How you can benefit from hand grazing in your daily training

by maxx

August 11, 2021

benefit-from-hand-grazing-in-daily-training

Today I would like to give you a few tips on how you can spontaneously go for a grazing walk on the rope with your horse-  and how you can also grow from this challenge with your horse!

Today is all about grazing “in-hand”!

What is grazing in-hand?

Some trainers will choose to lead their horses out to graze on grass while holding the lead rope.  If you choose to do this, grazing in-hand can be a powerful way to bond with your horse. 

In addition to bonding with your horse, taking your horse out for grazing in-hand can also be an incredibly effective training session in leading. 

However, this is only true if we as trainers are consistent right from the beginning. 

And as we know, horses love consistency!

The key is CONSISTENCY

I cannot highlight enough the importance of enforcing clear rules and behaviors with absolute consistency!

ESPECIALLY when it comes to feeding. 

If we are not consistently following rules around grazing from the very beginning, we quickly reach a point where the horse begins to “reward itself” by eating grass without your permission. 

Because as soon as he gets a bit of grass without permission, the action has already been worthwhile for your horse.

And the food has served as a positive reinforcer for less-than-ideal behaviour for the future.

Introduce Very Clear Signals – And Be Consistent! 

So the most important thing is to introduce a very clear signal that indicates to your horse it’s time to eat.

I do this by bending down almost to the ground and simply saying “eat”.

It is very important that your horse learns from the beginning to wait for your signal and not to just tug his head down without your permission. 

Be very consistent from the very first time, do not let your horse eat without you first signaling – otherwise you will quickly have a horse that pulls you from one tuft of grass to the next. 

In the beginning, until your horse understands your voice command, you may have to nudge him with the whip. Eventually your horse will respond with voice commands alone. 

Introduce a Signal to Pause/Stop  Grazing, Then Continue Grazing

My stop signal is (“Shhhh”), and you can create your own unique voice and body signal that indicates to your horse to pause grazing.

Likewise, you can introduce a unique signal to continue grazing. 

This can be, for example, “And on!” – the word doesn’t matter, as long as you always use the same signal over and over until your horse associates the signals with certain behaviours. 

It should only be a constant voice signal that you underline with clear body language.

Be Patient as Your Horse Learns – But Always Correct 

If your horse begins to pull or push you around, please correct every step, even the slightest shift of weight  and – if necessary – take a step back, e.g. in the arena or indoor arena, where the lush grass does not test your horse’s patience. 

Teaching your horse to graze in-hand will require you to  be patient and repetitive in your commands and behaviors. 

How to End Grazing: Liberty Work

If you remember our lessons on liberty work, you probably remember that your horse works “like a board”:

If the forehand comes to you, the hindquarters go away from you and if the forehand goes away from you, the hindquarters come to you. 

To end the grazing, you can send the hindquarters away from you and use the forehand coming towards you to “step on the gas” and go.

Friends for life!

In any case, grazing together on the rope is a real benefit for your relationship!

Because your horse (hopefully) knows this model from his everyday life:

When two horses get along really well, you often see them grazing side by side, head to head – because that connects and strengthens the friendship.

For your horse, grazing together with you is real “quality time” that you spend together.

Relaxing, letting go – just being together instead of demanding something.

This can be incredibly valuable for your relationship and your mutual trust and give your horse one more reason why it is fun to get involved with your ideas.

After all, you are bringing him to the lush green 😉 This can be really motivating for many horses!

For example, even if your horse is reluctant or just full of fear to leave the yard, a few metres to graze outside (before he goes into complete panic, please) can be a positive reinforcer that also calms him down.

Because when a horse is chewing, it can hardly be over-stimulated – because its body is signalling to it through the chewing movement that everything is fine, as you can concentrate on taking in the food.

You can also use grazing specifically for yourself – depending on what problems you and your horse have.

Grazing is actually always a positive reinforcer that you can use in a very targeted way, especially with food-motivated horses. 

In this sense, have fun enjoying time with your horse.

All the best,

Your Kenzie

Circensic Seminar by Kenzie Dysli

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