Teach Your Horse to Behave on Grass (Grass Training)

Grass is growing everywhere (if you live in the Northern hemisphere šŸ˜‰ ) and frustration is building up:

  • In horse owners for being pushed over and pulled when grass is in sight and in
  • horses because they want grass but it’s never without being pulled or shouted at.

Some horses like this game of “get-a-bite” and never will give up: this is just how play and reinforcement works for them. The bite is their prize! They will get it on an intermittent schedule (sometimes it works, other times it won’t) so we create a really strong pulling behaviour in our horses!

5 Benefits of Grass Training

  • Your horse follows you when your leading him with slack in the lead rope and ignores grass (he won’t even try)
  • No more frustration because your horse is being naughty or behaving like an ass (which is just another equine!)
  • Your horse will trust you more because you give him clarity: To Graze or Not to Graze
  • No more feeling like a failure. Now it will be clear to anyone that you’ve trained your horse well.
  • You’ll be proud and enjoy your horse more!

What I’ve tried (and didn’t work)

I’ve been pulling on ropes, using rope halters, ‘punishing’ my horse for unsolicited grazing (it’s not punishment if the behaviour doesn’t decreasešŸ¤£) and trying to avoid grass patches all together. Which is hard if grass is growing in your arena and liberty work will be out of the question during Summer months.

I tried it all: keeping the lead rope short, wiggling the rope, pulling and jerking (not proud of it) and later offering target sticks calling and using Kyra’s name and giving other cues.

Nothing gave me long-term results when grass was available, until I used clicker training.

Sandra Poppema

What worked

This only gave me short-term result. Sometimes only 5-second results, to be honest! Nothing worked long-term until…. I switched over to 100% POSITIVE reinforcement to teach my horse what I wanted.

Grass training works! If you use 100% positive reinforcement. ~ HippoLogic #grasstraining

Grass training when your horse is on a restrictive diet

The year after my grass training Kyra got laminitis and she needed to be on a strict diet. From a full day on grass to restricted soaked hay. That was hard for both of us. I had to exercise her (hand walking) to help her lose weight and the only place was on the road. With juicy grass growing next to it! I was worried…. And you know what? She didn’t push me over to get a bite! She didn’t pull on the lead rope to gorge on the grass. She was an angel! My new method paid off!

‘The Grass Trained Horse’:

  • Listens to his name and comes to you in the pasture
  • Can be lead on grass with slack in your lead rope
  • Can be ridden on grass without causing blisters on your hands
  • Is amazing at liberty training in Spring and Summer when greens are growing in or along your arena
  • Won’t snack leaves on trails
  • Doesn’t dive into grass when you get him out of the paddock or pasture

HippoLogic’s Grass Training

Since then I helped dozens of horse owners implement my way of grass training and they all got results. The relationship with their horse improved (no more frustration and anger even before riding started) If you want to join us in the HippoLogic Grass Training, we start in June again let me know.

Get started yourself: Grass Training (blog with video and step-by-step plan)

Or join me in an online grass training course. Click the link to get free tips https://mailchi.mp/04323b1356e8/grass-training We start June 5th

Questions about Grass training?

Book a free discovery call with me and get some advice what your next step in training will be.

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan

Join me on Facebook

Become a member of our Happy Herd on Facebook and get access to my Facebook LIVE’s.

riding on grass without frustration or grass diving

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

‘Grass Training’: Teach Your Horse to Ignore Grass

Haven’t we all experienced that a horse pulled you towards some grass in order to grab a few bites? Isn’t that annoying? I think it is! grass training Hippologic clicker training horses

I didn’t want to be pushed around anymore by my horse every time there was some juicy patch of grass growing around. Grass is everywhere! I decided to look for a proper, force-free way to teach my horse more desired behaviour around grass.

I tried a few different approaches, before I found one that works well, gave me a solid result and is totally force-free. I would like to share it with you.

Define ‘proper behaviour around grass’

_teach your horse to ignore grass_hippologic_grazing_mannersIt took me a while to teach Kyra to behave ‘properly’ around grass. With ‘properly’ I mean: no more pulling me towards grass, wait until I give the ‘graze’ cue and ‘stop grazing and come along’ if I ask her to. I was tired of pulling Kyra off the grass.

Preparation

I must say before you can start training this you need a bit of preparation and… lots of practice time. After all, what is more enticing than grass? Well, a click can be…

What really helps is already have a solid history of click & reinforce. Secondly a horse that walks with you properly and the key lessons ‘head lowering’, ‘patience’ and ‘targeting’ are required to make this challenge most likely to succeed.

Shaping plan

Here is a summary of my shaping plan:

How I trained it

I started to reinforce lifting Kyra’s head while grazing. Why? Because this is the first step to move away from the grass. I began with leading her to grass and I would cue her to graze. Then I just waited (very, very patiently) until she lifted her head by herself. That is the moment I wanted to capture and reinforce.Enjoy trail rides again after grass training

I can’t stress how important it is to wait until the horse moves (his head) away himself. I tried other methods like pulling the head up/preventing the head from going down or asking Kyra to target while grazing in order to lift her head, but reinforcing her own head raise worked best.

High value treats

Every time she would lift her head , I clicked and reinforced Kyra with a very high value treat. One that could compete with grass. After she ate the treat I immediately gave her the cue to ‘graze’. Here is when the key lesson ‘head lowering’ comes is really handy.

I also clicked and reinforced the ‘graze’ cue. But instead of offering a treat off of my hand, the reward was to graze as long as she wanted.

Every time she would lift her head again, I clicked, reinforced and would then give her the ‘graze’ cue.

Next step

After a certain amount of training sessions, which Kyra enjoyed very much (!), I noticed that she started to lift her head more often during grazing sessions. This is a perfect time to add a ‘lift head up’ cue. The key lesson targeting helped me a lot.

So my next clicker session looked like this:

  • walk to the grass
  • give the cue ‘graze’
  • wait until Kyra lifts her head
  • click and reinforce
  • give her the cue ‘graze’
  • let her graze until I thought she was likely to lift her head up again, ask ‘touch’ target stick
  • click and reinforce
  • cue ‘graze’
  • et cetera.

In this way she is always reinforced for whatever I ask.

Raising the criterion

After several sessions I noticed that Kyra didn’t seem to mind lifting her head up anymore. She was eager to see what I had to offer her. The ‘diving into the grass’ behaviour was gone. She seemed so much more relaxed on grass.

I thought this would be the perfect time to raise a criterion. Now I wanted to lift her head and take one step forward before I gave the ‘graze’ cue again. I literally built this behaviour step-by-step.

The final step in this process was to teach her to wait for the ‘graze’ cue when we would walk on or approach grass.

Result

Now I can ask Kyra to leave grass at any time. She is very willing to come with me. She never pulls me towards a patch of grass and I never have to pull her off of the grass. Win-win, for her and for me.

Kyra turned from a I-need-to-graze-now-and-store-fat-before-winter-comes-horse into a I-see-grass-so-what-horse. She knows she can trust me and is allowed to have her share… only when I say so.

Join my online Grass Training Sign up here

Today I wanted to make a video for the FB Grass Training FB Group. Kyra didn’t want to graze, so I couldn’t show how to start walking on grass when all your horse wants to do is graze. Never thought I could be in that position: a horse that doesn’t want to graze because training is way more valuable.

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
Sign up for my newsletter (it comes with a gift) here: HippoLogic’s website.
Follow my blog  on Bloglovin