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.