Not only a clever piece of feeding equipment, the moral gives horses an appetite to be caught.
By Kelli Neubert
October 25, 2016
Whenever I bring up a horse’s moral, people generally assume I’m questioning their equine’s mental or emotional condition. And though I’m happy to hear about a particular horse’s sunny disposition, the truth is that the moral that I’m generally referencing is something different entirely.
It’s actually a funny little piece of equipment that is quite instrumental in our barn.
The moral is basically a single-serving feedbag. It usually consists of a solid muzzle-like bag with breathing holes that is attached to a single strap that goes over the ears like a bridle. They are usually made of leather, nylon and/or canvas. The horse’s nose and mouth fit in the bag and it allows him to eat his grain or supplements uninterrupted by other horses. It is especially helpful for a horse that is a slow eater or tends to get his feed stolen away by other pasture mates. It also eliminates the problem of wasted and dropped grain.
This feeding method has been used for centuries by horseman from all different walks and regions. Morals have been spotted on carriage horses, show horses, pack animals and backyard companions. The U.S. military even had one designed specifically for the Cavalry.
Around our outfit, the moral is a part of our everyday routine. However, we mainly utilize it as an aid to catch our horses. Our particular feedbag has been modified a bit from the traditional bucket-style moral. We took a woven grain sack and some baling twine, and created a bag that hangs close to our bodies and holds plenty of feed.
As many know from personal experience, there is almost nothing as frustrating as going out to catch a horse that turns his tail to you and trots away when he sees the halter. It can make a planned ride into a very long, aggravating day—especially when there is no one around to help with the process. We’ve worked with our colts on becoming easy to catch individually; however, they all seem to be happier partners when they get a kernel or two of grain as a reward once the halter is slipped on in the field.
Why not just use a bucket, you may wonder? Well, a bucket is noisy and bulky, and horses often are privy to whether or not we have it with us. A moral is particularly useful in catching wary horses because it makes no noise and is hard for a horse to distinguish from our bodies (thus they don’t get wise to whether we have it or not). It also leaves both of our hands free. It’s good to work with each horse until he is good to halter without any sort of aid, but the moral offers a bit of insurance that everyone stays good to catch, ride after ride.
Though a useful and versatile piece of equipment, the moral is not a cure-all for everything. When used for feeding, it doesn’t eliminate the risk of a horse getting chased or harassed by other pasture mates. It is also good to note that the moral should only be used in a dry lot or pasture. Never use one with accessible water, due to the risk of drowning should the moral fill with water when the horse drinks (the breathing holes do help with water drainage, but it’s best to err on the side of caution). Also, when using it to catch horses, it’s always important to be mindful of keeping the horses from becoming spoiled or pushy due to getting grain.
The moral will always be an important part of our tack collection. Whether we need to supplement a horse individually, keep our grain waste down or just keep horses good to catch, it’s a helpful tool that we utilize daily.
And as far as the secret to avoiding that frustration of seeing your horse trot away from you when you go out with a halter?
It’s in the bag.