Issues at feeding time in pasture - Want to DIY a solution
I have 2 horses (4 & 5 yrs), 1 pony (12 yrs), and 1 pony-size mule (6 yrs). All are geldings. The mule is newest. He's been here for almost a month and the other 3 have pretty well accepted him now. Well, they aren't blocking him out of the run-in anymore anyway.
Whenever I take out their sweet feed/pellets, they get really... excitable. They aren't *really* fighting since they're just working out their own status between each other, but I'd much prefer they not bite and kick at each other when I'm standing so close.
They all share the same pasture and we're renovating right now so I don't really have a way to separate them. That should be settled by August or so.
In the meanwhile, I'm thinking that if I can figure out a better feeder or feeding system, then we could work on establishing some sort of routine that will put some space between them so they aren't just crowding me at the gate. I'm needing something that will let me establish some consistency.
Does anyone have any tips on how to build a cheap/free DIY grain feeder that would help get each horse their share?
Or anything I can do to make things better, behavior-wise?
I know a certain amount of bickering between horses is normal. I just don't want them doing it when I could be in the line of fire, if you know what I mean.
I've seen people hang feed buckets on fence posts set a couple of horse lengths apart. The buckets are prefilled (a safe hanging device (not a nail sticking out) has previously been put in place) then hung. With this system you'll have to move fairly fast getting them hung so everybody has a chance at eating -- odds are, the first one to the bucket is the alpha horse who will eat his portion and then move onto the next one. This might work for you until you're set up to separate them properly. I suppose a variation of this would be to tie everyone up to a fence post (in order of pecking order so there's no chance of the tied one getting picked on) and then set the feed in front of them - this would work if everybody ties well, the posts are sturdy and you allow enough length in the rope for them to reach their heads down to eat.
Do you know if they make anything like that designed to work with a fence made from t-posts and electric?
The only one's I've been able to find are for wood.
Or would it be better to just set 4 posts?
I do have plenty of scrap lumber that I could use that would be suitable for a couple months use.
The alpha horse does do exactly as you say - first to the food, but two of the others like to be the first to me. I just have a better bond with them than the other two.
I think that's what's causing at least part of the stir-up with them when I'm the one feeding. They don't get nearly as worked up when my husband feeds them.
Take a lash whip out and make them stay off of you.
I used to feed 12 horses in a pasture situation. Pecking order in place and everybody knew where they had to be to be fed. But that was an established herd.
The Icelandic people have feed stands...a standing stall, horse width, several in a row, closed behind with a rope or chain, feeders in front. Everybody goes in one, usually the same, stand you dump in the feed and then close them in, until everybody is finished. Extra aggressive horses have a solid divider, at least for head and neck, so Mr. Timid has a fair chance, too.
You can put them right at the fence line so you can dump the feed in from the outside, then once they're eating, close them in.
Should you have a high ranking one eating little, slow him down by adding a couple of big rocks, so he has to look for each morsel, or a large pan, so it's more spread out and harder to wolf down.
I tie our horses that need to be fed separately from the others, but a friend of mine set 3 posts (she has a Caspian mare, 11.2hh, some sort of half gaited gelding, 15.1hh, and a large warmblood, 18hh) in front of her electric fence and hung buckets of varying height so that the little mare couldn't get to the other two's feed, the gaited gelding couldn't get the warmbloods feed, etc- and then she fed them from tallest to shortest so that they'd each be occupied by their feed and not pester each other. It doesn't always work and sometimes one will get chased off from his or her food, but it seems to be ok.
Teach your horses not to crowd or kick near you though. That's dangerous and not acceptable.
I too would vote for the fence/ fence post feeding. I have a mini and a very large pony that I now feed in the same pasture (trying to get the main pasture lush again - will be a new post after this LOL). I put buckets on the fence line, one low for the mini and one high for the pony. I do not offer them feed until they go to their respective spots, and when they finally do I hook the bucket for one and walk down to the other and hook theirs. Luckily the mini is the quicker eater (less food) so he cannot even reach the pony's food, nor will the pony allow it (he's the alpha being he's 3 times his size ;-) ) I also drop a 1/2 flake of hay next to the mini so when he gets done with his feed he goes there instead of to the pony's bucket, and put the rest of the hay in the hanging net.
So far, this has worked like a charm feeding them in the same area.
My edit, BTW, they share the hay in the hanging net no problems :-)
They need manners. Hanging stuff on the fence teaches them it is okay to hang at the fence or push at the fence if they are wanting fed. IMO. We've done something similar to tying height on posts but with barrels filled with cement and set off the fence. Each horse had their own barrel and the taller the horse the higher the sides and lower the cement. At the level the cement stopped holes were put in for drainage. Didn't keep the bigger out of the smaller but kept the smaller out of the bigger. Pain to move. Feed in the order of their hierarchy. If you are unsure watch to see who ends up where. Carry a whip and keep them off of you. They will respect that and learn to wait at their feeder. We use rubber dishes on the ground now. Easier to move. Still a pain as they occasionally play pasture frisbee with them and we have to find them. Feed hierarchy may be slightly different than pasture hierarchy. My most pushed around, laid back mare that is close to the bottom in the field is number 2 at feeding time.
I take everyone out, one at a time, to eat. I groom, pick feet, change sheets, treat boo boo's or whatever while they eat. Since the horses are on 35 acres, it makes sure that each horse is thoroughly checked over daily. The alpha horse takes F O R E V E R to eat so he gets to eat in the pasture. Not like he's about to let anyone else touch his feed, so it works!
Great info everyone.
The situation is gradually improving with all of your help.
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