I recently bought one for my donkey, Josie. She is the sweetest donkey in the entire world, pushing twenty years old, and I’ve owned her for nine years. I love her to pieces.
Last year, Josie suffered an unexpected bout of laminitis. Her pain and lameness were so severe, and continued for so long, that we even considered putting her down. But after several months of treatment, she very gradually got better, and is now (hallelujah) moving soundly. She was even playfully galloping around the pasture the other day.
Josie has always been on a grass hay and pasture diet, but I am assuming the laminitis was caused from years of having free access to pasture (which never seemed to give her any problems before.) The timing of the laminitis issue was puzzling, though, because her symptoms appeared at the end of a long hot summer, when all of our grass was dried up. But since lush pasture is the most common cause of founder/laminitis, I’m determined not to ever let it happen again, if there is anything I can possibly do about it.
So I am practicing tough love. At the beginning of March, (about a month earlier than predicted due to an early spring here in the Northwest) we fenced Josie off the pasture and built her a nice size corral, still with access to the barn. Here she will live (eating only grass hay) until the pasture becomes less lush and dangerous for the year, maybe around the end of June or possibly July. And I bought her a grazing muzzle, (which should only allow her to eat tiny amounts of grass) so that she can be turned out in the pasture from time to time, for exercise and access to her favorite rolling spots and a little social time with her buddy, my horse. Sounds like an ideal arrangement to me (but of course not to Josie.)
The instructions for the grazing muzzle say it should have one to two fingers of clearance all around the muzzle area, and be adjusted so there is a ½ to 1 inch space at the bottom. It appears to fit her well. Supposedly, she will learn to eat small amounts with it, grabbed through the small hole in the rubber bottom.
But here’s what happens when I fasten the grazing muzzle on Josie. She just stands there and stares at me with those big soulful eyes. She looks at me like I have rocks in my head. As if, why (since I love her) would I subject her to this weird form of bondage/torture device? Then she begins breathing heavily – a sound somewhere between Darth Vader and a dying rhinoceros.
I ignore Josie’s complaints and shoo her into the pasture. She puts her head down a little as if to graze, but can’t seem to figure out what to do. She ends up just standing in one place looking miserable, until after awhile I go and bring her back into her corral, where I can take the grazing muzzle off. I have been attempting this routine for about a week, leaving this contraption on for gradually longer and longer periods of up to almost two hours, and it doesn’t appear as if we are making any headway. Maybe she will just have to stay in the corral by herself after all, unless I take her out for a walk.
So my question for you, dear readers, is this: have any of you used a grazing muzzle successfully? (Or unsuccessfully?) How long did it take before your animal figured it out? I am trying so hard to do the right thing for this animal that I love, but I’m not sure if this method is working.
Also, a reminder - there is still time to enter two different contests for horse books over at my other blog www.lindabenson.blogspot.com/ Look for the posts dated Feb. 26th and March 1st.
Thanks in advance for your comments and/or advice on this grazing muzzle dilemma!