Horse behavior at feeding time - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 04:48 AM Thread Starter
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Horse behavior at feeding time

This really isn't a how to question, it's more a 'what do you think' question.

My three horses are kept together at pasture. When I feed them their V/M supplement (that is all they get for pellets) two of the three are right there on top of me ready to shove their faces in the pan. They aren't horribly pushy as they will back up when I ask without argument or aggressiveness. This would be Laela and Novia. Star on the other hand is very proper about the whole thing. She actually goes over to pee before she eats and then comes over when I call her name. Star is the leader of the three. I don't really like to call her the BOSS mare as she's not really bossy, just the leader in charge. If you were to take my body out of the equation, she would be over there taking what she wants first.

I've tried to get them to stop being so pushy with some success. After asking them several times to back up, they will actually stay briefly until I let them come in. The next evening, it will be the same all over again. I've thought plenty of just letting it be as they are not being aggressive and when someone else puts their supplement in the buckets (every morning) waiting is not a requirement. I sometimes feel that it is a lost cause unless they are asked to wait every single time.

Do you all feel that this scenario is that big of a deal? Do you feel that making them wait for food without being pushy bleeds into other interactions with them (groundwork/riding) as far as respect?

I think that I would be more insistent if their nature were more uptight or aggressive but these two are actually quite gentle and have never offered any kind of aggressiveness towards anyone interacting with them.

I am editing to add that I feed them in the same order every time. Novia, Laela and then Star. I have my reasons for this order so everyone gets what they are supposed to have. Obviously Star finishes last. Laela and Novia don't even think to go over to Star while she's eating to take hers. Hmmm. If allowed, Laela and Novia would share the same pan without any kind of fighting or jostling.

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Last edited by LoriF; 04-19-2019 at 04:55 AM.
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post #2 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 06:17 AM
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Here's a simple thing you can do if horses are crowding you: Spin a lead rope over your head (with the cotton end out, not the clip end, of course) like a helicopter before you go in. Guaranteed space. You can carry the bucket in your other hand. If you think it's an issue. I use this little trick most often if I have to go in a field with boisterous foals / weanlings at the "I want to jump up on you" play stage. It's simple and effective and doesn't involve any displays of aggression on your part; you can sing the theme to "The Sound Of Music" if you want. And it involves absolutely no making the horse do anything, it just automatically buys you room. They don't come near enough to get bumped by the rope, generally - and you can lengthen or shorten your "helicopter rotors" depending on how much rope you spin out.

( @Knave will be proud of me. It's one thing I can do with a rope! )

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post #3 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 07:36 AM
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Your horses sound pushy...a no-no to me, especially at feeding time.
My horses are fed feed at the barn, each has a designated stall and goes to it and waits.
They stand in the back of their stall, each ground feed pan is in the front corner...
I dump food and call them to it...they approach but also know they must gently hand-touch first before they get to eat...no touch, don't you think about taking a mouthful.
No remotely in my space...
Each horse waits their turn and same scenario is carried out for each...they talk, they grumble but wait.

They know not to approach each other either or its my face in their face...
When all have finished and left their designated stall, all are free to sniff, lick each others buckets...till then you will have me showing who is boss mare!!
No arguments ever occur.
Feed done, they come out and go to a pile of hay left for them to eat...moving around tasting always occurs, but there are 2 more piles than horses so all get to eat with no grief.
...

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post #4 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 07:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LoriF View Post
I've tried to get them to stop being so pushy with some success. After asking them several times to back up, they will actually stay briefly until I let them come in. The next evening, it will be the same all over again. I've thought plenty of just letting it be as they are not being aggressive and when someone else puts their supplement in the buckets (every morning) waiting is not a requirement. I sometimes feel that it is a lost cause unless they are asked to wait every single time.
I think it sounds like your two understand what you want but are still testing your leadership. So sticking with what you're doing and staying consistent. If you have someone else giving the supplements part of the time they should be expected to make the horses wait the same as you do. If there is any inconsistency in the way they are being handled or fed/given supplements then they will keep testing what they can get away with. My mare is one that is like that I have to make sure that everyone who deals with her knows she must have respect and must be polite. If they cant keep up with that then i don't want them handling her as she is one that will test every time with someone new to see what she can get away with.

Quote:
Do you all feel that this scenario is that big of a deal? Do you feel that making them wait for food without being pushy bleeds into other interactions with them (groundwork/riding) as far as respect?
I would say this if not kept consistent with expecting space and manners out of them could be a big issue. Any time you can work on Respect and space and not having them be pushy helps establish that you are the leader of the herd and good or bad can bleed over into other interactions with them. They should be able to respect you no matter what you are doing with them. As without respect and proper manners they could easily hurt or kill you, Accedently or intentionally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SueC View Post
Here's a simple thing you can do if horses are crowding you: Spin a lead rope over your head (with the cotton end out, not the clip end, of course) like a helicopter before you go in. Guaranteed space.
This is a good idea and very effective. One thing I do some times is carry a riding crop with me to use as an extension of my arm and create a little more space when needed.

Now Im still a newbie owner so take my thoughts how you like
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post #5 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 08:01 AM
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Excuse me if I don't think this is about leadership, it's just about food. People get really control freaky about this sort of thing and superimpose all sorts of ideas on it that aren't there. In nature, horses don't get brought food - it's an artificial situation. Horses feeding on the range is not the same thing as a pack of dogs feeding - horses on the range just graze simultaneously. When feeding horses, the main thing is to stay safe and not to reinforce inappropriate behaviour. There's another thread here discussing this sort of thing and "how-to" at the moment - and it's not about pecking order, it's just about not rewarding behaviours you don't appreciate, and rewarding good behaviours you do want to reinforce.

https://www.horseforum.com/horse-tra...hiness-803203/
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post #6 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by SueC View Post
Excuse me if I don't think this is about leadership, it's just about food.
My feeling is no matter if it's just about food or not If your horse is Crowding or being pushy It is a lack of manners and respect. Manners and respect are a direct reflection of your leadership in my opinion. Now not everyone feels that way I know.
Now getting what we want as correct manners or respect does require rewarding good behaviors and correcting bad behaviors so all in all that is a reflection of Leadership as well the way I see it.
For me, good leadership and asking for manners/ respect is not about control but good communication and understanding with my horses.

So i would like to ask why you dont think its about leadership. ( its always good to understand why one person thinks one way and you think another for me its good learning) :)
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post #7 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 09:54 AM
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I think Tiny posted this on another thread.

It shows that just making a horse step back is not enough, they have to keep well away and accept the food is yours until you say differently.


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post #8 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 10:26 AM
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I take a carrot stick or lunge whip in with me and they all know that they are not to approach before I ask them too. I walk up to the feed pan, look to make sure no one is too close (within about 10-15 feet) and then dump the food in the pan. I then allow 1 horse to approach (usually Cloney first) and the rule is, he has to approach respectfully, giving 2 eyes and ears up, then he must touch my hand with his nose and THEN and only then will I step away from the food bowl and say, "Good boy" and give him a pet on the way by. If he comes in and won't look at me, ears back (caca ears), or pushy in his attitude, I send him out until he relaxes and we start all over again. Dolly has figured things out to the point I don't even have to tell her anything. She stands out of reach watching me, attention all on me, then steps in and gives me the equivalent of a 'fist bump' with her nose as I'm stepping back from the bowl. Makes things very genteel and mannerly, no fear of someone getting out of order or being too rude, they all know that they'll get sent off the food if they push in any way.

Your 3 don't sound terrible, but they are too pushy for me, a pushy horse can and frequently will throw heels at a pasture mate and if you're in the way it's not a good outcome. I would just make them give me a little space and approach like I described, it actually speeds up the whole process.
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post #9 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 10:50 AM
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One thing that has worked for me free feeding my three in an outdoor space is prepping their food and then going to do another chore, which provides some wait time for them to go stand in their spot patiently. Doing it this way was an accidental side effect of soaking their cubes/pellets, and then I realized it had inadvertently created patient horses. It might take ~5 minutes for the pellets to soak down to where I want them, so I'll use that time to pick poo or top off water; when the horses hear and see me go into the feed shed to prep the pans, they fan out to their designated spots until I come over with their pans. Their spots are spread out so the old lady who gets the most food and eats slowest gets hers first, and on from there.

The thing I still have trouble with is that the one who gets just a handful hoovers it quickly and then sort of lurks around the other two eyeing their food if I'm not within close range of them. She won't bother them when I'm in range, but I couldn't leave them without her pushing them off their pans. So I'm considering putting a rope across her shed to keep her contained with some hay while the other two finish.
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post #10 of 28 Old 04-19-2019, 12:43 PM
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Hope I don't get virtual tomatoes thrown at me, but I am different. I don't have an issue with a horse greeting me when I have food. I have a little ritual, something the horses and I have enjoyed since I was a kid.

When I take the hay out to put in big tubs for the horses, I hold out the hay and let them taste a sample, then put it in their bucket. I have never had horses be aggressive to me with food, nor to each other. They know who gets to eat first, second, and so on. Sometimes I laugh with them and say, "Is the wine to your satisfaction?"

I have never found my not demanding horses move away from their food correlates to their obedience on the ground or under saddle. I know I spend a lot of time with my horses, and when I was a youngster, I spent tremendous amounts of time with my horse.

I've started a bunch of colts in my lifetime, and all 4 of the horses I have now I either started or "fixed" because they were unrideable when I got them. It could be just me, but I don't feel that ultra strict discipline around food is that necessary. At least it never has been for me. I like @bsms idea of partnership. It's worked for me, anyway.

As long as everybody's happy, then I'm happy.
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