Join Date: May 2012
Location: CT USA an English transplant
In general most horses that are overprotective with food are lower down in the established pecking order - NOT ALWAYS - Excepting the air we breath and water, food is the most important survival thing for all mammals. My 4 horses are all out in the paddocks at present, I keep them in 2's on at least 2 acres and there is plenty of grass so they are all happy buddies but in the winter when I have to put hay out then the alpha in each group will claim the pile she wants, there is no aggression or running around they know who's the boss and the passive horse just walks away to the other pile. I never go in the field with them to put hay out, its there waiting for them or thrown from the fence, they come galloping over and it would be too easy to get in the middle of somewhere I'd rather not be. That's not cowardice on my part, its common sense.
A lot of the overprotective with food problems are caused by the way we keep them, horses on small dirt paddocks with little space to get away from each other are more likely to have a problem than those kept singly or on large areas with more acreage per horse. If your horse is a TB then chances are he's not used to being fed out on a paddock with other horses, I never give what I call bucket feed to any of my horses anywhere other than in their stable, if I didn't have a stable then I would feed each horse individually on a yard, tied up at safe distances from each other or if its just one horse then you can hold it while it eats, taking buckets of feed into a small area full of horses is just asking for trouble and though flapping or even whipping a passive horse away will probably work it will cause a defensive horse to be more aggressive or turn a hungry passive horse into a defensive one. Food = Survival and survival is a strong instinct in all of us. You can think like a horse but you can't behave like one, they are bigger, stronger, faster, kick & bite a lot harder and if they are already showing signs of being disrespectful they won't lose any sleep at night if they hurt you. If my husband starts taking fries off my plate I'll be pretty annoyed with him.
Try breaking the habit by taking your horse out of the paddock to feed him and hold the bucket while he eats and then move to holding him while he eats from the bucket on the floor, he has to see you as the giver of the food and not the taker.
I have one mare who I've had for 18 years since she was 3, she's really greedy and get so excited at feed times that her impatience drives her to pull the meanest faces, dance around and swish her tail but she doesn't have a nasty bone in her body, its all bluff. She moves over when I tell her too and though I never usually mess with my horses when they're eating (God help anyone who messed with me at mealtimes) if I wanted too I could change her rugs, bandage her legs or whatever else I felt like. She trusts me, she knows I'm fair to her but if I'd maybe retaliated at the start by whipping her things could have gone very differently.
As for the lungeing. First off you are not Clinton Anderson, he is cool, calm and knows exactly where to place himself to keep out of danger. TB's are smart and they can know how to intimidate anyone they think is just a little bit cautious. Why are you lungeing him? Is he unbroken? If he's a rideable horse then maybe concentrate on that for a while while you get to know each other better. Maybe he's been abused with a whip so is being defensive against it, if he lunges without one then why not just have it lying by your feet 'just in case' and use your outstretched arm as a focus for him, the aim is to have him eventually move to verbal command without using the whip as an aid.
At present it sounds as if he's just 'trying it on' to establish who's the boss - that has to be you so he does have to learn to respect, trust, rely on and care for you. Only give treats as a reward for good behaviour. In the old days they called it 'stick and carrot' and it worked.
At the end of the day having a horse is supposed to be fun and if you're not really enjoying him that it might be the time to consider trading him in for something that isn't going to challenge you at every turn. Failure isn't giving up, its not knowing when to say its time to quit, success is when you move on to something that makes you smile