The Lesser of Two Evils… the Grazing Muzzle.

Since I have hardly any internet at the conference, I am posting this blog that is from May 2011, because ’tis the season’ for grazing muzzles. 

Alright.  I did it.  I bought a grazing muzzle for my very portly donkey, Norma.

As some of you know, poor Norma suffered a horrible bout of laminitis which we tackled for 8 weeks.  She is fine now but I never want her to go through that again…  And, since I have not found any way to trim her waistline (she refuses to join the Biggest Loser cast…), I broke down and purchased a grazing muzzle.

Some of you may know that I had previously thought I was going to purchase a Green Guard grazing muzzle from the UK.  However, I couldn’t get one for under a million dollars (plus international shipping) so I skipped that idea and landed on the Tough 1, Easy Breathe, Poly/Nylon Grazing Muzzle which can be found in many places via an Internet search.

It arrives.


So, it arrived.

I opened the box and found a nice handled plastic zipper bag containing what looked like a medieval torture device.

“Hmmmmm.  I can always use the handled plastic zipper bag to hold my cosmetics (or something) if the grazing muzzle doesn’t work out….,” I thought to myself.  I like it when things have alternative uses.

Anyway, I pulled the muzzle out of the plastic zipper bag and grimaced a little.  Yikes.  All I could think of was Hannibal Lecter.

Medieval torture device?


Well, Norma has always enjoyed being let out onto the green grass with her cohorts, Slick and Dodger, the Shetland Hooligans.  Since Slick and Dodger are really small and I bring them in early, I always felt that Norma was fine to graze with them.  But, the reality is that Norma is the poster donkey of “easy keeper”.  I swear, there must be calories in the air because she inhales them, somehow.

To Norma’s foraging credit, she may appear shy and unassuming, but she is quick and smart.  If there is a blade of grass anywhere in their enclosure, Norma distracts the ponies.

Norma:  Did you hear that?!

Ponies:  What?

Norma:  Over there in the barren corner of the paddock!  Go there now and stand guard for a few minutes.  I’ll stay over here (where I found a nice patch of green…)!

The ponies run off…

Norma sniggers like Mutly the Dog, “Heh heh, ponies are so gullible…”.

Well, if all else fails, I can use the plastic zipper pouch for something…


So, the day in our grazing rotation came for Slick, Dodger and Norma to be let out on the green grass.

I took a deep breath and went outside to put the medieval muzzle contraption on my sweet, delicate and soft-lipped donkey.

I stepped into their paddock with the device hanging innocently from my crooked arm.  Norma ran right over.

Norma:  Is it our day to graze?  Finally??!!

Me:  Uh, yes!  All you have to do is wear this (raising my arm).

Norma:  OK!  Anything to graze!  Here, put it on my head right now and then let me outta here!

I’ve marked the nose holes…

So, I did as instructed.  I put the thing on her head and it appeared to be 5 sizes too long and the muzzle part hung around her mouth like a gaping washbowl.  She looked at me with her huge brown eyes.  “Are you sure about this? This doesn’t seem right…”

And, she was correct.  It wasn’t right.  But, I had promised she could go out so I made the halter part as short as possible, totally misusing the break-away velcro to make it even shorter.  Then I stood back.  She was Hannibal Lecter.

“Are you sure this is right?”

Norma sneezed.  Then she sneezed again and again and again and again… she could have starred in an allergy commercial!  Before I went running into the house to find some lavender to spray inside the nasty rubber smelling mouthpart, I let them all out on the grass.

From the window inside the house, I saw Norma, frozen solid in place and whipping her head around in amusement ride circles – left, right, whirly loop, up, down, backwards loopdiloo… hoping to remove the nasty piece of armature.  It didn’t come off.  So far, so good.

I came flying in with lavender spray (actually, Show Thyme oil from Equi-Spa).  I put the lavender all over my fingers and then put my fingers in all the holes of the muzzle, wiping furiously.  I think I got most of the interior surfaces.

Ahhhhhhh.  Norma quit sneezing.  But, she still wouldn’t move.  More accurately, she wouldn’t move… until she started running!   With a leap like a bronc, Norma hoppity-ran in wide circles, not knowing what to do to get this thing off of her nose.

I was totally torn.  Do I give in and take it off, or do I wait and see if she settles?

As I was pondering this, I considered leaving it on her once a day for 30 minutes to potentially exercise off that extra weight.  I hadn’t seen her move with such determination and speed since… since… well, EVER!

With that thought, I decided to leave the muzzle on and see how it went.

“Are you done yet adjusting this stoopid thing?”



Well, aside from having her own page on Facebook, Norma showed her extreme intelligence by going around the farm and figuring out if she could:

a)  get it off using anything around

b)  eat with it on

Norma stopped her useless circling and flew, in her stunted donkey gait, to every itching post/rubbing object she could find.  But, in between her furious rubbing, she’d see something she wanted to eat and she’d try.  O000000000h the frustration!  Eventually, she quit trying to get the darn thing off and instead tried to work with it.

Now that she knows how to use it, she starts planning her eating strategy…


The hole on the device is an odd shape.  You’d think it would be shaped horizontally like a mouth, but instead it is positioned vertically like not a mouth.

The verticle hole… two fingers width.

I had to give Norma points for ingenuity, especially since the rubber muzzle part didn’t fit well.  Norma’s nose is so tiny but her head so long, that her face had too much room in the muzzle.  So, when she tried to grab a blade of grass through the hole, the hole would shift. That poor girl tilted her head in so many ever so slight variations that I wanted to give her a prize for thinking it through.  However, she still hadn’t gotten the hang of how to actually grab grass and eat it.

I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to teach her.  So, I broke off some grass and fed it to her as if I was putting my ATM card into the slot.  Zip!  The blade was gone!  I did another and another…  I felt like I was feeding a carrot to Bugs Bunny.  Zipzip!  Gone!  Norma sucked up the grass like a bullet tube in a warehouse!

OK, now she knew it could work.

After that, I saw her flitting from place to place trying tall grass, weeds with flowers, short grass – anything she could find.

I was thrilled since she continued to get exercise while searching about and barely munching on not much.

Norma, hunting seeds in the tall grass.


After 2 hours, I felt I might be pushing my luck, so I called the Three Amigos back into their pasture.  The grazing was over.

Just to be safe, I gave Norma a dose of Anti-Flam.


My trial was three days ago and she is just fine this morning.


Even though the grazing muzzle looked like a medieval Lecter contraption, it actually allowed my girl to be out with her boys on the grass.

She was happy, in the long run.  She settled into it and wasn’t angry with me.

I think the muzzle is the lesser of the two evils.

The other evil is being left behind in a paddock while you watch your friends out eating grass.

Never again.

“Hey, I’m down with it… as long as I can go out, I’m good.”



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20 comments have been posted...

  1. Kerry

    Am looking for a muzzle for our mini donkey so he can go out with the others. He noted them unmercifully. Would this work ?

  2. Kim

    Timely article for me even tho written in 2011. My fat girl sure needs a muzzle. Problem is her buddy Mr. Slender Paco is so adept at removing them for her. Battle of the wits for sure. Thanks!

  3. dawndi Post author

    My donkey has a large bridge to her nose but a small mouth. I got the regular horse size
    and it works fine.

  4. Yata's Mom

    Loved your description. We just put our donkey, Yata in a Best Friends muzzle. She did the exact same thing your Norma did with the whipping of her head in loop-di-doos! It was hard not to laugh… Anyway, we hope it will help her in the long run. She is getting lumpy — not good. Thanks for your story.

  5. Jordan

    I have one of these, and it is amazing. I absolutely love it, and this is an very well-written review. However, the reason she had so much trouble with it in the beginning is because there is supposed to be two to three fingers in between the muzzle and the lips. Wiggle room to get to the grass, if you will :)

  6. dawndi Post author

    Susanna: I have had no issues with this muzzle! Also, it is my understanding that the afternoon grass is the most potent…

  7. Susanna

    I just got a 13.1 hh pony that is pleasantly plump and every so slightly crested at the neck. there are also some fatty pads on either side of his tail dock. i immediately mowed the grass super short before he arrived and I keep him in at night. I only give him 1 small handful of low carb grain morning and night (just so he thinks he’s getting something). the previous owner swears that he has never foundered, but i am concerned about him. I am pondering a grazing muzzle. If I get one, the Tough 1 Easy Breathe muzzle look like a good choice. Any advice from anyone? BTW, I always heard that the morning grass has the most sugar content and is richer than evening grass. Anyone know anything about that? Thanks! Susanna :)

  8. IcieMeg

    Thanks for the review of the Tough-1 grazing muzzle. I’m debating between it and the Best Friends muzzle. It looks like the Tough-1 has better holes over the nostrils for easier breathing. If a clever donkey can’t get it off and also tolerate the contraption, then probably would work for my clever Icelandic horse.

  9. Barbara Doulyerakis

    I really enjoyed reading this, am having a huge problem with my 14 rescue donkeys eating our olive trees, they live in an olive grove, and now they have started debarking the trees !! I may have to think about muzzles :-( any ideas anyone please ??

  10. Mari

    I know of a vet who stated donkeys can subsist on sunshine and water. :) My mini Sicilian appears as though he is about to deliver twins….despite his extreme overweight, he even “tightropes” when walking….never had a problem with laminiitis, thank the good Lord. He was well overweight when I rescued him; I figured I could get him to normal weight given time. Not so…..Zeke is now about 32 years old….his advancing age has helped to remove some of his “pregnancy”. Since he is so clever, I suspect he could remove any grazing halter ever invented. Can I place a pic of Zeke on this comment?

    No… I cannot.

  11. sherie

    Norma makes me want a donkey!!! loved the pics and the Hannibal comparison! Fun article. Thanks for the smile today Dawn.

  12. Deborah Slagle

    “OH NO, not NORMA!!!” I thought, as I read the headline.
    But as I read through your entry, I realized it was more of a
    “WAY TO GO, NORMA!!!” kinda thing!!

    So happy for her, that she can safely go out with her buddies again!
    I’m sure SHE is happy about it too!

    But as I finished reading… I just couldn’t help but wonder…

    Did she give you a recipt for your grass-deposit into the Donkey-ATM?? ROFL!!

    = )

  13. savannah

    What size grazing muzzle did you buy? I have two mini donkeys (whose bellies are a far cry from mini) and I need to purchase them grazing muzzles. I noticed there are several sizes in the Tough 1 easy breathe masks. I can’t decide between the miniature size or the yearling/pony size. My donkeys are definitely larger than a mini horse. I thought since you had some size issues with yours, I could use you as a reference. Thank you.

  14. evielynne sanchez

    My husband got to your blog first and not know anything about horse was shocked and glued to the article. I had to laugh. He was like what the heck is a grazing muzzle. We need to get him on a horse farm so he can see for himself. Things have been nuts here we are just getting ready to leave for Idaho tomorrow but we have been following your blog through email reading. It amazes me the amount of awesome stuff you can come up with. Love your photos as always.

  15. Beth Schang

    both my mare (draft cross) and pony routinely wear grazing muzzles – truly is the lesser of two evils – would love to share pixs, but how?

  16. Beth

    Oh, my goodness! That was so funny, I laughed ’til I cried! Thank you for that and if I have to ever buy a grazing muzzle someday, I know it can work out and I won’t feel too bad.

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