Some horses simply don’t know when to stop eating and will graze with startling rapidity. Even with pellets, certain horses are just not able to control the speed at which they eat. When a horse consumes a lot of food very quickly, this can cause plenty of health problems. One of the biggest risks associated with rapid-eating is choking, which can be very damaging in the worst cases. Some owners make use of muzzles to help their horses graze more slowly and control their intake. A group of researchers recently wondered whether or not the same technique could be used to help horses who eat huge quantities of pellets in short amounts of time.
The researchers’ study, led by Doctor Erin Venable, decided to investigate the use of muzzles on horses who put their bodies at risk by eating pelleted meals very quickly. Choking can be extremely dangerous and is a big concern for countless horse owners. It’s important to understand that choking in horses is not the same thing as choking in humans. For humans, the problem can be fatal as it causes a blockage in the trachea, preventing someone from breathing. In horses, choking simply occurs when the esophagus is blocked. This can make it hard or even impossible for the animal to swallow, and can also cause internal damage to the esophageal wall. Choking horses usually require veterinary care.
Venable and other scientists working at Southern Illinois University recently decided to look at the rates at which horses are able to consume pellets with and without muzzles. They used the same type of food to keep the experiment fair, and they also tested out two different brands of muzzle. One brand, the Easy Breathe Grazing Muzzle (EBGM), allows the horse to eat via quite a sizeable hole, while the second brand, the Tough 1 Nylon Grazing Muzzle (TNGM), has a smaller hole. The research team ran their experiment on eight different horses. They also went to great care to ensure that their results were reliable. For example, they had to use the exact same weight of pellets for each session and note down any spillages.
The results of the study were particularly interesting. The team found that the muzzles were effective at slowing down the rates of consumption of each horse. However, the horses were actually able to adapt over time to wearing the TNGM. In fact, by the latter sessions of the study, horses wearing that muzzle were eating at the same rate as they would without any muzzle at all. Those who wore the EBGM muzzle ate at a slower rate than normal for the duration of the experiment, but they did accidentally cause more spillages as they tried to eat. Overall, this study helps to show that a horse’s health can be protected through the use of a muzzle, but it’s important for owners to choose the most effective brand for the job.
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