Obesity in horses is a growing welfare concern in the UK promoting an increase in weight management products being available. One of the most predominantly used products now on the market is grazing muzzles but could the use of these by owners trying to help their horses inadvertently create supplementary welfare issues for the horse?
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 imposes a legal duty on owners and carers, whether permanent or temporary, to provide the horse with a suitable environment to live in, a suitable diet, the ability to allow the horse to exhibit normal behaviour including any need to be housed with or apart from other animal and to protect against pain, suffering, injury or disease.
Grazing muzzles can help control a horse’s weight and facilitate in assisting with the management of a number of equine diseases such as laminitis and cushing’s. In addition, they can assist owners in maintaining a natural routine by allowing their horse to remain in the company of other horses and have access to longer periods of grazing time.
However, if used incorrectly, grazing muzzles have the potential to cause serious welfare issues. Common problems that can be incurred include:
- chaffing around the face caused by ill-fitting muzzles or dirt and debris
- excessive wear of the horses teeth due to prolonged use
- injury caused by being caught on potential field hazards such as water troughs; and
- behavioural issues, which can range from not being able to groom itself or others to the horse not being able to warn or defend itself against others through facial expressions.
It is therefore vital that grazing muzzles are used responsibly and for the recommended daily time limits of no more than 10-12 hours. The National Equine Welfare Council has recently produced an advisory video and written guidance about when and how to use grazing muzzles responsibly. The guidance can be accessed at http://www.newc.co.uk/advice/horse-and-donkey-care/grazing-muzzles-2/This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.