A SPECIAL POST BY ADIVA MURPHY
Question: We’ve been doing a lot of road riding lately so the ditches and the grass is very long. We of course have some trouble keeping the horses from snacking all the way. Jenny is finding that her horse who is quite poky anyway is getting slower and likes to stop to eat. That means that she is either always pulling on his face or kicking or both. This causes him to get a little nervous because I am not sure if he knows what he is doing wrong. On our broke horses we have always just had the thought that if they could grab a bite and keep going no big deal. Is this the best answer or should we be approaching this differently. I don’t want our rides to always be a fight and when the grass is so long it is hard for them to not want to eat. Any suggestions?
Answer: Well it is pretty easy to stop it…you need to make it a rule that they are not allowed to eat at all. I am firm about this with my horses because it is annoying and I don’t want to pull on their face.
Here is what I do and recommend:
Absolutely NO eating until you reach a certain point on your rides (usually the middle) then stop get off or point them at the grass and sit for 3-5 min and let them eat. I use this as a reverse psychology ploy to have my horses work really hard because they know that at some point I will let them eat his great grass and rest. But once you are done – no more. That way it is a reward and a clear boundary is set. No eating when riding and only for the break that YOU OFFERED. Then they think you are taking them out for good grass – they just have to listen to you for 20-30min at a trot (whatever) and go down the road to this magical spot that you will find them. Again you are showing leadership – top horse in the herd takes the herd to the best grass.
Also I do not pull on the face but spank the butt. I reach back with my bare hand and spank, this usually pops the horses head up and then you ask them to go forward. If that does not work – I usually ride with a bosal if I am not in an arena – that has the lead rope or the macate reins that has the lead rope and I spank the horse from side to side (you can do that with split reins to) to drive them forward – as I hate kicking. This will surprise the horse and move them forward. Every time they try to eat I make them trot or move faster. They get really tired of eating because it equals – harder work. With a horse that has been getting away with it for awhile this will take time and your phases must be much higher…it is obvious that if he is still trying to eat, whatever you are doing to ask him not to, does not bother him enough to decide that it is not a good idea….wrong thing difficult – right thing easy.
It wont be pretty for a few rides – but give them a place were they are allowed to eat and it will be a great bonding and rewarding experience for them to NOT eat when they want. Oh and I never let them eat while leading – I will drop the line and walk away when I want them to eat but if not they are to never steal grass. That helps when riding too because they know I will not permit it if we are ‘working’.
Adiva Murphy Natural Horsemanship at: adivamurphy.com