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Of Minis and Muzzles


Arrowleaf's Astaldo Maximus


Of  Minis and Muzzles…..

The latest farm saga… my Houdini horse



DETERMINATION is the best word I can think of to describe Maximus (aka Max) .  With the grass and the weird spring, I’ve had some trials with my metabolically challenged horses and the best solution was to limit their grass by the use of grazing muzzles.  I hated to do it.  Seemed kind of mean, but happy, healthy horses were more important and this seemed like the only solution.  They hated being confined to barracks with only hay. 

Grazing muzzles are web strap ‘buckets’ that go over their muzzles with a hole in the base that allows the grass to poke through.  Coupled with the web/weave design sides, it enables the horse to continue to graze, but in a real limited fashion….It forces them to savor the grass and nip off small quantities of tiny stalks that nudge through with each step and re-placement.  I discovered 2 main designs…ones that fastened with a series of straps onto the halter (which I hate…I don’t like turning horses out with halters on) or ones that make their own halter, using an over-the-head breakaway strap and a throat latch that snaps close similar to the halters design.  Knowing my horses like I do…the breakaway was the safest way.  I ordered 4 muzzles for the 4 problem children.  So armed with my new purchases, I promised the 4 children that instead of being cooped up in a dry paddock with boring hay all day, that they could go out for the final two hours of each day to graze; eat REAL grass…but with their buckets on.  In theory, it should have worked great….trouble is….no one told Max he had to KEEP the bucket on his head…  And so the battle of wits begins:

I should have known better..Max has always been a garment-get’er-out’er.   At 6 months of age I discovered his adversion to clothes,  Bought him a  winter blanket to keep my cute fuzzy baby dry and warm.  It was one of those cool designs with the double Velcro front that expands as the foal grows.  Big mistake.  

6 mo. old Max removing his blanket...

It soon became apparent that Max wanted to be naked.  The blanket would be on the ground.  How the heck is he getting this off….?  Mystery solved….

I should mention I have the same problem with fly masks on this horse.  Each morning, rather than put it on his head, I might as well just walk the flymask over to his field and chuck it over the fence  onto the ground,  because guaranteed within the hour that’s where it was going to end up anyhow.  Sigh

As Max got older, he improved.  He can wear a rain sheet and keep it on for the most part (not by choice mind you… his record stands at 20 minutes and that was with a brand new one)  Now that’s he’s matured,  I could  bet on his blanket staying put..not so much the flymasks ever, but it was a start.  It’s a joke on our farm….  Ooohh!  Max kept his flymask on for 2 hours today!  Mark on the wall!

Fast forward to this summer and the saga of the grazing muzzle.  Bottom line:  Horse needs restricted grass.  Owner feels guilty that the horse has to stay in dry paddock..spends hard earned money on grazing muzzles.  Max throws down the gauntlet and accepts the challenge.  “Thou shall not prevent me from eating…Watch me!”  (insert diabolical laughter here) says Max. 

What it should look like

Okay.  I have to admit it worked for several days.  He accepted that he had to learn a new way of grazing for optimal quantities each evening….Go to patches of grass longer than 2 inches and shorter than 4…Lift muzzle up squarely and plunk down directly over top of said grass…use slight sideways motion to insure the biggest possible tuft of grass protrudes up through the bottom hole.  Bite off.  Chew… Savor….

Begin to plot a better mousetrap….hmmmm.  Why not just REMOVE the muzzle!  Capital idea ol’ Chap!  Brilliant!  Doesn’t matter that the other 3 horses are seemingly more accepting of the inconvenience of grazing in this fashion…. Stupid horses…. If they’d only just think….

At 4 PM…the other 3 horses are lined up at the gate.  They are nickering for me to hurry.    They KNOW they get to go out and are practically thrusting their faces in their buckets so they can spend every remaining second getting to eat their beloved grass.   All except Max.  He yawns…looks bored….and hangs back and lets the others spill out of the start gate, like thoroughbreds at the track, falling all over each other to be the first.  Max sighs a deep sigh of resignation and lets me put the muzzle on his head and do up the throat snap.  He mosies out the gate, tests it out by snatching a few bites, and then wanders over to the nearest fence post and rips the muzzle of his head and he walks off to graze.  His Thought Bubble would say “I have NO idea why she insists on putting this stupid thing on my head…it makes it hard to eat..she should just leave it in the barn on the nail and not bother….”   Arghh. 

And so it becomes a battle of wits.  There’s Deb in one corner- a right-brained extrovert (standing 5 foot 4inches, reasonable IQ and opposing thumbs ) and in the other corner: Max (standing 34 inches as a left-brained thumbs but ‘terrier-like’ determination)  Statistics would lead you to believe that the human with the logical brain has the greater advantage…. And you would be sadly mistaken.  You’ve never met Max.  Short of a staple gun or a brad nailer….  I simply cannot keep  the muzzle on his face!  In the alloted  two hour grazing time span…it’s NOTHING to have to replace it on his head 6-7 times…


- I have tried 2 different muzzles..thinking one with a small basket might be harder to remove.  Nope

- I have tried adjusting it on ALL the points of adjustment….shorter on the sides, over the head, in the throat and even the connecter strap when he once got it half off and it was in his mouth…

-I have tried putting the fly mask over top of the muzzle and he just gets BOTH off.

-I have sat in a nearby lawnchair and patroled him…  shrieking “Max!  Get away from the fence!!!”

He has hooked it on the fence and ripped open the breakaway Velcro and left it hanging there.

My husband once tried an elastic leg strap off a rain blanket thinking the stretchiness would give and take but still keep it firmly on his head and he’d give up.  Not so.  My neighbor saw him with his foot through the stretchy strap….walking with his head lower to the ground grazing as per normal…he just walked over to the fence and asked her to ‘fix’ him.  You see, the thing with Max is that he rarely gets upset. His Tshirt would read “What?  Me…worry??”  The word “Panic” is not in his vocabulary.

 Surely, the human with the master mind can thwart the miniature horse??   Nope.

I will admit that some methods work for a short time until he analyzes and searches for the remedy.    So just when you are lulled into a false sense of security, he figures it out and knocks the theory out of the ball park.  And Max never gloats..he just walks away and eats grass and hopes you don’t notice.  (usually with his butt out in the open and his head hiding in the shrubs or against the fence. )

Case in point.  After multiple replacements of the muzzle 2 days ago… I tried to braid a lock of his mane under the crown piece of the muzzle  to prevent him from shedding it.  He tried to rub it off, and it didn’t work so he resigned himself to restricted grazing for the day.  I was the one gloating!  Ha!  It worked.  He gave up!

The next day, I went out there at 4 PM and smuggly braided his mane into the strap and turned him out.  It lasted 20 minutes and it was off. What the???  So I braided it again.  Same thing.  Huh?  How is he doing that?  Then I used 2 elastics.  Same thing.  Then I tried a lock of his forelock and 2 of the mane.  Off in 8 minutes.  I must have replaced and re-braided about 6 times…remember this is in a 2 hour period.  You do the math.  Each time he would march over to the fence and slip it off, so each time I would put it back on and re-braid it, I would walk him AWAY from the fence and being rather lazy I figured he would give up and start grazing..he did…but he positioned  HIMSELF around and nonchalantly grazed his way BACK to the fence and slipped it off again.  And Again…And Again.  Grrr   

So yesterday I am out shopping…I see a wide soft nylon dog collar….I had an Ah-Hah moment!  Buy the dog collar, use a snap…run the crownpiece of the muzzle through the snap and hook the other end to the leash ring of the dog collar and buckle the collar loosely around his throat.  No way he can get that off!  Ha!  Off in 10 minutes.  Are you kidding me?  So tighten the collar.  Off in 5 minutes.  Get a shorter snap.  Off in 4 minutes.  Run the throat strap through the dog collar as well so you’ve got 2 points of resistance/restriction.  Off in 7 minutes.  I sat down and laughed out loud.  He’s so smart it’s hard to be mad at him.  You have to know him to fully realize the intelligence going on here.  I catch him with it off or hanging around his neck and stride over to him…he doesn’t even lift his head…but the thought bubble says “Oh crap…here she comes again…Sigh…I wonder when she’s just gonna give up??  Doesn’t she have ANYTHING better to do than nag me? Can’t a guy just eat in peace?” 

Today I thought I would try a strap that goes from the bucket up the center of his head; a lifter strap- thinking that will keep the muzzle more upright on his face and make it harder to flip it down.  Still had to replace it multiple times and chase him away from the fence.  Once it pulled off and sort of caught his noseband in the mesh fencing.  He just stood there until I came back as he knew I was checking him every 10 minutes…..Don’t ask me HOW he did it, but I had to dismantle the WHOLE thing to free him.  Then when I finally had a system working of a DOUBLE strap up his face between his ears (now he looks like Hannibal Lector) he came into the barn and tried to wrestle the carrot bucket off the wall.   Shooed him back outside and about a half hour later I find him BACK in the barn and out in one of the empty runs just standing there.  I guess I was supposed to feel sorry for him…but guess what….the muzzle was STILL on him! 

Let me know if you have any other better ideas….





Flymask off- Muzzle on! Success...sort of!





  1. Jannete

    OMG – got a good laugh out of that one. Gets the Houdini genes from both sides, but mostly Jewel. Couldn’t keep a blanket on her – or a fly mask. Pip, on the other hand will practically put his own blanket on if he is chilly.

    • Deb

      I didn’t know that about Jewel! No wonder Max is so good at it….He comes by it naturally! Too funny


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