Do you mess with your horses at feeding time?

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Do you mess with your horses at feeding time?

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    05-24-2011, 12:46 AM
Do you mess with your horses at feeding time?

I was just curious if you guys train and/or just mess with your horses in general at feeding time or when they are actually eating?

I personally think it is fair game. My friend says that she doesn't like being bothered when she eats, so she doesn't bother her horses when they eat. What do you think?

Things I typically like to do when they are eating are brushing, picking feet, combing manes/tails, doctoring wounds, etc.

I have been doing this not only with the adult horses but also with my 10 month old colt just to get him used to picking up his feet, grooming, and just touching him all over his body in general.

Also, before I feed him, I will smooch and make him back up and stand politely away from the feeder until I give him his hay, and then he is not allowed to approach the feeder until I say "okay" and turn away. He has gotten very good about that. Sometimes after he has started eating I will smooch and walk into his space and make him move away just to verify that I am the dominant herd member.

So what do you guys think? Is all this good, or am I just tormenting my horses when I should be leaving them alone? With the colt, I seem to get his respect and attention the BEST at feeding time. The other horses, I mainly just groom and pick feet while they are eating and they pretty well just ignore me.
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    05-24-2011, 12:55 AM
I personally think that is very dependent on the horse. Some horses WILL tolerate it. Some, for certain, will not. I have a horse that is great about being messed with while he eats. However, my younger horse would get very upset if a always messed with him. He will tolerate it, for the sake he knows he's in trouble if he does anything. But he is clearly not very happy about it.
It depends on your horse, like I said. I think with your colt (not speaking from experience...I could be totally off base) it's not a terrible idea. You are asserting your dominance over him, gaining respect, by showing you eat first. Dominant mares get to eat first in a herd, aka you.
I wouldn't say it's a bad idea... just remember to be careful and aware of their body language. :)
    05-24-2011, 01:00 AM
IMO I try not to think like that. I do things when I want to do things. If a horse has a problem with it I will work with them, but if they tolerate it they get left alone a little bit more than those who don't. I don't really like my horse to expect any type of routine from me. This way if I do something random at some random time, he will never be disturbed about it. So if I get to the stables at feeding time and I came out for a ride, I will take the horses away from their feed, or brush and saddle up while they are eating. But out of some consideration I do try, if possible to not go during feeding time. But if its my only free time it doesn't bother me or my horses. That way my horses never get cranky around feeding time. IMO
    05-24-2011, 01:07 AM
I figure if he DID do something, that is a sign I am clearly not dominant, and I would do my best to make him think HE is in deep doo-doo!

I have been having dominance issues with him leading and ponying. Ponying isn't going so well because he thinks he can bully the horse I ride and my riding horse tolerates it. :roll:

Leading we have been doing MUCH better at lately, although he will sometimes still try to take a nip.

But at feeding time, when I smooch and make him back-up and he stands there politely, it is like magic. He has a soft look about him and he is downright polite. I really kind of like it. It seems like this is the one place where I can clearly be dominant.

I've actually never had a horse that got angry when I messed with it while it was eating, but my friend said she was nearly kicked one time. So I think that's why prefers not to mess with them when they are eating. Maybe I have just been lucky with the few horses I have had.
    05-24-2011, 01:12 AM
Green Broke
I just picked Mona's feet tonight while I was feeding.
It wasn't something I really thought about. She was walking a little strange & sure enough she had a couple rocks wedged in there good.
I'll get the mare ears sometimes, but not much else.
    05-24-2011, 01:13 AM
Some can get very aggressive. I think it depends a lot on the horse. Mine gets worked during dinnertime sometimes other times I clean his stall. If im in there, I do my thing while he does his. If I'm cleaning, I make him move when I need to clean the space he's occupying. Then he finds another way to eat or he waits until I'm done in that spot. I don't intentionally mess with him, but I do go in his stall without hesitation and do whatever I need/want to do.
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    05-24-2011, 01:20 AM
Green Broke
Trails, maybe he's such an angel because there is a vey clear reward.
Let Mom do her thing & I get to eat sooner or act up & have to wait to eat.
    05-24-2011, 01:22 AM
If a horse did get aggressive around food, wouldn't that mean he/she didn't respect you?

Can a horse be food aggressive and still be submissive with riding and ground manners?
    05-24-2011, 01:23 AM
Originally Posted by flytobecat    
Trails, maybe he's such an angel because there is a vey clear reward.
Let Mom do her thing & I get to eat sooner or act up & have to wait to eat.
That's probably it. He's probably thinking "whatever makes her happy so I can eat!"
    05-24-2011, 02:19 AM
Super Moderator
I mess with Lacey sometimes while she eats. I groom her (I don't ask her to do anything more than move her butt one way or the other when necessary) and she seems to enjoy it. I think of it as a way to bond with her since she really seems to like having me there while she's eating (sometimes she'll just stop eating and follow me instead if I try to leave). She's basically the sweetest old girl ever so I don't think she'd put up much of a fuss even if I was bothering her. I do expect her to pull her head up from her food and stop eating when I ask her to, for however long I need (buckling her blanket in the front-haltering-etc), but she fully understands that she'll get to eat again as soon as I'm done and she's always been very willing to comply with putting her head up. She does like to grab an extra big bite of food right before her head goes up! Hahaha

Personally, I think if a horse refuses to let you mess with him/her while they're eating you either have a trust issue or a dominance issue going on that needs to be solved. I say trust issue because there are horses that are extremely food aggressive because they have been starved or had a similarly traumatic event involving food happen to them, but that aggression should go away if the handler is calm and reliable about food (no keeping the food away until the horse is nice, or whatever).
On the other hand, I think dominant behavior around food is a signal that, even though the horse may be super nice minus food, there something is missing in your relationship. I wouldn't be sure how to fix that but I'd figure that fixing the little things that the horse probably gets away with and cracking down on even mildly defiant behavior elsewhere would be a start.

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