Since 1994, Joyce Harman, DVM, has been at the forefront of equine holistic medicine and finding better, safer ways to treat horses, including “easy keepers.”
“Whoever coined the term ‘easy keeper’ did not own a grassy field full of overweight horses threatening to become laminitic,” says Dr. Harman. “It is much more work to limit grass intake than it is to open a gate and turn horses out.”
The Harmany Grazing Muzzle of light, breathable Dupont™ Kevlar®, molds to a horse’s individual head shape and offers 25-50% more breathing room than other muzzles while still allowing horses to follow their healthiest, most natural and stress-free behavior: grazing with the herd.
“The serious side of overweight horses is that they can become Insulin Resistant (IR), which makes it hard to lose weight and can lead to laminitis, which is still a painful, debilitating disease that can lead to death from complications,” Dr. Harman says. “So, it is very important to manage weight.”
The alternative of locking a horse alone in a stall or paddock is much more stressful and allowing obesity and laminitis to occur is cruel and expensive,” Dr. Harman adds. “So, on balance, a well-fitted muzzle starts to sound pretty good.”
The idea behind using a muzzle is to limit grass intake while allowing your horse pasture time. Mentally and physically, pasture time with friends keeps horses active and happy. Horses left alone in small paddocks experience stress and lack meaningful exercise.
“Many horses hate to be muzzled. Can you blame them? No, but you can make it more pleasant and safe,” she says.
Correct muzzle fit is extremely important to prevent rubs and to keep it safely on the head. The muzzle needs to enough space from front to back to allow room to chew naturally. This can vary depending on the shape of the head. To check, watch your horse grazing or while giving them a treat. There should be clearance at all times. As a starting guide, about two-fingers space should be present behind the jawbones at the back. For an average horse, the muzzle should attach to the halter and hang down, leaving approximately a half-inch between the nose and bottom of the muzzle (smaller ponies need less space). The hole or holes in the bottom should limit the amount of grass reaching the teeth. Check hole size weekly; holes wear faster and larger than expected, leaving no grazing restriction. “The horses will never confess to getting more grass,” Dr. Harman says.
Muzzles should always be worn with a true breakaway halter. Thin leather crowns work well, providing the leather does not get stiff and rub the ears. If so, oil and cover with real sheepskin or replace if needed. “Pay attention if your horse has become head shy after wearing a muzzle! He may have a headache, which can occur if the muzzle becomes heavy and wet with dew or rain; the weight can become uncomfortable.”
For Houdini types that escape their muzzles, she recommends adding a browband, chin strap, strap from the front of the nose to the top of the halter, or straps to the side rings to help prevent removal. Be sure to adjust a chinstrap above the cheek, rather than low on the jawline, to keep it in place. Also check for hooks or clasps that may face outwards and catch on objects. “Any straps you add must be free from buckles that could catch on external objects like a fence or poke another horse in the eye or cut the face. If you use zip-ties, tape the ends with Gorilla® or duct tape to keep them smooth.”
Speaking of protection: Be sure your horse, while wearing a muzzle, can still defend itself in their pasture. “If there is a bully horse that bites or pushes yours around, it is not fair to put a muzzle on the one being bullied.”
The Harmany Grazing Muzzle eliminates many issues associated with muzzle fit, including a new plastic that allows the muzzle to be adjusted and custom-fit to your horse’s head shape, and re-adjusted as needed. The size and number of holes are adjustable, and the muzzle contains Kevlar fibers, minimizing the risk of horses eating through it.
Learn more at https://harmanyequine.com/harmany-grazing-muzzle/.
Contact Joyce Harman DVM
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