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Help! How do I get my Miniature Horse to stop eating grass and work?

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Yankee Doodle Dandy

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My horse, Oatmeal Acres Dandy's Shadow Caster, (pictured below) can't stop eating grass! Even if I take him outside (when the snow is off the ground
) with a chain, tight lead, he grabs down and eats and I've pulled him up so many times
but he never will listen. If I lounge him he completely shuts down and eats. And if I jump him, after he jumps, he stops and eats. Last year at my County Fair, in the middle of his In-Hand Trail pattern, he stopped and ate grass like, 7 times in a 3 minute pattern. Please help! He is a five year old AMHA/AMHR registered gelding, 31 inches.


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wildoak

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Assuming he gets some grazing time and isn't truly starving lol, you can work him in a muzzle for awhile to break the habit. That's a short term fix though, sounds like what he really needs is to learn to focus on what you are asking him to do. It's always easier to work where there is no grass (not a problem for us
) but if that's not an option then start with short sessions on a short lead and anticipate him. I've had a couple who were determined grazers, with them I carried a driving whip and as they tried to eat I tapped hindquarters with the whip just enough to get a response. You have to be consistent and you have to stay one step ahead of them... everytime he gets a mouthful it encourages him to try again. Start with short walks, as you are successful you can lengthen the work time and the amount of line you give them. Do gait transitions, stops, pivots, backups... things you can do on a short lead to keep him thinking. Lay some poles on the ground and walk him through mazes, give him some busy work and most important, be consistent with him.

Jan
 

targetsmom

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Our minis are mostly on dry lost (except mares & foals) and our 4-Hers are mostly young, small, and inexperienced so we have had to deal with this issue. If my husband fixed the link, the "leading" lesson in the 4-H section of our website explains what we teach. They need to let the horse know who is in charge, and just pulling when they get their head down won't work. A sharp tug, a chain under the chin, and circling the mini so he can't eat are what we suggest. We also suggest that as they get to the grass, they take up on the lead and give a little tug just to remind them not to try anything. We also teach them that everything you do with the minis is training!!!! We had one of ours (Cowboy, who is not usually used with the 4-Hers) get away from someone in the backyard where we had set up a trail course. I caught him, immediately gave a tug on the lead chain that was under his chin and pointed out I was NOT being abusive but getting his attention and respect. I quietly led him to the next trail obstacle which he performed perfectly. I hope they got the lesson. (BTW, I am a senior citizen that weights about 100 pounds, so if I can do it, they can).

We also start everyone working in the dry lot so they get used to handling the minis without the temptation of grass. If all else fails, we suggest that they ask an older member or adult for help so the minis don't develop bad habits. As you are discovering, once they develop this habit it will be hard to break.
 

chandab

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Is he worked before his breakfast? Perhaps making sure he at least has a light meal before working will help.
 

Minimor

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Yes, make sure he is not hungry when you take him out to work with him. You cannot expect a hungry horse to focus on anything but food.

When he goes to lower his head do not pull him up--he just pulls back. Give him a short sharp tug so the chain gives him a little snap in the jaw--that is the best way to get his attention.
 

Marsha Cassada

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Sounds like my hard-headed guy. I started him off incorrectly, treating him as a pet, and he learned to disrespect me. That is a hard habit to break--for both of us.

One thing I learned with my brain but never totally LEARNED until lately is the pressure/reward lesson. When I am walking mine, he likes to tow me down the road. If I put pressure, then release when he gives just a teeny bit, pressure, release, I find that he soon walks nicely beside me. That might work for your boy also. It takes a lot of focus on my part and paying attention to him.

Use a whip when you work to cue his hind quarters. If he reaches down to snatch, give a quick jerk and a tapping cue with the whip on his hind.

It is basically a lack of respect. Very very hard to UNtrain. I learned my lesson on my boy--he was my first-- and never allow any horses I'm working with now to graze while we're working.
 

dannigirl

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I never allow a horse to eat while he is standing, walking or working on grass while on a lead. If one does get started, he soon learns it is not ok because I will lightly tap under his chin while I firmly say "head up". I don't tap nearly hard enough to hurt, just to get attention. The words are what I want them to remember and when any of them even start to drop their heads, I will firmly say "head up' and they will snap it up. I realize that they may be hungry or bored, but a bad habit is hard to break so once it is broken you need to keep after him to keep him from doing it again. Unfortunately, it is as hard for them to stop their habits as it is for us to stop our bad habits.
 
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Yankee Doodle Dandy

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He is fed from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM when I take him out. He grazes during those times. Thanks for the info ;) Anybody else?
 

HGFarm

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So you are taking him out to work when it's actually his only feeding time? I would not try to work a horse during feeding time. I feed mine in the a.m. and then in the p.m. (we have no grazing here). When it's time to work they are to pay attention, and learn they are not in charge. If this is during his only time to eat, I would be grabbing mouthfuls of grass too as he is probably pretty hungry.
 

Carolyn R

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Allow him his time to eat, graze, play, whatever, but sorry to say, he is playing you. IMHO.

They will not break, and contrary to popular belief, a firm slap with a crop against the chest with a sharp NO is not abuse. I will be honest, I had a huge issue pittying my gypsy vanner mare due to her impaired vision (eye injury, lost left eye). I loved on her, and pampered her, got up and personal braiding her long locks, hard to resist on a gypsy mare. Anyhow, she got very up close and personal,and obnoxious when it came to being pushy, whether it was not wanting to stand still or pulling me into the grass to eat. She went out for training and the trainer had no part of it, showed me how to correct it and she has been great ever since, I just need to remember to do my fair share which means not tolerating it at all. That means no hand grazing on a lead in everyday normal life.

The two things that helped most getting her attention be it by stomping towards her while commanding her to back back back, sometimes using a whip on the ground to get her attention, sometimes just by letting the lead smack towards her chest/knees!sometimes a whack on ger chest with the handle of the whip. The other thing that worked, staying at the center point and making her do circles around me by going towards her rump with the lead or whip, sometimes bopping her on the rump with the rubber handle on the whip. Remember, you are the pivoting center, he is to circle around you, not make you chase him or gently walk him in circles. If he slows down or tries to stop, work at focusing at the hip and making him move it out and away from you, you may need to bop him with the lunge whip. Remember, getting his attention like this is not cruel, it is showing him you are gaining your rightful position as the alpha horse. Take a look at horses establishing rank, they kick, they bite, they rear, trust me, a smack to gain attention is nothing compared to what they do to one another.

While at training, my girl did not get to go out and run and play. When she came out, she worked, and worked hard for an hour or two,cooled down, was hosed down, and allowed to relax in her stall. If she was eating hay, she had to leave it to workout.

All big horse training correlates the same to the little guys. I think we as owners, have a bigger issue disciplining the little ones, we see them as fragile, or easily intimidated, or just so darn sweet and fluffy we think we need to get down and talk to them like our dogs or make baby talk to them (I am guilty of this) truth is, their brain is wired the same way as a full sized horse, all we are most likely doing is creating or adding to their behavioral issues. Nothing wrong with loving on them, but when that lead is on, it is time to pay attention.

Wanted to add, once I got past pittying my girl, she has turned out to be one of the best darn riding horses I have ever owned. She was trained six months after she lost her eye, she coped exceptionally well with the loss and was ready to have a job.
 
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Field-of-Dreams

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He's got your number and needs a major attitude adjustment.

It's going to sound mean, but I've popped mine in the back of the jaw with my foot when they do this. Not hard enough to cause damage, but hard enough to get their attention, for sure. When his head comes up, back back back that guy right up. Then try again, what ever you were doing. You are punishing him for not listening to you. Make him think he's gonna die. And KEEP working him until he does exactly what you want without attempting to put his head down. If you have to, put a cavesson or muzzle on him so he cannot eat.

And while you are correcting this problem, you can never let him eat on a lead. NEVER. A lead means work and listen to you. Once you have him going they way you want and he listens every time, then you can try, but he can fall right back really fast.
 

Yankee Doodle Dandy

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Oops, lol I meant he grazes at 11:00 am to 4:00 pm then when he comes in I take him out
I was typing fast and forgot how to word that
 

Yankee Doodle Dandy

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Carolyn R. and Field-Of-Dreams, I'm going to try that. And Field-Of-Dreams, my Mom does that to my Quarter Horse Gelding, and I was going to, but I didn't know if it would hurt him since minis are so small and fragile, thanks for the info!
 

HGFarm

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Ah, now I understand. LOL, Minis are small but they are easily spoiled. Dont allow anything to happen that you dont allow the big horse to do. Minis are not has 'fragile' as you think. Manners are manners, regardless of size. Good luck and keep working at it... you'll come to an understanding.
 

dannigirl

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I also don't go with the certain feeding time idea. Yes, they know when it is feeding time, but mine know that time on a lead is my time--any time of day or night. No yanking or grazing or even fighting to get to their stall and feed bowl. It does take a firm hand and consistency.

Oh, and yea, they are not frigile. Like any other animal, large or small, they are a lot stronger than they look--unless they are sick or something like that.
 

Renolizzie

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My little guy tries that. I have had to train myself to be consistent. No reaching for grass while on the lead. I don't gank on his lead but I do pull up and say "Head up" He is doing much better.
 

Rhondaalaska

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Just keep working on it. And have your mom help you.

Remember to work on respect at all times.

And treat him as you would a big horse.
 

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