Do Muzzles Slow Horses' Pelleted Feed Intake?

Do Muzzles Slow Horses' Pelleted Feed Intake?

Wearing a grazing muzzle during feeding is a simple and effective intervention to slow the rate of consumption for horses prone to choke.


If you have a horse who consumes pasture at record speed, you might use a grazing muzzle to both slow and reduce his grass intake. So could you use a similar tactic for a horse who inhales his pelleted meals, potentially putting him at risk for choke? Researchers recently set out to answer that question.

Choke in horses is a scary and dangerous condition for all involved. It occurs when feed becomes lodged in the esophagus, commonly due to rapid feed—particularly grain or concentrate—consumption. Esophageal damage can occur if the choke is severe or is not treated promptly by a veterinarian.

Erin Venable, MS, PhD, and colleagues from Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, recently compared horses’ consumption rates when eating commercially available pelleted feed without a grazing muzzle (NM) and when outfitted with two types of muzzles: the Easy Breathe Grazing Muzzle (EBGM, which has a large square hole to eat through) and the Tough 1 Nylon Grazing Muzzle (TNGM, which has a small circular hole to eat through).

The team employed eight mature stock-type horses kept individually in stalls; each horse received each treatment once during the crossover study. For five consecutive days, the horses received about 5 pounds of pellets in an oval pan for 10 minutes. The researchers recorded the weight of any spilled or uneaten feed.

Ultimately, the team determined that horses wearing either type of grazing muzzle consumed the pellets slower than they did with no muzzle. However, horses wearing the TNGM increased their intake rate over time; by the fifth day, the horses’ intake rate was similar to the NM group. The team also noted that horses wearing the EBGM spilled more feed than the TNGM or NM groups, but that this could easily be remedied by using a taller feed pan.

“Wearing a grazing muzzle during feeding is an incredibly simple management intervention for horses that are prone to choke,” Venable relayed. “We have future studies planned to expand our knowledge of the best muzzle types for sustained rates of slower consumption.”

The study, "Effect of grazing muzzles on the rate of pelleted feed intake in horses," was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior

About the Author

Kristen M. Janicki, MS, PAS

Kristen M. Janicki, a lifelong horsewoman, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences from the attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky, studying under Dr. Laurie Lawrence in the area of Equine Nutrition. Kristen began her current position as a performance horse nutritionist for Mars Horsecare, US, Inc., and Buckeye Nutrition, in 2010. Her job entails evaluating and improving the performance of the sport horse through proper nutrition.

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