Eating on the Trail
With my endurance riding background, I like it when my horse will eat on the trail. For endurance, eating keeps the gut moving and healthy. I get to know my horse's eating/snacking habits as well, which helps me evaluate how he is feeling that day. If my horse were to refuse eating, I would know something is not right and I would need to re-evaluate my ride strategy and figure out what is going wrong with my horse.
I do have ‘rules’ though. I cannot stand a horse that will rip the reins out of my hands and take me off trail on a picnic extravaganza. Generally, when I ride, I try to always be keeping in touch with my horse and checking in with him. This helps keep me be the one riding the trail, and not my horse. If I were to just hop on and sit like a sack of potatoes the whole time, well, one of us has to take charge and it will be my horse! So maintaining active riding habits is key – bend left, bend right, side pass left, side pass right, whoa and drop the reins at a standstill, walk-on loose rein, go off trail and bend around that tree/rock/stump, soften to the bit, give and take, you get my idea.
I will allow the 'snack and go', but it’s a snack and GO. Take a bite and let’s get going, keep those feet moving. Or, if I am stopping, I will give my horse the reins up his neck to cue him to reach down to grab a bite or take a drink of water. Or better yet, I will take a break myself and hop off with my horse standing quiet on a loose rein, head up, then once my feet are on the ground, let him down to graze.
Snacking on the trail can be frustrating if you are allowing one thing one day and something else the other. Deciding what is acceptable and coming up with a consistent game plan on how to make those goals reality is key. My horses know they are allowed to eat, but it’s on my cue or a grab and go snack - otherwise those feet do not get to stop moving!