving, and wood chewing.

Another positive effect of using a grazing muzzle is that it exercises your horse’s mind as they graze. Instead of mindless eating, they are having to figure out how to get the grass through the muzzle: effectively a culinary puzzle!

How to Choose the Right Grazing Muzzle for Your Horse

It’s true grazing muzzles work, but how to decide the right one? Before you buy, consult with your veterinarian to help you determine if your horse’s health and weight warrant the use of a grazing muzzle, as well as how long you should have your horse wear a muzzle. Some of the factors to consider are:

  • Your horse’s weight
  • Your horse’s diet, including hay, feeds, and treats
  • Current exercise routine
  • Medical history: arthritis, metabolic disorder, hoof problems
Ensure whatever design you pick for your horse is comfortable and fits him correctly to ensure he will not be rubbed. Also, make sure the muzzle has good airflow and will not hurt your horse's ability to breathe.

How to Fit Your Horse’s Grazing Muzzle

When fitting horse grazing muzzles, make sure the muzzle itself sits about an inch from the horse’s lips. There should also be room for 3-4 fingers to fit in between the top of the muzzle and your horse's nose so that they are able to chew. Check to make sure the horse can chew while wearing the muzzle by giving him a treat while wearing it, also watch him to make sure he can easily drink.

Even with a perfectly fitted muzzle, your horse could always get caught on something while he is turned out so make sure that your muzzle has breakaway components. In addition, make sure that you allow your horse to be unmuzzled for at least two hours every day so he can easily drink water and get salt. Salt is especially important since it is much harder for horses to get salt while wearing a muzzle.

How to Introduce Grazing Muzzles to Horses

Introducing your horse to the grazing muzzle is easy, but here are five safe steps to follow to ensure a happy, healthy horse:

  1. As with anything new, start slowly. Place the muzzle alongside your horse’s head. When they relax, remove it. Repeat as necessary until your horse seems to be unbothered.

  2. The next step is to put the muzzle over your horse’s nose. Remove it after a couple of seconds. When you see relaxed behavior, give your horse a reward. Gradually increase the length of time the muzzle is over the nose and eventually completely secure the muzzle on your horse’s head for a short period of time.

  3. Reward your horse for their good behavior! Giving them treats through the muzzle is not only a reward for their behavior, but teaches your horse they can get food through the muzzle (as well as being a positive reinforcement!).

  4. Take your horse out to hand graze in the muzzle. As with the treats, it teaches your horse they can eat through the muzzle.

  5. Before turning your horse out to graze in the muzzle, make sure the pasture grass is not too long or too short for your horse to eat through the muzzle. An undesirable grass length can frustrate your horse and cause muzzle refusal.

How to Maintain and Clean Grazing Muzzles

As with any piece of equipment, maintaining and cleaning grazing muzzles to ensure their longevity and effectiveness is a necessity. There are many different schools of thought as to how to clean them. In general, after removing the muzzle for the day, make sure to shake out any dirt, debris, or grass remaining in the muzzle. Using a cloth to wipe any other debris will keep the muzzle clean as well. Weekly, it’s recommended to wash out the muzzle. Some people simply spray out the muzzle with the hose, but you can also hand wash it with soap and water, then let dry. Some people use the dishwasher or even the washing machine (putting the muzzle in a pillowcase or lingerie bag to keep it from rolling around.

Regardless of your preferred cleaning method, keeping your muzzle clean will not only extend the life of your muzzle but also prevent things like mold or bacteria from your horse’s mouth.

Grazing muzzles are an effective and inexpensive tool when keeping your horse’s weight at a desirable amount. It allows them to still be with their friends in the pasture and graze while also preventing the many health problems that can arise from obesity. Horse owners should consider using grazing muzzles for their horses' well-being.