Spring grass brings blessings to some and curses to those with easy keeping and fat horses. We are going to take a look at some of the ways to manage all that spring grass.
The main choices to manage grass intake are to reduce time on grass or to reduce the amount of grass eaten. To manage grass intake often requires fencing off a small area as a fat pen or dirt paddock. This is only feasible if you own your own place and have a spot to put the paddock with adequate water and shelter. You also need a horse who will stay by himself or hopefully with another buddy. You can also leave your horse in a stall for a large portion of the day, however he/she will get very little exercise that way.
The other way to reduce grass intake is to use a muzzle. Muzzles can seem a barbaric answer, however, for many horses it allows them to be out in the pasture with their friends getting exercise. A muzzle fits over the horses nose and allows them to eat only a small amount of grass with each bite. This way they have to work hard for small rewards.
Muzzles are tolerated well by some horses, while others will do everything in their power to remove them. A few horses will refuse to graze while wearing one, and occasionally one will refuse to drink. Some horses will ask their buddies to remove the muzzle. The muzzle carried by Harmany Equine Clinic (http://www.harmanyequine.com/shop/product_info.php?cPath=24&products_id=137) is more open and more comfortable to many horses than the common webbed muzzle such as the Best Friends.
A muzzle should fit loosely enough that the horse can open his mouth without hitting the edges. The bottom of the muzzle should be about one to 1 1/2 inches from his mouth. If the edges rub the skin, get some real sheepskin and line the areas that areas that are rubbed. Do not use the fake sheepskin-- it will mat and rub more easily. The halter should always have breakaway straps.
What happens if you find your horse without a muzzle in the morning? You have no idea how long he's been grazing. The best thing to do is use the homeopathic remedy Nux Vomica 30, which can be obtained from most health food stores. It is for over-eating and can help prevent laminitis or colic. To read more about homeopathic remedies see my first aid booklet (http://www.harmanyequine.com/shop/product_info.php?cPath=3&products_id=163).
When you first put the muzzle on, and for many horses each time you put it on, give them a small treat usually placing it inside the muzzle or giving it after the muzzle is over the nose. Show them some nice grass so they learn to eat quickly. Be sure to check that they are drinking water and that the muzzle will fit into an automatic waterer.
Please share your tips for managing muzzles and your stories about how your horses handle or remove the muzzles.