Toning Down Playtime

Toning Down Playtime

If you horse's pasturemate pesters him, you might suggest the offender wear a grazing muzzle with an enlarged opening to as not to significantly limit grass intake.

Photo: iStock

Q. My horse lives in a pasture-­boarding situation, and a new horse recently moved in who likes to pester the other horses into playing with them by tugging (and tearing) blankets and pulling muzzles and fly masks off. I’m worried because my horse doesn’t really seem to enjoy “playing” like this (he’s always stayed away from playful horses, but the new one seems to be relentless), not to mention the health concerns associated with his muzzle getting pulled off so frequently. Is there anything I can do to help make him a less attractive target for the new horse? Moving him to a different field isn’t an option.

Greg, via e-mail


A. That is a very interesting question. It is kind of you to think about how you can alter your horse’s attractiveness as opposed to targeting the perpetrator—certainly not the usual story I hear in these situations. I don’t know offhand of anything to recommend to make your horse less attractive to the playful pestering. You might suggest the owner of the pesterer try having him wear a grazing muzzle so he can’t actually grab on to herdmates or their duds. If you get the type of grazing muzzle with the rubber bottom, the opening can be enlarged quite a bit so as not to significantly limit his grazing intake, yet effectively get in the way when he tries to grab onto stuff. I recommend getting the size that fits fairly snugly, so he can still chew freely, but not open too wide. That tends to work well for discouraging nipping and grabbing. Also, as soon as their tools are neutralized, some horses tend to stop trying and give up the habit.

I have no idea what your relationship is with the pesterer’s owner, but maybe if you offer to buy it, the owner will appreciate how important it is to you and your horse. If the pesterer is young, chances are his playfulness will subside as he matures. So even if the muzzle doesn’t help him give up the habit, I think there’s a good chance he will mature out of it and not have to wear the muzzle for life.

About the Author

Sue McDonnell, PhD, Certified AAB

Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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