Feeding manners: feeling at the end of my rope
Over the passed couple of weeks, I have really been working on feeding manners with my 6 and 7 month old foals. However, it feels like no matter how many times I correct their shoving and ear pinning by making them back up until they mind their manners, I feel as if I am getting no where. I feed them together and the weather has not been allowing me to separate to grain. They pin their ears and get pushy no matter where I am feeding them or whether it is their hay or grain. I am feeling at the end of my rope and sometimes I wonder if someone else would be doing a better job raising and training them. Help!
Unfortunately, training has to take place, even in bad weather. What, specifically, is it that is happening that makes it impossible for you to separate them for feeding time so that you can provided one-on-one training?
Is this work something that you only started within the last couple of weeks - meaning prior to this feeding time was basically a free-for-all? What I am getting at is that if this IS a night and day sort of change for them, you have to expect there to be some stalls in progress, backsliding, etc - especially when working with foals.
What IS your current routine? Knowing exactly what you are doing will be helpful in knowing what we can suggest.
I'm not totally clear - is the ear pinning etc aimed at each other?
If it is then thats just normal pecking order herd behaviour and other than separating them at feed times you interfering is just causing more stress to them at present and rather than see you as the bringer of the food they are seeing you as another competitor for the food which in later life could result in a food aggression behaviour thats aimed at humans
Eating for horses should be like eating for us - as relaxed as possible, a pleasureable experience. Stress at feed times just makes for higher acid production as the body tells itself to digest faster - stress is part of the fear flight mechanism - and that could result in an ulcer risk.
Horse in the wild do not eat grain (or whatever) out of buckets at all, they dont even eat in a confined space, its a human established routine and not at all natural for them
If you cant feed them any other way than together then they need to be in as big an area as possible and the only thing you can do is to stand between them with a whip to keep them apart while not giving them the impression that you want the feed for yourself
I really dont think this makes for 'happy feed times but I know some people do it and it works for them.
Pouring, ice-cold rain is pretty much what keeps me from separating them, but they were pretty good about minding their manners when I do. I guess by what I mean with "recently" is that I have recently started feeding them together since the weather has turned nasty, I never let it be a free for all. When they are together it seems as if their manners go out the window! My routine is pretty much they get breakfast every morning at 7:30- first hay and then grain. They get a flake of hay as lunch around 1:00ish and evening feeding is at 5:30- first hay and then grain, just like in the morning. Between feedings, they have pasture 24/7.
I don't care if they pin their ears at e/o, it's the ear pinning at me that frustrates me.
I do try to give them their space while they are eating and not bother them, but I don't want them thinking that I am leaving because they scared me off, but I am leaving because they are being good.
Am I being unreasonable in expecting good manners now?
Well, but do you discipline them at all (to be exact - how do you discipline and train them) or just expect good manners? If so, then sorry, but you might be unreasonable, because you cannot expect proper responses from an untrained horse, much less two foals. They are just being horses and they don't think about fulfilling anyone's expectations. They must have one-on-one training sessions on a regular basis and weather should not be something that can hold it back. Foals are like sponges, they suck up any information they get, in this case - that they are let to dominate a human.
Backing up after they have already done unwanted behavior will not train them to be respectful. You have to block their actions at the very second they are happening - for example, you won't see a mare backing up a disrespectful foal around, but you will see a mare blocking the foals' movements with her body language and biting, if necessary, to make him stop AT ONCE.
No you're not being unreasonable
I hate this 'new word' imprinting - but its essentially just that - a new word for a very old method. The things a foal learns about humans from day one are likely to have a bigger impact on it than what it learns later in life as this is when rules and boundaries get established
Unfortunately your situation as created a food agreesion thats now directed at you as a competitor for food as well as at each other - they are seeing you as part of the 'herd' and not as a human.
If you walk/run away then they will see themselves as winners and you have been pushed to the bottom of the pecking order.
My horses have total respect for me with food - I give it I dont take it away so they dont need to compete with me. The only time I feed hay in the field is when grass is low or when its covered in snow (December through to March usually!!) Scenario - they love eating, they see me with hay and they gallop to me all excited - no malice at all but if they cant stop or start leaping around I cant get out of the way fast enough and I get tramped or kicked
My solution to this is that all hay is either put out before they go out and any extra during the day gets thrown in from the fence, well spread out so they all get a good share without a need to argue.
I've never fed horses anything from a bucket in a field - they all get different things and they deserve to eat in peace so they get taken into stalls.
I know other people do things differently so they must have a way - my best suggestion would be by standing your ground between them with a whip or ....
You could try just putting their tubs in the field and leaving them too it - one may get more than the other but at least they wouldn't be including you in the battle
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