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How to deal with trail ride graze-a-thon?

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  • How to deal with trail ride graze-a-thon?

    I've got a young, green horse with great ground work who's just starting under saddle (he's 4 this summer). We don't have an arena - just a small round pen - so getting mileage on him requires going cross-country (which is nice anyway as we have unlimited access to fabulous countryside). I've also got two totally blown-apart rotator cuffs, so I'm not strong. This horse is great out on the trail - no spooks, pretty brave, crosses water without a blink - but he wants to eat, and I'm not strong enough to keep yanking his head up for more than a few miles without starting to feel like a little kid on a naughty pony on the verge of tears. Any ideas, other than carrying a crop and whapping him? I'm reluctant to do too much of that as he's likely to just get pissed and cranky.

  • #2
    How about using anti-grazing reins?



    You can easily make your own out of twine/rope.

    D-ring savers are a good idea if you go this route:



    • Original Poster

      Thanks - I love that they sell them as pony devices, because that's what I've got - a small but powerful package.


      • #4
        I encourage my horses to graze on the trail but only when I give them rein and let them. The Arab mare has been great about it from day 1 but the QH mare was more spoiled about it. I ended up carrying a dressage whip and when she'd jerk the reins away to plunge her head down in the grass, I grabbed mane, and whalloped her HARD with the whip. About 2 or 3 repeats of that and she never tried it again.

        On a young, green horse, I'd make the whallop a little less hearty so as not to startle the poor beast into bolting and galloping. It's NOT worth getting hurt or killed over!!!!! (Live to ride another day )But maybe a tap on the shoulder with a good leg aid that says MOVE ON. Not enough to terrify the horse but just to get his attention.

        I don't like gadgets and training shortcuts because if you're going to ride trails you need a horse that respects the rider's cues and aids. If you don't have that, you can get into trouble really fast.


        • #5
          Another option is to bridge your reins. This is what I usually do with my gelding when we're stopped or going through long grass. If he tries to put his head down he bumps himself and I don't have to yank on him.

          Two handed bridge:

          One handed bridge:


          • #6
            Actually the D-ring savers made me think of another alternative. When I ride english I always have a grab strap attached to D-ring savers. In a case like your horse you can hold the reins and also hold the grab strap, at least in one hand, or in combination with bridging the reins. It will give you some extra support when he dives, rather than the full force hitting your injured shoulders.

            But given your injury, I think the daisy rein might be a useful assistance in the short term. However, he may quickly be able to figure out when it is on or not, and revert. Or he might be compromised if he stumbles or otherwise needs to get his head down for balance, so if you can find a less fixed method, that's probably better.


            • #7
              Grazing while moving is, IMO, a bad habit to encourage. Control with the hand is the first thought, but why must it be the last? Add the leg and you send the "don't do that!" message loud and clear.

              Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


              • #8
                I am working on training mine to understand that I will give them grazing breaks and tell them when it's okay. I can usually tell when they are thinking about ducking down for a mouthful and goose them a little to keep 'em moving forward. If they snatch the reins from me they get whapped. They are getting better. I take some long rides and try to be sensitive to the fact that they get hungry out there. On little short rides around the place, no grazing is allowed, I know and they know they arent going to starve. I do tolerate them snatching a mouthful if they can do it while moving forward and not peanut rolling--we got us some long, tall grass here, especially this year.


                • #9
                  If he has his head down you're already too late. You're missing your opportunities to stop him before he even thinks about bogging his head. Watch his ears, watch his demeanor-he selects a good bite to eat strides away and that is when you need to take up a slight pressure, guide him away from the bite, teach him a little side-pass routine, or just get ready to tuck his nose away with one hand at the slightest effort on his part to go for the bite. Guide his feet and keep his head in the game, he should not have enough time on his hands to start a graze-a-thon. Stop for a minute, mark a point ahead on the trail, and know that you are going to keep him so busy thinking about his feet from here to there he won't have time to get hungry. You don't have to be strong-you just have to ramp up your timing and start outsmarting him. Once you start anticipating his moves and stopping the behavior before it's fully formed he will stop trying.
                  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                  • #10
                    I had to make sure you hadn't stumbled on my long dead lovely little mustang mare. She was a perfect little horse to put the newbies and guests on while trail riding as she would just plod along happily with whomever. However she was very curious and liked to 'wander' around the trail. From behind she looked like she was going wherever she pleased since she was. She was also horrid about trail grazing as we called it. A sharp "Wyoming!" would get her to knock it off but we encouraged bridging the reins for most people. Haven't thought about her in years! When she lagged behind or the person on her got a little scared we would just call for her and she would floaty trot back up with the group.
                    Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
                    Originally Posted by alicen:
                    What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.


                    • #11
                      It also helps to work them whenever they grab for grass. I have a very persistent horse and he'll be grabbing for more as we do circles if we are in taller grass, but then we do something else as well. Sometimes this is difficult to do on narrow trails too.


                      • #12
                        My pony was bad about this when I first started him on the trails. He would also dive for anything green whenever he saw it, whether we were leading, riding, or ground driving. I finally institued a very strict "no grazing" policy whenever he was in any way attached to a human. That means no grazing when being led or anything else.

                        After a month of this, he quit trying it under saddle too. Now, I have a polite horse that leads or rides through even tall grass without snacking. It's only recently that I've begun allowing him to snack on the trail, but it is a very distinct cue that I am using. I walk him into a grassy area, throw my reins away and hang onto the buckle, and tell him "ok". When I decide snack time is over, I pull up on one rein, and ask him to move on. So far, this hasn't caused the grass diving to reappear. I am careful not do it TOO often right now, and I have hopes that this will work. I still don't allow grazing when leading or ground driving. If I want to "hand graze" him, I throw the lead rope over his back. If in someplace other than home, I use two ropes, one over his back, one I hang on to.


                        • #13
                          The Dorito Theory

                          Ahh yes, the Dorito Theory. If you wandered through a field of Dorito's at your mouth could YOU walk on and not snatch or try to snatch some with your mouth??

                          Anyway, what we do is MOVE THOSE FEET. Any time the horse even thinks of that next mouthful we ask for more - more forward, a turn, a stop, whatever it takes to keep his attention on you and not the buffet table there.

                          The rule is MOVE THOSE FEET. Wrong behavior results in WORK. Adn I don't mean a ho-hum yeah, turning what-ever. I mean a "YES MA'AM my feets are MOVING" response.

                          This means YOU have to be alert and not thinking of dinner, work, school, what you have to do.....YOU have to be on the ball to keep your horse alert.

                          hey he gets 23 hours a day to eat, sleep, be a horse. For your ride, you are the CARNIVORE he is LUNCH.

                          MOVE THOSE FEETS!

                          (In other words - I am not blaming/fixing the horse - I am blaming and fixing YOU - wake up up there passenger! RIDE your horse!)
                          Crayola posse ~ Lazer Lemon yellow
                          Take time to give...it is too short a day to be selfish. - Ben Franklin


                          • Original Poster


                            Thanks for your suggestions - particularly the rein-bridging ones. That's something that had gone missing from my brain for the last 40 years or so.

                            The solution turned out to be ..... a bit. I was riding him with just a halter and reins. I had an old rubber straight bit that turns out to completely solve the problem - he eats when I tell him he can, and it takes the merest tension to deter him when I don't want him to.

                            Damn good thing he's a Nokota, or I might need real skills to train him!