Nasty eater - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 07-19-2008, 11:20 AM Thread Starter
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Nasty eater

I have a 3-year-old colt, Hawken, who is always pretty nasty when he eats his grain. When I go to give him his grain, I go into his stall and use my elbow, body and voice to let him know that he can't get into my space and has to back off until I have poured his grain into his bucket. He still always tries to intimidate me, though, and pins his ears and tries to see if he can get away with anything. After I leave, even, he stands in his stall and kicks the walls and tries to bite his own butt for a few minutes, before settling down to quietly eat. He does better when he is outside of the stall, but he still gets nasty to anyone, horse or human, who tries to get near him while he is eating his grain, although if his stablemate ever comes close, he acts like a brat for a few seconds, and then settles down, just occasionally pinning his ears if his buddy makes a big move. He will allow him to eat out of the same bucket, though. I think that he is getting better, however, is there anything I can do to cure him, other then just wait to see if he matures out of it? He is not bad at all with his hay, except for a little bit of ear-pinning if you come up to him, but like the grain, he will settle down and get used to you there. He is a pretty laid-back horse, very willing and energetic, but has never really learned that he isn't on top of the horse pecking order, because the only horse he is ever with is his stablemate, mister bottom-of-the-line-at-all-times. I think that this might be part of the problem. He is also a nipper...not so much with me, as his main trainer, but especially with anyone he senses fear in or anyone new to him. I have tried many different ways to discourage his habit, starting with not allowing him in personal space, popping him under the chin with the lead rope, smacking his shoulder, etc, every time he tries to nip me. Whenever he is being worked, however, he is a sweetheart. Once again, he is better now then when he was younger, but still, I am really tired of having to warn everyone who comes to the barn "be careful of that friendly one, he likes to bite." I think that maybe I am just not consistent enough with my firmness of not allowing him into my space, or maybe it is because some of the other people in the barn aren't. Or the fact that he doesn't get worked as much as he would like. But does anyone have any other suggestions for his habits? Or is it all just a "young horse" thing?
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-19-2008, 12:24 PM
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Well first of all, I don't think he respects you. Try the monty robert's 'join up'.
Also, just stand in his stall with his feed until he calms down. By dumping it when he throws a fit, you are just rewarding the behavior. if it's too dangerous (like if he tries to bit or kick) stand just outside the door with his grain. Once its safe enough to go in, you should still probobly have something to ward off the biting. I use a can of compressed air, and it seems to work magic. It doesnt hurt them, just startles them. Also, horses hate the sound of a buzzer, so a loud, sharp "BZZZ" can also cure it.
Indeed, he may grow out of it, but it's worth trying to cure it while he's young, so it does not escalate into something potentially life-threatening.

hope this helps!
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-19-2008, 01:17 PM
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He probably thinks he is the best and he is the boss and you should obey him and only him (my horse used to also think this way) But anyways take him into the arena or roundpen or driveway or whatever is avalible and work on stuff like when I walk, you walk, when I stop you stop, when I jog, you trot. He needs to learn who is the boss around here. And when he is eating if it is not dangerous go into his stall with him (if it is dangerous don't do it or have an experience horse person there) and just fuss over him. The more you are around him when he is eating to more he will have to learn to accept you there.
As far as the nipping, if he is doing it just to play around ignore him. When my horse does that just to play and I ignore him he no longer finds it fun and will stop.
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-19-2008, 03:05 PM
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By "colt" do you mean he is still a stallion? If so that is part of the problem. Respect is the other.

I'm not arguing with you, I'm just explaining why I'm right.

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post #5 of 8 Old 07-21-2008, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Nasty eater

He is not still a stallion...he was gelded at 11 months. By "colt" I just mean that he is still a youngster--under age 4. When I am giving him his grain, he is just doing it to see if he can get away with anything. Should I just try going into the stall, and then if he gets nasty, leave without giving him the grain, and repeating until he doesn't act like such a jerk? I could try staying and fussing with him, too...
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post #6 of 8 Old 07-21-2008, 10:03 PM
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I know some people who have taught their animals to be submissive and turn their heads away from the food. You do this by refusing to give the animal any food until they turn their head away from you and stop trying to intimidate the handler. After a while, the animal will see someone coming with food and and automatically turn their head away instead of trying to be pushy.

When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ~William Shakespeare
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post #7 of 8 Old 07-22-2008, 03:03 AM
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Re: Nasty eater

Originally Posted by hrsrdr
Should I just try going into the stall, and then if he gets nasty, leave without giving him the grain, and repeating until he doesn't act like such a jerk?
That's exactly what I would do, if you feel safe to go in the stall with him. Otherwise use the same tactic over the stall door.

For any behaviour you want to teach, you need to reinforce(strengthen) the behaviour you desire, preferrably positively(rewards, treats, scratchies...) and make sure the 'wrong' behaviour is *never* reinforced. Positive punishment(addition of 'bad' stuff) is *generally* not the most effective method for training anything(never say never), but negative punishment(removal of 'good' stuff... like his grain) is also an effective tactic when you can manage it. Make sure that you reinforce or punish *during* the behaviour you want to change, not after the event.
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post #8 of 8 Old 07-22-2008, 08:25 AM
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When I first bought April she was the same way... I actually got kicked once cause i dumped her grain and then started petting her and she cow kicked me.... Then she started going after me teeth showing... We ended up doing a lot of ground work and gaining eachothers trust. And for the grain I would tie her in the stall and then dump her grain (so she couldnt get to it) and then continued to feed the other horses...she didnt get her grain till she was submissive to being tied and let me untie her without being nasty. I think the first few times I had her tied for a couple hours but she caught on quick. Now everytime I go into her stall she backs and never tries to run out or push me over.

The biggest help though was the ground work and respecting MY space...the tying just taught her patience.

It's not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.
- Paul "Bear" Bryant (Former college football coach)
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