Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Eastern Montana
• Horses: 0
The only way to really fix this is to end the urge or desire to eat on the trail. The only way I have found to do this is to make it undesirable to reach down for a bite.
My daughters horse was bad but the worst horses I have ridden for this are outfitters horses who are ridden by guests who don't know any better. I guide wilderness photo packtrips in the summer and nearly everyone of the horses I ride tries to eat to some extent on the trail. It can get dangersous as the horse spends more time looking for a bite and not paying attention where his feet are going. I almost fell off a cliff on a mare who jerked her head around to get a bite and nearly fell of the edge of the trail into the river!
None of the horses I ride on packtrips do this by the end of the trip (although I have had to fix the same horse every year as the next guest lets them eat) and the way I fix it is to use the long end of your split reins, end of your mecate or use a lead rope tied to the horn, preferably with a leather popper at the end. When they reach down for a bite, grab the saddle horn (in case they do something stupid) and take the rein and pop them between the ears. I don't use the neck as sometimes they see if coming and will shy or spook. It is important that they don't see it coming...kind of like "I went to take a bite and something bit me on the top of the head." Everytime they go down, they get popped. It is important that you be consistent. Sometimes on the first few times they may jump a little (that's whiy you grab the horn) but if you do it with enough sting, they typically only do it a few times.
The first day it may take several cracks and they get better and then the next day you may have to start all over again. Usually by the end of day two on a packtrip they have lost all desire to graze on the trail. My rule on packtrips / trail rides is "If I am sitting on you, you pay attention and don't eat. When I am on the ground you may graze". As someone mentioned it is important to allow them some food on a long ride and we usually stop every 2-3 hours, stretch our legs, let them graze and then resume. Also, too when you pop them with the rope / reins, you are not trying to drop them to their knees, just enough of a crack to be uncomfortable and to not want to do it again. This is actually a tip from Clinton Anderson and it is the only thing I have tried that is pretty much workable everytime. Also note that if you are nose to butt on a trail and you decide to spur them or crack their butt instead, you may cause a wreck by them jumping into the horse in front of them. Between the ears is the best spot.