Horse gets crazy about food
okay all. Whiskey is currently out of commision due to being sick, and as such is a little off his feed, so we arent facing this issue right now but I would like ideas on how to deal with it once he is feeling back to himself.
Whiskey is a newly turned 4 year old appendix. Is off the track and was used for QH racing. Got him from a girl who showed him for a period of 6 months but did not do anything in the way of manners, etc. Up until he got sick we have been working on manners and have made a lot of headway in all areas. Except for one.
He goes psychotic when he sees someone bring a bucket of food out. Especially when its me with his green bucket. Hes smart, he knows thats his food dish. I usually feed him in a stall to make sure he does bolt his food to keep the others from getting it. He will paw, snort, race around, kick the walls and has even started trying to do little half rears when he sees his food coming.
I figure I do NOT want to reward this behavior by giving him the food right? So I turn around and walk away and wait for him to calm down. Once he's quiet, I start making my way back to him. If he starts getting insane again, I leave. He eventually does wait quietly and respectfully for his food but it usually takes an hour or more before we get to the point I want him at. And every day he is a little more bonkers about it.
Like I said, he is not too thrilled about eating right now due to being sick, but I know he will be back to his old ways once he feels better. Am I handling it right? Or is there something else I should be doing?
Yes, you are doing it correctly by turning and walking away. Be sure to keep your back to him and only sneak a quick peak. He's trying everything he can think of to get that pail to come his way but sooner or later he'll figure out that it's only when he's a gent that it's forthcoming. This is likely an old ingrained habit so stick it out. If you can stall him alone away from the others use as large a feed pan as you can find, with as large a feed area as possible. You don't want him bolting his feed as beside the risk of choke, it will come out the other end at about the same rate it went in. This means he's not absorbing very many nutrients.
The longer he's had this habit, the longer you can expect it to take before he gets over it. Often you may see what is called an 'extinction burst' where a problem gets worse before it gets better, but stick with it! If you give up, he's just learned he has to try even harder to get what he wants, so it will be ten times harder to get rid of the behavior in the future.
Otoh, if he is behaving nicely now (though it's because he's not really interested) you are 'practicing' him getting his food politely every time because he does what he should, and you're rewarding him by feeding him. If you're lucky, and strict about him only getting fed when he's polite, this might act to reset his behavior to the more acceptable version you have now even when he DOES want the food badly.
Thank you Sharipe and Saddlebag for the confirmation that I was going about it correctly! It does seem as if he tries for a little more crazy each time, and I do my best to not acknowledge him at all until he is a gentleman about it.
From what I understand, his previous owner was scared of him on the ground. She once told me "When you feed him just set his bucket down and get out of his way". She said he reared up one day in the cross ties when she sat his food down in front of him and he couldnt quite reach so she had started rushing his food to him when he acted up in order to avoid another incident like that.
Which of course now makes my job 100 times harder. But thats okay! Im stubborn :) haha
Well- he seems to have gotten his appetite back today.
He kicked his stall door and broke it today when it was feeding time. So I turned around and put his bucket back in the tack room out of sight. He coudlnt stay in the stall while we fixed the door, so I moved him to the cross ties. He stood great until another horse owner poured their horse's grain into their horse's bucket.
Whiskey flipped. Literally. He went up and over in the cross ties, and then as soon as he got back up he pawed, half reared, etc.
Needless to say it was another 2 hour fight before I was actually able to feed him without feeling like I was rewarding bad behavior. I couldnt send him out to do work unfortunately, because he is sick. :/
I'm kind of at my wits end with this issue. I feel like everytime I feel like we are making progress he just pushes back even harder the next time. I keep telling myself I just have to be more stubborn than he is but its so frustrating.
Will he eventually realize I'm not gonna give in and just feed him? I'm over the spoiled horse act.
This reminds me of my last OTTB. He went so crazy, he crashed chest first into the wall. Made me laugh so hard, he stopped dead in his tracks, went over to me, pushed his head against my chest and apologized.
It took about 6 months of free choice hay and ignoring his antics, until he was over it. I suspect he had ulcers and also hindgut ulcers from life on the track.
I don't know what your hay situation is, but I'd give his hay in a slowfeeder, making sure he never runs out. Next measure would be soaked grass- or alfalfa pellets, with a minimal amount of anything sweet or grain. It will not be as tempting and he might not react as strongly. You can mix all kinds of high calorie stuff in there, as long as it's not sweet, if needed.
I have switched him from the generic sweet feed they had him on, to Ultium that I was feeding Drifter. For the first week he wouldnt touch Ultium and would just eat around it, now he goes crazy so I guess he has decided he likes it ha. Should I replace the ultium with just some alfalfa pellets? Now forgive me if this a dumb question- but high calorie that isnt sweet, would that be like cool calories and rice bran oil and stuff like that?
Thanks for the ideas desert. I love him, and he is so good about everything else. But God help me one of us is going to end up killing the other during feeding time if we dont work this out.
Edit to Add- I dont know if less tempting will work for him. He is insane pig. He even freaks out when I have to give him his antibiotics. I literally put ONE drop of syrup in there to make it easier, but I know theres no way it covers up the taste of the meds. He moves his lips out for the syringe though like "please, I want more". ANYTHING that he thinks is food he will flip out for. I am used to picky Drifter, so this just blows my mind. I literally think I could put ash in a bucket and hed gobble it up and beg for more :/
Here is an example of a video I caught when someone walks by with a bucket. Its not his bucket, the person didnt acknowledge him and theres not even any food in it. But by golly hes going to break out and get it.
Unfortunately, crossties were harmed in the making of this video. This is also him being very relaxed and chill compared to his normal feed time shenanigans. Sorry the video is so dark
Oh, that's nothing lol. Mine did the rain dance, galopded round and round in his stall, kicked and bucked, reared, pushed himself into the walls ans, as I said, ran smack into the wall. Being stalled right across from the feedroom didn't make things easier.
To my advantage, I did th feeding, so I could at least control this aspect.
I must say I never punished him by withholding feed. He was first and knew it. I just made sure he stepped back from the trough when I entered. In the beginning he tried to eat me a couple of times. Not funny when you have bowls for 6 other horses in hand. Had to use my feet, gave him a good kick in the chest. Once was enough, then a sharp " hey" was sufficient.
As for what to add to the haypellets, ricebran, a little Ultium, cool calories, anything non sweet.
The alfalfa pellets help his stomach also, they buffer the acids.
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