Cowboy Skill: Nose Bags

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

Using nose bags can be a handy way to grain your horse. It also helps get him sacked out and more gentle, because he won’t be too wild and head-shy after he learns to like having a bag filled with grain tied to his face.

To nose bag a horse (or a corral full, in our case), the first thing to do is fill the nose bags with some type of horse feed. Grain, oats, or alfalfa pellets work well. My husband Jim makes his nose bags out of burlap sacks and a piece of old rope. A person can also buy nose bags made of canvas and leather from a tack shop or tipi/bedroll maker.

nose bags

Next, take the bags out to the horse corral. The horses saw them coming and met us at the gate. They like their nose bags.

Jim offers the first horse a nose bag. Gunner was initially not too sure about sticking his nose in a burlap bag, but he quickly learned it was a fun and a delicious experience.

nose bags

Once the horse puts his nose in the bag, Jim slips the rope headstall over his ears. Horses can be unsure about this at first, and you might need to use a halter to help them stand still while putting the nose bag on for the first time.

nose bags

Gunner knows to put his nose to the ground in order to eat the grain inside his nose bag. It’s important to have the headstall adjusted loosely enough to require the horse to put his nose on the ground in order to eat the grain. If you have it tied high enough so that the horse can eat without lowering his head, he runs the risk of choking. You can teach the horse to lower his head by holding your palm underneath the full nose bag, then slowly lowering your hand until the horse’s nose is on the ground.

nose bags

The black colt wanted in on some of Gunner’s nose bag action. Don’t worry, Blacky; your turn is coming! A benefit of using nose bags rather than a manger in a group setting is that each horse gets his full ration of grain – and only his ration.

nose bags

Jim puts nose bags on all the horses in his string here at the O RO Ranch. He likes using nose bags because it helps horses overcome head-shy issues and makes them gentler. If they can tolerate a human being putting a feed sack over half of their face, then they must trust that cowboy quite a bit.

nose bags

The horses can move around, raise and lower their heads while eating their grain. They can’t get into too much trouble while wearing the nose bags, but a person doesn’t want to wander too far from a corral full of nose-bagged horses. If a horse takes a drink, as horses are apt to do after eating, the water in the bag could potentially drown him. To be safe, remove the nose bags promptly after the horses finish their grain.

nose bags

Gunner says, “Hey, lady with the camera, I’m just hangin’ out with my nose bag on. Nothing to see here.” The other horses say, “Nom nom nom.”

nose bags

Just kidding! As my four-year-old daughter says, “Mom, horses don’t talk!” But if they could, I bet they’d tell us they like nose bags. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t crowd the gate whenever they see Jim coming with an armful of them.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life


About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives on the O RO Ranch in northern Arizona with husband and their two small kids. To learn more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....

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