Morrals or sometimes referred to as nosebags or feedbags have got to be one of the most useful tools that I have stored away in my horsemanship tool box, hands down. I own several and break all my personal horses and training horses to them, and there are so many reasons why.
Although modern morrals are usually constructed of either canvas or nylon, they are a very old piece of equipment once fashioned together with nothing more than the bottom half of a burlap sack and rope to a fairly elaborate leather bag with thick straps and brass buckles used among horseman, from the 1800’s cowboy to as far back as the horseman of the 17th century. However they were constructed, their usefulness remains apparent.
Morrals not only allow you to easily dispense oral medication to your horse, they are a wonderful tool in helping the head shy horse overcome its problems, the pawer to overcome its habit of knocking over its feed bucket, a nice way to offer your horse feed on a camping trip or out on the range, or just simply a nice way to begin your training session for the day with your horse meeting you at the gate for something he learns to look forward to.
I keep my horses out in open pastures or large holding pens if I am working with a few of them on a consistent basis. So this is a wonderful tool for me to use, as I don’t have stalls for feed use. I catch my horses and put on their morrals up at the tack room where I’ll begin brushing them and getting ready for the day. This is a nice way for the horses to learn to ease into their work, that it’s not so bad. It’s like enjoying a cup of coffee with an old friend before you both get down to business.
For those individuals that I’ve come across that are just naturally sensitive about their heads or those with ‘learned behavior’ such as being head shy, this tool is tremendous in showing these types of horses something different. Feed is something all horses enjoy, so it offers a positive experience. All the shifting of the bag, noise, and grain shuffling helps in desensitizing the face, allowing the horse to become accustomed to this commotion it would have otherwise not been willing to accept. You’re training on the horse while he’s enjoying his feed.
I only use morrals when I have horses up with me. I never use them on horses that are turned out or on horses that could access water. If using a morral sounds attractive to you, read the steps below on how to safely introduce them into your program.
© The Horse Match Maker
You’ll want to introduce the morral to your horse...
You’ll want to introduce the morral to your horse by just holding it and letting him explore it, taking his head in and out of it as he nibbles at the grain. You’ll need to do this with your horse in hand (your lead rope draped over your arm, not tied). Drift with him a bit if he requires you to. Stay calm letting him know it’s a positive thing and he should let down. Depending on how he handles the initial introduction will tell you if you can move forward or if you should bring the morral back for two or three more sessions over the next few days. Most horses progress quickly with a morral, but some overly suspicious and reluctant horses need the extra time.
Once your horse is comfortable
Once your horse is comfortable eating from the morral and you can shift and wiggle it some, making a little commotion and he seems untroubled, go ahead and slide the strap over the ear closest to you (the right or left depending on where your standing). Feed out some rope (give your horse some extra lead rope) so he can lower his head to the ground and push against the bottom of the morral to access the groceries. The real test will be when he lifts his nose up from the ground and the morral follows him (unlike before when you were holding it and he could remove his nose completely after every bite). Having it hooked by one ear will let it fall off if it needs to, to avoid a wreck. If this does happen, get your horse back under control and reassure him before starting over, going back to the previous step if necessary.
After you’re fairly sure your horse is comfortable...
After you’re fairly sure your horse is comfortable go ahead and hook the strap behind both ears. I like to go about this much like I do putting the bridle on by gently pushing the ears forward underneath the strap one at a time (usually the one closest to you first). Feed your horse this way (in hand) for a period of days before you try and tie him. Make sure he’s feeling comfortable before you proceed.
Tying your Horse with morrals...
When I get ready to tie my horse out with a morral I prefer to dally tie, which is my favored method to tie even my seasoned horses with their morrals. A dally tie is basically a wrap on a smooth surface such as a pole or metal rail. You want to test your dally to see how much resistance it offers. It should offer some, but easily slid if a horse were to become frightened. This type of tie allows a claustrophobic horse a way to move his feet and settle back down before he hurts himself or tears up your gear or infrastructure. Make sure your horse has an adequate amount of rope out to where he can comfortably eat from his morral without a constant pull on his halter from the rope being fastened too tight. However, also take care to see that there isn’t too much rope out either, enough that he could get it caught around his feet. This would surely cause a wreck and you’d want to avoid that.
Depending on Time...
Depending on how much time I have on a particular day, sometime I like to leave the empty morral on for a short time just to allow the horse a chance to relax while wearing it. Allow your horse plenty of time to adjust to each step. Let him tell you when he is ready to move forward, and he will be successfully using a morral in no time!