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Why Are Grazing Muzzles Essential Equipment for Horses? by GreenGuard Equine

Why is over-grazing bad for horses? Horses are active and social creatures. Their physical, digestive, and mental health depends on regular exercise and access to food. A full day of roaming the pasture with their herdmates supplies both of these. In nature, horses graze and move constantly in herds. Grazing provides a constant source of material for their digestive tracts to process. This keeps stomach acid levels normal and fuels their wanderings. Spending time with herdmates gives horses the socialization and community they need. These days, too many horses spend more time in their stalls than wandering the fields. If they have a reputation as easy keepers, their pasture time can be

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OHIO EQUESTRIAN DIRECTORY 2019

even more limited, and their exercise time restricted to depressing dry lots. When turned out, these horses rush to eat as much as they can as quickly as they can. This compulsion to overgraze means that they cannot fully process the elevated levels of carbohydrates that they are putting into their bodies. The health risks from over-grazing are well known. They include obesity and laminitis, as well as a host of metabolic disorders. Developing any of these primary or secondary conditions affects a horse’s short- and long-term health, lowers their quality of life, and shortens their lifespan. What are the benefits of a grazing muzzle? A grazing muzzle is a simple accessory that can

make a major difference in a horse’s life. At the most basic level, a grazing muzzle is designed to perform one function: limit grass intake. Studies have shown that a horse wearing a grazing muzzle consumes anywhere between 30% and 70% less grass. A good grazing muzzle does much more. For the vast majority of equines, wearing a grazing muzzle can mean more hours of turn-out time every week from spring through fall. Being able to graze and move naturally throughout the day means better digestive health, muscle tone, and restful sleep. Weight management, physical activity, and mental health are not the only reasons to equip a horse with a grazing muzzle. During the warmer and wetter parts of the year when grass tends to include higher levels of carbohydrates, over-indulging on rich grass can lead horses to develop laminitis or insulin resistance. Keeping them in stalls to compensate can lead to exercise intolerance and joint pain. The longterm consequences of these health problems are painful to horses and costly to horse owners. What types of equines would get the most from a grazing muzzle? Most horse owners have either owned or known an “air fern” or an “easy keeper” in their time. These are horses that can’t even look at food without putting

on weight. Horses, ponies, and even donkeys that fit this description are at the top of the list of equines that would get the most out of a grazing muzzle. Horses that have endured bouts of laminitis in the past or have recurring laminitic episodes are another ideal demographic for a grazing muzzle. Researchers estimate that 10-25% of all horses have some form of insulin resistance or pre-laminitic metabolic syndrome. With a grazing muzzle, these at-risk horses can live regular, normal, active lives. Age can also be a factor. Growing older and less active doesn’t mean a decrease in appetite or in the risks of over-grazing. No matter how healthy or well-conditioned a horse was in its youth, a more sedentary life can bring weight gain and all its attendant problems. It’s important to remember that, in spite of his breed, lineage, and training, Secretariat developed laminitis and had to be euthanized at the age of 19. A grazing muzzle is an investment in a horse’s health. Horse owners who live in places with lush, rich pastures should consider grazing muzzles for their horses. Investing in a good grazing muzzle now can prevent major veterinary and farrier costs later. —For more information: GreenGuardEquine.com

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Ohio Equestrian Directory 2019  

Ohio Equestrian Directory 2019  

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