Can You Train a Horse to Use a Grazing Muzzle?
One thing that can be frustrating about a grazing muzzle is that it is not always an easy “plug and play” device. Some horses take to a grazing muzzle quickly, while others may require a bit of guidance and training.
by GG Equine, Ohio Equestrian Directory 2021 Issue
Whether your horse is being muzzled for the first time ever, or just the first time this year, doing some trial runs before you need to use it can go a long way toward easing the transition.
Introducing the Muzzle to Your Horse
GG Equine’s customer service specialist, Kara Musgrave, who is also a positive reinforcement trainer, is a “huge fan of food rewards to create a positive association.” Musgrave says that one of the best ways to introduce the muzzle to your horse is to put his favorite treat inside, and then invite him to explore the muzzle’s scent and feel.
Once your horse is comfortable putting his nose into the grazing muzzle (or “treat basket”), the next step is to show him how to actually eat through it - which, of course, he will have to do when grazing. Musgrave’s favorite way to do this is to feed treats through the muzzle slots “to teach him how to search for food through the holes.”
You can simulate foraging by placing small treats or feed “on a flat surface like a stall mat and let your horse try to lick them up through the muzzle openings.” Just make sure the feed or treats are small enough to easily fit through the openings; otherwise, you will have one frustrated pony!
Ready for a pasture trial? Musgrave recommends “sprinkling sweet feed or other small treats in the grass.” This encourages your horse to seek the prize as grass pokes through the muzzle openings. “From there,” Musgrave says, “the horse usually gets the idea,” and you’re one step closer.
When turnout time finally arrives, a period of observation is important. The first few times your horse is on pasture, allow him to graze with the muzzle on while you watch. This will give you an idea of his comfort level before being out of sight for hours at a stretch. It will also allow you to see the muzzle in action in case there are any final adjustments that need to be made.
How Long Does Grazing Muzzle Training Take?
Although the length of time from introduction to full turnout will vary, you can take cues from your horses to determine their comfort and readiness to wear a muzzle. For example, if your horse runs away at the sight of a grazing muzzle, is unwilling to put his nose into it, or acts like he can’t graze in it, a training period is definitely recommended to help him adjust. With only a little effort and patience - and some help from your horse’s favorite treats - you can make the start of grazing muzzle season smoother and easier.
For more information: gg-equine.com