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My Join-Up® Experience

Eating while doing groundwork

Please upload your photo 100 lessons completed
I have recently acquired a new horse whom I have had for about 2 months. I have been focusing on ground work and getting to know her as she hasn't been ridden for about 4 years. I have been having great success with her, lots of licking and chewing, yawning etc. I have recently been taking her out and walking her in hand around some paddocks on our farm. She has been great apart from the temptation to eat grass. She is always wanting to stop and eat grass and I have been trying to discourage this by getting her feet moving by getting her to go backwards then forwards etc. I also have been trying to make things interesting by mixing things up and so she has to think. Although, this doesn't at all seem to be helping the situation as now she will very quickly put her head down and get some grass and then start trotting forwards. I'm just wondering if anyone can help me or has any ideas on what to do as I don't know how to stop this. I think she understands that eating while we are out and walking together isn't acceptable behavior but she does it very quickly and then trots forwards as she understands that there are consequences. I understand that it is very tempting but I have also been told that if her mind is focused on the grass, she won't be paying any attention to me. Just wondering what your thoughts are and if you can offer any help.
Thank you,
Kicki -- Sweden
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Oh boy! Did I have a tug-of-war with Nalle over this issue - mainly when we were out in the long lines. He was swift as lightning and strong as an ox once he got his head down. 

The only ways I could keep him from nipping at whatever edible thing we passed was to either catch him  before he acted on the thought, which wasn't easy since I am short and rarely got the chance to see his front end as I seldom had enough space on the track to walk anywhere but straight behind him.  Or keep him constantly occupied and concentrated on me, which was quite exhausting mentally (for me!) and one single lapse and he would take the chance, so I didn't get him off the behavior, I just kept him from doing it temporarily. 

Also, he was so (refraining from writing an invective here) smart that he soon learned to  anticipate me getting quicker, so he developed even more swiftness in the act - and so the spiral went on and on.

I was recommended a leather strap going from saddle/surcingle to neckband to stop him from getting his head down but I never got around to trying that.

I think it is key to teach the horse not to do this from the very first time you start leading it and maybe be very careful with things like going for a walk and grazing at the same time until you are certain your horse can distinguish between work and leisure time. 
That said, I know I didn't let Nalle stop and eat etc when I started with him. It was something he taught himself when he was about three years old and we started driving (on foot) outside the arena and he came to realize I couldn't stop him from doing it. Too smart for his own good that horse!

Sorry I don't have more to offer. I too would love to hear how other people have handled this annoying, potentially dangerous habit. 

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Hey guys
I've had the same problem with 2 of my horses. One, I  have stopped  from doing it but the other I'm still working on her.
My round pens surface is grass. I don't have the money to fix it like I would want, so I make do with what I have.
 While doing my ground work in the round pen I used the Dually halter. As I led him around I would leave the U shape in the lead  like Monty advises. When I would stop he would immediately go down to eat grass. As soon as his head went down I pulled up on the lead giving the halter a snug fit around his nose. When he raised up I would pet him on the forehead and give him a rub across his wither. If he didn't immediately raise up I would keep pulling up on the lead.  If his head went down again I repeated pulling up on the lead.
I say pulling but it's more like jerking up so the halter does it's work. Jerking but not so much as to hurt his nose. I did this for almost half an hour for several days. I watch him now and I can see him watching me to see if I can out smart him before he has time to eat any grass. He is learning to trust me and my judgement and hasn't done it in quite some time now. But I'm still working on the mare.
Hope this may help out some how.