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Grazing on the Trail, by Clinton Anderson

Anderson

If you have a horse that’s too busy eyeing  up his next meal on the trail rather than paying  attention to you, use these easy steps to put  yourself back in control.

Put His Feet to Work – A horse can only  think about one thing at  a time.   He’s either got  his attention on you or  on his next snack.   If  you’re walking down the  trail and your horse grabs  a mouthful of grass, he’s  obviously not thinking  about you.   You need to  redirect his feet and make  him hustle.   As soon as  he snatches grass, bend  him around in a circle and  kick his side with your  inside leg.   Wake him up  and get his attention back  on you.   You’re saying to  the horse, “Hey, you  don’t have time to be  eating grass because  you’re too busy listening  to me and hustling your  feet!”   After you make your  point, put the horse on a loose rein  and dare him to take another bite.   It’s  important to ride on a loose rein so  the horse can commit to the mistake.   If he wants to take a mouthful of  grass, let him.  Then wake him up and get his attention back.

Think of it like this:   You  can’t arrest somebody for standing  outside the bank with a gun.   You have  to wait until they go into the bank with  the gun and then you can arrest them.   That doesn’t mean that you let your  horse stop and graze for 20 minutes; just wait for him to reach for  the  grass and then hustle his feet.   When I say hustle his feet, I do  mean hustle his feet.   This doesn’t  work if you let the horse graze for  five minutes and then barely get  him to move.   If you let him drag his  feet, he’ll be too busy chewing on  the grass and dreaming about his  next snack to pay any attention to  you. If he grabs a mouthful, make him hustle his feet like his life depends  on it.   Do serpentines, lope him in a  circle, gallop him in a straight line,  it doesn’t matter what you do, but  get some energy to it.   Remember,  horses are basically lazy creatures  and the worst punishment you can  give them is hard work.

Squeeze, Cluck, Spank –  If your horse stops at a patch  of clover and refuses to move even  if you’re bumping him on the sides,  you need to get more aggressive.  Remember to use Squeeze, Cluck  and Spank.   Squeeze the horse with  the calves of your legs to get him to move.   If  he ignores your squeezing, cluck to him with  your tongue, “cluck,”  “cluck.”   If he still isn’t  moving, spank him with  the end of your reins or  a dressage whip.  Squeeze is politely  asking the horse to go.   Cluck is warning him  that the spank is going to  come if he continues to  ignore you. Spank is  doing whatever it takes  to get the horse’s feet  to move.   You may have  to really get after him if  he’s being disrespectful.

With horses you have to  be as easy as possible,  but as firm as necessary.  Make the wrong  thing difficult and the  right thing easy.   If making the  horse move his feet isn’t  working, try popping him  in between his ears  whenever he tries to  snatch a bite.   Use the  end of your reins or a dressage whip to tap  him firm enough so that he says, “Oh man, that  wasn’t fun.”   It’s almost like a big surprise.   Every  time he opens his mouth, something quickly  smacks him on the top of his head.   If every time he takes a bite of grass something whacks  him between the ears, he’ll eventually stop  going for the grass because he’ll be thinking that  he’s making himself feel uncomfortable.   Remember, timing is very important, you want  your horse to think that he is the one causing  the pressure between his ears not you.  Also be careful – not all horses can accept this type of training method.

Be Prepared – The best piece of advice I can give you is,  if you know your horse has a habit of eating on  the trail, don’t go walking down the trail  swapping recipes with a buddy.   Be prepared for  your horse to make the mistake, and then  make the correction.   You’ll find that if you put  the horse’s attention back on you and give him  direction, he’ll stop eating on the trail and  become an overall better trail partner.

Author’s note: A native Australian, Clinton  Anderson began his quest to become the best  horseman he could be by apprenticing under  nationally acclaimed Australian trainers Gordon  McKinlay and Ian Francis. In 1996 Clinton moved  to America to continue training horses and  apprenticed under Al Dunning, winner of  multiple AQHA World Championships, before  beginning to train under his own name.  Clinton loves training reiners and cow horses  and has been successful in both competitive  arenas.   Clinton is the host of Downunder  Horsemanship TV.   To find out more about  Clinton and how you can transform your horse  into the partner you’ve always wanted, log onto  www.downunderhorsemanship.com.

[published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 3, Issue 3.]

Grass Snatching – Not Ideal – How do you keep your horse moving on the trail?

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