How can I stop my horse from eating on the trail? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 06-17-2012, 07:48 AM Thread Starter
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How can I stop my horse from eating on the trail?

My horse has the bad habit of eating while riding out on the trails. I have not been as strict as I should be with him on this issue. I am now having shoulder issues due to my job and just age and noticed yesterday how often I am pulling his head up and away from all the tempting grasses out in the park. Any suggestions on how I can get him to stop this after all the years of my letting him get away with this. I know it is my fault. Can you teach and old horse new tricks? Thanks
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post #2 of 11 Old 06-17-2012, 08:04 AM
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Whenever he goes to eat, make him move his feet. Hustle, hustle, hustle, in small circles, around trees, make him back up, etc. Move those feet. Then he should associate the eating on the trail with work. Also you can try flexing his head as in a one rein stop when he goes to eat. But you have to be consistent. You cant let him get to eat one time and not the next.

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post #3 of 11 Old 06-17-2012, 08:12 AM
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Yes, he can learn. If I bought a horse that ate on the trail I would change it.
As you have a bum shoulder the easist way would be to ride with a halter on in addition to your bridle & tie his head so he can't put it down farther than you want it. When he dives his nose down he'll stop himself but you should still give a verbal correction each time. It may take a while but he'll soon give up.
This is not the safest thing to do if you ride on really big hills as he'll need his head free for riding steep hills.

The other way is to ride him forward hard whenever he starts to lower his head. Every time.

I believe there is also an anti-eating overcheck device you could buy.

Last edited by natisha; 06-17-2012 at 08:19 AM.
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post #4 of 11 Old 06-17-2012, 08:15 AM
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Start on the ground. Don't let him snatch grass when you are leading him. Growl when he tries after correcting him and then you can transfer that growl and correction to the saddle. As soon as he hears that growl after a few times of really getting after him, (I like to make them back up or do a few figure eights at the trot, or jabbing them in the side to make them turn on the forehand, etc.) then he'll quit it.

Sky doesn't dare eat while mounted. He knows I will eat him for breakfast!

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post #5 of 11 Old 06-17-2012, 11:54 AM
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Don't let him get his head down, and if he is doing this while leading him? Tap him under chin with toe of boot, at same time you tell him to quit, or get that head up.

Don't let him do this anywhere at all.

But the time to stop it, is before horse gets its head down, not after. Pay attention to what horse is thinking, and correct it by picking up on your reins, or telling horse, NO, and making it speed up some.

It shouldn't take but a couple of corrections on ground and from saddle to stop this.

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post #6 of 11 Old 06-17-2012, 01:09 PM
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When he goes to do it, give him something else to do. Speed up, turn in a circle, ect. Give him a strong "This is what I'm TELLING you to do, not asking" cue for each of these things.
If that doesn't work, carry a crop and tap him on the shoulder or neck when he goes to do it. After 3 times or so that he tries it and gets a light tap he should get the message.
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post #7 of 11 Old 06-17-2012, 01:34 PM
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What I do to my horse is just pop the bit with one rein and give them a boot when they try to eat. A one rein pop will get your horses attention fast and will be easier on your shoulder since you can use the opposite arm.
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post #8 of 11 Old 06-18-2012, 03:30 AM
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Agree with everyone regarding trying to catch it before it happens and that with consistency he'll learn. I disagree with the person that said a couple of 'corrections' should do it though(maybe if he hasn't had much experience, but he's had years of knowing this behaviour works) & I don't tend to like using strong physical punishment, such as jabbing him in the mouth with the reins or kicking him, unless it's something dangerous.

Positive reinforcement(reward) for doing the Right thing will do wonders to 'retrain' him too. While I don't like the idea of 'quick fixes' & use of gadgets, having to find answers for this behaviour with my kid's pony, with them not yet consistent or good enough with timing, or strong enough to pull his head up, I have also found that a 'grass rein' is a wonderful piece of kit! I ride in a halter, not a bit & I've found it to be perfectly effective attached to the poll of the halter, rather than conventionally to the bit.

**BTW, I don't personally have a problem with *allowing* a horse to eat on the trail, but I will not *let* them do it whenever, only when I've offered them to. However, whatever the 'manners' you personally find acceptable, considering you want to change a long standing, well reinforced behaviour, I think it will be effort enough if you're utterly consistent & I would personally disallow any grazing while ridden all together, at least until his new behaviour is reliably established.
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post #9 of 11 Old 06-18-2012, 07:03 AM
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I hope these suggestions work for you, I have a horse that still hasn't learned, even after 7 years of riding. I think the problem I have though is he has been like this from day 1 of his training. I suspect it's probably just in his nature, being a Mustang and all. I worked for months on the "put him to work every time he even thinks about grabbing a bite" with absolutely no sign of improvement, even a small one.

As cruel as it sounds, after all these years, the only thing I've found that makes him think twice is I started sticking him pretty hard with a spur every single time he tries to take a bite. Not a conventional correction...and not really a desirable one, but it's the only one that works for him. Still, though, it's not a "cure" because he still tries to grab a bite whenever he thinks I'm not paying attention.

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog:
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post #10 of 11 Old 06-18-2012, 10:57 PM
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Do you positively reinforce him for not doing it SMrobs?
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