A nosebag is a bag which is designed to be filled with feed and fitted over the mouth and nose of an animal such a horse, allowing the animal to eat a small meal. While nosebags are most classically seen on horses and ponies, they can potentially be used on any animal with a similar facial structure. This basic piece of equine equipment is available at most feed stores and tack shops, and some horse owners improvise their own; nosebags are used by everyone from mounted representatives of the US Forest Service to equestrian athletes who compete in the Olympic Games.
The advantage to a nosebag is that it can be used anywhere, allowing horses to be fed outside of their stalls, for example. Nosebags were classically carried along on trips, so that if there was a break, the horses could be fed with some fresh grain. The use of a nosebag can also prevent a horse from scattering grain, which can be useful when dealing with messy equines who enjoy making a splash during feeding time.
Veterinarians sometimes recommend the use of a nosebag when feeding supplements and medications, to ensure that the horse eats every bite, and to prevent other horses from nosing in. In mixed herds, feedbags can be used to control feedings, allowing people to keep track of how much individual animals are eating, and preventing hungry or greedy horses from pushing their neighbors away from the grain bucket or trough.
You may also hear a nosebag called a “feedbag,” an obvious reference to its intended use. A classical nosebag is made from a sturdy material like canvas or nylon, sewn into a cylinder which is open on one end, allowing the animal to stick its nose into the bag. It is not uncommon for a nosebag to include ventilation, so that the animal can breathe easily as it eats. The nosebag is attached with a strap which can run over the head, or snap onto a bridle or halter.
A good feedbag should have a breakaway clip or strap, in case the animal gets into trouble. Breakaway nosebags are designed to snap off if they get trapped or snagged in something, so that they do not suffocate or choke the horse, and they can also be pulled away quickly if a human notices that the wearer of the nosebag appears to be having difficulties.