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grazing while on the trail

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  • grazing while on the trail

    Hacking out with a friend last week, she was letting her horse graze from the trees and brush along the trail. At the same time I have been working hard to teach my horse that this is not done. She said that the long distance riders allowed their horses to graze. Is this so? I am not a distance rider and feel that that my horse can give his attention to the job for the hour a day that we ride.
    We are both professional riders so its not a lack of riding ability.

    It fact I was telling her about a new trick to keep my horse from picking at the bushes. I used a balance rein or savy string what ever you want to call it and when he would reach for a limb I gave it a quick pull 2 times and he quit. Did not try at all today

  • #2
    I consider myself a distance/endurance rider and I always let mine grab a bite and go, or I stop and graze them. I've dealt with ulcers and know how important it is to keep roughage on the gut. I ride in a hackamore alot to encourage eating and drinking along the trail.

    That said, if I am working, no they can't stop and eat. I don't think your horse will die if it doesn't eat for an hr. I ride for a minimal 4+ hrs and think it's important to keep the guts moving in my situation.


    • #3
      On a longer trail ride, grazing and grabbing a few bites to eat when ever possible is crucial. Grass/trees are a great way for horses to get hydrated, and it also keeps their digestive and bowl tract moving fluidly.
      A few bites to eat is a great pick me up for a horse if they are low on energy between holds, and many endurance and long distance riders love a hungry horse. I have competed a few horses that if asked would act as vacuum cleaners, trotting and grabbing bites of long grass along the way.
      Now, this would not be a trick I would want my trail, event or foxhunting horse to learn. I teach my horse when it is ok to eat(most of the time) but how to be respectful about it- no turning around or moving your head to grab a bite. If the food is right in front of his face he can grab it, if not he will wait until I give him the opportunity.
      If your not going out for hours at a time, this skill is not entirely necessary. But it can be a helpful tool to tell how the horse is doing in relation to the amount of grass he is eating/wanting.


      • #4
        We trail ride, but we do long rides. I let my horses grab and go (we call it fast food, or take out). They know that they can eat if I let them, but if I bump the reins, the answer is no. I find that my horses are very respectful of those boundaries. I ride with a lot of people who won't let their horses eat, and think it is horrible manners that I allow it with mine. I just point out that I don't have to fight mine to get them to go, ever. They are always willing and forward and happy to go riding. I think part of that is because it is also a fun experience for them. I also ride bitless, which does make it easier for them to eat and drink, and also for when we stop and tie for our own lunch breaks.


        • #5
          My horse is respectful I dont care if he grabs a mouthful when walking thru tall grass. If he keeps his pace and does not pull on my hands, it's fine.

          I will let him graze by telling "OK", then when it is time to move on, I tell him, "last bite", after he gets one more mouthful, I hold the reins, and urge him forward, and say "let's go".

          So, I do both. I trail ride w/an upper level dressage rider, who wont let her horse eat while she is on him. We hardly ride for more than 2 hours, so it isnt a big deal. When riding w/her, I dont let my horse eat, out of respect of her. We do a lot of fast rides, so really, we stay busy that there isnt much time for eating.

          I do longer rides, either solo or w/other people, and I do let him either grab and go, or let him graze for awhile.

          Usually, he is very good, but there are times he does test me. Last spring was really wet, so he wasnt out on grass for awhile. When I would ride him, the grass would be almost too much for him to resist. If he did pull the reins hard, he lost his grazing time for awhile. If he was good after I corrected him, i would just stop and let him graze for a few minutes as his reward.

          So, I dont have a black and white rule, it just depends. I do NOT like when a horse pulls the reins or stops his pace to eat, that is just rude!! There is a happy medium where the horse and rider can decide on when eating is ok. Some people dont allow it at all.

          Endurance people do want their horses to eat and drink. It helps w/gut sounds and hydration. In Endurance, you pace yourself so you allow time for your horses to relax and cool down. During those breaks, you want your horse to graze. Normally, it is not usually trotting the entire ride.
          Riding is NOT meant as an inside sport, GET out of that arena!!!


          • #6
            endurance horses are taught to eat and drink whenever the opportunity arises. that said - most riders will teach their horse to recognize when that is permitted, simply by being consistent about when eating is permitted. Same as most endurance horses are taught to urinate on command as well (whole nother subject!)

            Mine are are allowed to snatch bites at a walk, walking is their down time. Grass is good- contains water/fiber for gut motility, hydration etc etc

            If I stop on the trail, they immediately eat, or drink, given whatever is on the ground in front of them.

            Once we pick up the pace from a walk, they know it's back to covering ground time, not eating/drinking time.
            Originally posted by ExJumper
            Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.


            • #7
              I don't think it should matter as long as he doesn't change speed or start pulling on the reins. It would be a good thing to keep a little food in the stomach, long-distance or not.

              If it bothers you so much, why not teach "eat now" and "don't eat" commands? Once taught, you could then use the "eat now" invitation to munch as a reward when he does something good.

              Should your friend let her horse eat? Sure why not? It's her horse, so it shouldn't matter to you what she lets him do as long as it's not a safety issue.
              Veterinarians for Equine Welfare


              • #8
                My boy goes bitless on the trail, my rule on eating is that he's allowed to grab whatever he wants provided that he doesn't break whatever gait I've asked for. My husband won't let his boys eat *at all* on the trail, but their job is primarily barrels and some slow trail rides. My boy's job is primarily endurance, but we also foxhunt and do a zillion other things as they strike my fancy. He trots along with stuff dangling out of his mouth for 75% of the ride if we're trail riding or on the endurance trail. If we're foxhunting or something where its inappropriate to eat, he won't. I don't know, he seems to somehow know the difference between when its acceptable and when it isn't.


                • #9
                  We do 10-20 mile days in the wilderness-ours are allowed to eat all they want as long as it doesn't impede progress.
                  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                  • #10
                    It's not the same thing, but I was out cross country schooling my chicken of a horse at the time. He refused several times, then jumped huge and landed bucking. I lost my reins and my stick and he got his head down low enough to come up with a mouthful of the 18 inch grass at a canter/buck. My friends seemed to find it amusing.


                    • #11
                      I'm pretty much the same as the other posters. We do endurance so our horses must eat and we have some rides where we work on encouraging more eating on the trail. Mine never grab on the go but when we find good patches of grass they get permission to eat and go to town on it.


                      • #12
                        I like to say "it's a drive through, not a sit down restaurant." They can eat as long as they don't break their current pace. When we get to a really grassy area I will often stop for a minute or two and let them tank up on grass; otherwise they can pretty much eat whatever they can grab.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by KarenC View Post
                          I like to say "it's a drive through, not a sit down restaurant."
                          I love that, it's a great way of putting it.

                          I'm with everyone else, mine are allowed to eat so long as they don't break gait or pull on me or whatever. It's a good quality in a distance horse or even if you go on long trail rides regularly--1-2 hours is fine but I ride out for 5+ hours pretty frequently (and often longer than that) and I want my horses eating when we go out that long. Since the horse doesn't know whether we're going on a 1 hour ride or a 12 hour one, I let them eat whenever we go out. Since they learn they can't break gait or pull on me, it isn't an issue when I'm schooling on the trail either--if I'm riding with contact and on the bit, they can't really eat without being rude anyway.
                          exploring the relationship between horse and human


                          • #14
                            i let my girls eat as we go, mostly because they choose plants they don't have access to in their paddocks. i know mallow and raspberry are good for the gut, willow is natural aspirin, etc.
                            by watching what they choose i can get an idea of how they're feeling, and i know the variety is very good for them.
                            i do make them pay better attention during techincal climbs or whatever, though if they're grazing while trotting up a hill i know they can't be working too hard!


                            • #15
                              I just wanted to thank you guys for this thread! I'm a hunter rider, and Max and I have just started going for longer rides around the property where we board/train. It has just started to get hot, and we go for 10-20 minute walks after our 30-45 minute lessons.

                              He is too well mannered to let me know if he wants to graze, so when we come to a really great green patch I have been lengthening the reins to say "go for it!" As soon as I pick the reins back up, he goes back to business. It only took doing this 2-3 times on a long walk and he totally has it figured out now.

                              He knows Grab & Go is fine, or if I drop the reins he can stop and have an extended chow, but as soon as I pick them up it is time to go.

                              Aren't horses great?
                              "Look, I'm trying not to test the durability of the arena with my face!" (Because only GM can do that.)


                              • #16
                                I have distinct commands for mine- on all day rides they do get periodic buffets but on short rides, as in less than a couple of hours, typically not, unless I have to stop for a few while someone adjusts tack or something. When halted they are given the okay via rein hand on neck in front of saddle and a verbal 'ok.' Mind you, they do 'grab and go' in some places where it's pretty hard to avoid given tall grass or overgrown trails- but they know I know they know. I don't encourage it because under the give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile theory, I would not want them taking advantage of a less experienced guest rider. But on half day to all day rides or overnighters, yes, often enough the bridle comes off and the hobbles go on and they get a pretty substantial snack.


                                • #17
                                  Same as others have said. Snacking is permissible as long as they do not stop or make a big issue about getting a bite. I see this as them taking care of themselves.

                                  I can tell my horse is hungry when they start eating on the trail. I usually carry a large ziplock in my saddle packs of food. I carry different foods. Beet pulp, carrots, apples, grain - I have a soy sensitive horse so this horse doesn't eat grain), timothy pellets, or a mix or the above. Depending on the ride, I may sprinkle with salt, or powdered e'lytes. They eat right out of the ziplock bag either by me holding it or setting the bag on the ground.

                                  Sometimes there is no food for them to eat on the trail, and you know they need to eat at times, so I take food with me. I can add a bit of water to the bag if I want. I usually do not. I like them to have a snack, and then move on. I can save the feed for the next ride if it has had no water on it.

                                  I also see munching on the trail as the horse is comfortable being on that trail. For a nervous horse it can soothe them to have a bite of grass here and there, or maybe a tree leaf. We snack on the trail, why shouldn't they snack?


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by percheron View Post
                                    Hacking out with a friend last week, she was letting her horse graze from the trees and brush along the trail. At the same time I have been working hard to teach my horse that this is not done. She said that the long distance riders allowed their horses to graze. Is this so? I am not a distance rider and feel that that my horse can give his attention to the job for the hour a day that we ride.
                                    We are both professional riders so its not a lack of riding ability.

                                    It fact I was telling her about a new trick to keep my horse from picking at the bushes. I used a balance rein or savy string what ever you want to call it and when he would reach for a limb I gave it a quick pull 2 times and he quit. Did not try at all today
                                    Yes, Endurance riders allow their horses to eat on the trail. But they are going long distances for many hours.

                                    I ride with a friend that does endurance. When we are out for a nice ride for an hour or so she doesn't allow her horse to snack. She says that is rude to other riders, and he doesn't need it for the small amount of time she is riding the trail with me.

                                    Simply feed your horse before you go, and keep his head and mind on the trail.


                                    • #19
                                      like many of the others, I let mine grab a snack, dont mind as long as they arent taking advantage and slowing the ride down to a crawl. When we stop specifically to let them have a little graze I will tell them ok and give them some rein, then let them know when its time to move on. I also give mine treats from time to time during a ride, usually as a reward when they've done something brilliant.

                                      Mine are on pasture 24/7/365 and I DONT let them graze for the first half hour or so of a ride. They can handle it.


                                      • #20
                                        When we go trail riding with friends, I do let my horse graze but only when we stop. I've never liked a grab-and-go approach because it becomes a never ending distraction. But we are casual riders, not Endurance, where it's timed and the horses need the energy.

                                        And when your horse has it's head below it's heart, it helps lower his heartbeat, and relax too. So I also allow some mental-break graze time at horse shows before he enters the ring, and when he is wound up and spooky on the trail - to help him relax.