Sudden change of attitude while feeding.. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 07-08-2014, 06:30 PM Thread Starter
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Sudden change of attitude while feeding..

I have a new 5 year old Friesian gelding that I have been working with the last few weeks. He has only been at my barn for just shy of a month now, but has seemed to settle in quite nicely with the other horse.

He was green broke when I got him, and handled mostly in and out of his stall and grazing field. I noticed fairly quickly that I had to establish ground manners with him, as he had the tendency to run right over me with no understanding or respect for my personal space. Through simply lunging and ground work over the past few weeks he is now much better and over the last two weeks feeding, grooming and leading him has been almost a breeze... until these last few days (specifically with feeding time).

His feeding area is quite close to the tack room, where I often run back and forth during his feeding time getting my own chores done around his paddock. Usually when I'm heading in and out of the barn, he is quite responsive to move his body over and stay clear of my path. However, the last few days, he's raised his back leg and threatened to kick when I ask him to move over. In addition, he also throws his head up and pins his ears back when I approach him (as I usually do) from his side to pet him. Oddly enough this was never ever an issue as from day one I have often groomed him, played with him, picked his feet and overall just played with him when he eats which he seemed to really enjoy. Wondering where this is coming from? And what I might be doing wrong? Wondering how to handle him raising his leg, as it has created a bit of uncertainty and fear for me. Hoping you guys/gals can share some creative thought and suggestions! :)

Thank you!
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post #2 of 20 Old 07-08-2014, 08:10 PM
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Sounds like he's testing the waters and challenging you for your spot on the totem pole.
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post #3 of 20 Old 07-08-2014, 10:58 PM
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Yeah, I'd say he's just settled in & become confident enough to try teaching you some 'ground manners' Some people advise not to mess with a horse or dog while they're eating, but to respect their space & leave them alone. They can be understandably more 'assertive' & possessive at this time. I agree that if you're not confident about *safely* instilling manners at this time, that it's probably best to avoid it, but I personally want my horses to be 'well mannered' at all times & as such I'd want to address this behaviour pronto. My method would be to 'own' the feed. It's mine to share with him as I see fit & if he doesn't 'mind his manners' he doesn't earn the right to eat. I'd drive him off & only allow him access when he's being 'polite'. Of course, if you're feeding him in a stable, that's going to be more difficult & potentially dangerous.
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post #4 of 20 Old 07-08-2014, 11:29 PM
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While I agree you should be able to handle a cooperative respectful horse at all times and that he should behave even (and especially) while eating, at the same time I would leave him alone during that time. No need to pester him.

I agree, "owning" the food will help. I would use a crop (to use lightly if he does not move off but mostly as a safety tool if he say, turns to kick) be careful!

If you aren't able to handle it safely get help. Leave it alone for the time being, for safety's sake, but at some point someone should help you deal with it as he will learn he can be in charge and that's not ok. Once the issue is dealt with it will be good to do small things here and there to make a point, but overall I would leave him alone and let him eat.
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post #5 of 20 Old 07-08-2014, 11:59 PM
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FWIW while I agree he may of settled in and be testing the boundaries, he may also just be getting annoyed with all the handling during supper time.
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post #6 of 20 Old 07-09-2014, 01:45 AM
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I agree that he is both testing the boundaries and that you should be able to do anything with him whilst he is eating.

I also agree that he should be left alone to eat his hard food in peace. How would you like sitting down to eat your meal and someone coming and brushing your hair or making you move your feet as they tries to sweep under them?
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post #7 of 20 Old 07-09-2014, 06:35 AM
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I believe if his manners were solid while not eating, his manners would be solid while eating. It could be he isn't as solid as you think and wee little signs are being missed outside of meal time.
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post #8 of 20 Old 07-09-2014, 07:06 AM
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Sorry that my post was short and not very helpful. I was at work and posted while on break so I could come back later to answer.

To me, your horse has settled in and just like in any herd, they will see if they can move up in the hierarchy. Some will wait longer than others but it will happen.

If this was happening right in the beginning, he could be doing it for lack of respect or from fear. Since it isn't, he's basically telling you off and to back off.

Anytime a horse raises their back leg or backs towards me, I don't hesitate to make the first move and smack them or even kick them. It is really unlikely that we could even come close to hitting them as hard as another horse could kick them. Even if I did kick them, I would do it so the top of my foot is what gets them and not the toe. It would be the same as them doing it to the lead horse of the herd. The lead horse wouldn't hesitate to kick first either.

Pinning of the ears is just another warning or threat the will act if you don't listen, just like raising their back leg. Depending on if the horse is tied or loose, I would do different things. If loose I would make them move and move away from me. If tied, they would likely get a sharp yell at them or a smack. If you do smack them, you do need to be careful to not frighten them or cause fear. That could cause an accident with them or cause their fight mode to kick in because they are trapped by being tied.

It is best to let them be when eating. However, they should still respect you if you are near them while eating. Maybe you could wait to give him feed until you are done near him or wait until he's done before you mess around near him. If he does pin his ears when you are near, he should be corrected though.

Pinned ears or raised leg, this is definitely what I think:

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post #9 of 20 Old 07-09-2014, 08:35 AM
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Holding the feed bucket while he is eating (politely) should be something you can do to help sort him, that isn't excessively bothersome for a horse during food time.
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post #10 of 20 Old 07-09-2014, 10:16 AM
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mine were being turds and getting pushy with me while i was out feeding them

i would do this with them one at a time in the front yard --

i took a carriage whip out with me and sat on the feed bucket
it was mine and they couldn't have any

they could stick around, and watch at a safe distance -- but if they got too close, i would tag them with the carriage whip

i would sit there for 5 minutes until they starting losing interest
then i would get up and invite them in for a few bites
i would shoo them away
if they didn't go i would yell and swing the whip
if they didn't move fast enough i would yell, swing the whip, and charge

then i would sit on the bucket again for 5 minutes
it was mine and they can't have any until i say so
the nicer they are, the more time they get to spend eating
ear pinning, stomping, pawing, and kicking the feed bucket meant they got run off immediately

rinse and repeat until the feed is gone -- might take a full hour
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