My 15.3 gelding quarter horse (15 yrs and well broke) has recently become aggressive at feeding time. He tried to kick my son tonight as I was preparing his dinner in the tack room. I have been a bit "wishy washy" with him, but never thought he would do something like that. He is usually a very pleasant sweet horse. I have only owned him 6 mos. Anyone have a suggestion as to how to stop this? :?
I'd start messing with him while he's eating. Groom him while he's eating. Was it grain or just hay? If he's like that with just hay you've got an issue.
What I would do is:
Stand on the opposite side their stall door so they can't hurt you if they try.
Holding their meal somewhere you can easily reach his feeder - then wait. If he tries to reach out and grab, just wait. When he finally realizes that mugging you isn't working and turns his head away put a hand full in his feeder. Repeat this until he learns to turn his head away and stand quietly in order to get the food. He will associate being calm with food and that being rude does NOT gain food.
Then once he's safe! In his stall I'd teach him the same skill, practicing from standing all around him. Keep his food in a cup you can cover so he will never get food by mugging you. When he's good about standing quietly and looking away to get food I'd start grooming him while he's eating, any sign of disrespect about that should be met with a strong hard 'back up' and make him work away from his food until he is respectful again (having his halter and lead on) when he's respectful away from the food let him eat again and continue grooming. He'll soon learn that you messing with him earns him food and him being rude to you earns him work.
My new mare is very food "oriented" and at first would block the stall door and try to grab hay out of my hand as I walked in to put in her manger, with her ears pinned and just in my space. I started making her back completely out my space as soon as I opened that door and she got a nice reprimand for even thinking about taking food out of my hand. I put it in manger once she backed away then used a voice command "ok" to signal it is ok to approach and eat now. Until the signal she wasnt allowed to do so. This has worked wonders and she learned soo quickly to back off and be respectful during feeding.
Go in the stable with a dressage whip and his dinner. Make him stay out of your space (good to use a voice cue along with physical cues here - something like "over!") and go into the corner away from where his food will be placed. Smack the whip on the ground in front of you if he doesn't get the drift. Once you've placed his dinner down, wait a few seconds and THEN invite him over to eat. Feeding time is a key time when horses sort out their hierarchy, this is making him recognise that you are the lead horse, not him.
If he does start snapping or striking, don't be afraid to give him a whack across the front legs with the whip. A dangerous horse is a dead horse, don't let him become one. I know he's been very sweet up until now but many horses will take full advantage if they realise they're above you in the pecking order, and things can get nasty very quickly.
Personally, I'd leave him alone once he's begun his meal time, but I know there are varying opinions on that issue.
Good luck, stay safe!
Typically I would leave most horses alone while eating, but seeing as he has aggression while eating and can act out that's something that needs to be fixed. If ever say, a little kid, walked by while he was eating it could be dangerous. So I'd mess with him while he eats and any act of disrespect about you messing with him should be met with being taken away from the food and even worked depending on the severity.
Got to agree with the other posters too, but it sounds like the problem isn't with giving him the food but with while he's eating it.
By the sounds of it the food was being prepared when this happened? Perhaps I'm reading it differently lol! OP said horse got aggressive at feed time, didn't mention that the aggression was while the horse was eating - I got the sense it was the horse getting impatient/pushy/demanding which suggests he sees himself as boss. If my reading is correct he needs to learn he has to wait his "turn". But maybe I'm missing something :-)
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The only time my paint tried to kick at me during the dinner time (I was picking a poop next to her) she got a smack of the manure fork on her butt right away. A hard one. And no back to the bucket till she had "yes m'am" expression back. Never offered again...
As you approach the stall with feed, check the horse's mood. The ears will tell you what is going on, that the horse is getting impatient. Just before you get to the door, stop and reverse direction and start walking away 10 or 15 ft. She will be confused and will react in various ways but only when it stops do you return and enter the stall. But on your second approach if she tries again, repeat the exercise. Be consistant and she will learn within a few days how the feeding works. I did this with a gate banger. In her confusion after frantic banging, then dirt pawing, then finally walking away down the fence line did she get her feed. She quickly learned to start walking away as I approached. When she returned she was relaxed, not of a frantic mindset.
Was the horse actually being aggressive or just impatient and doing some foot stamping that your son got in the way of?
Feeding times are the highlight of my horses day - its not like they get starved or anything - its just how they are. They all have their own ways of being excited, foot stamping, head nodding, teeth grinding (that drives me mad) and whinneying. Its like 'no pressure mother'.
They all know that they have to stand back when their feed bucket is taken to the manger - using the 'move over' command/signal which to ignore is a serious offence
My old mare looks seriously mean, ears pinned, tail swishing etc and would scare the crap out of anyone who didn't know that is was all bluff. I waggle my finger at her and she goes to stand in her corner to wait. I only ever had to hit her once to establish that flattening me in the rush was not acceptable.
I wonder why your horse suddenly had this change of character?
I know you are new to the forum and while I am the person on here, that "just spits it out", I honestly am trying to be gentle. I needed to say that since there's no voice inflection in keyboards:-(
He is becoming aggressive because you are letting him get away with it. He must be a very patient and kind horse for this to have taken six months to rear its ugly head.
One of my four is such a domineering bully (not dominant but he wishes he was), that I have to get onto him a few times a month; he's been with me 16 years - lol lol
He is fine with hay but gets snotty with his food pan stuff and all he gets is a vit/min supplement and a few other additives.
You've been given some great advice, it's a matter of how your set up is and what the best approach will be to get his table mannes back.
You don't say how old your son is but, if he's not as big as a "bale of hay" himself, I would keep him away from the horse until after the horse and you have had your table manner discussion and the horse has eaten whatever goes into the feed pan.
As someone else mentioned, if this happening with hay --- that trebles the problem as horses rarely get ugly when they're waiting for hay.
You will have to take deep breath, assume the position of the Alpha Dominant Mare and give him three seconds of "I am going to Kill you" whenever he starts getting ugly about the feed pan.
It's got to be stopped "five minutes ago" as one thing leads to another, whether it's good or bad behavior. If he truly did try to kick your son, he is ultimately not going to be safe for anyone to be around, so this needs nipped right now:-)
Hope this helps:-)
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