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Horse Is Over Protective Over His Food...

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#1 Taglet


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Posted 10 September 2009 - 10:09 AM

I hope this is the right place to post this, I've been having a problem with my gelding around feeding time. He lives in a paddock by himself, but shares a fence with one other horse. The other horse cannot reach his feeder from her paddock, but she always sticks her nose over the fence anyways and it drives my gelding crazy. He'll charge the fence and kick out at her, which has resulted in him hurting his leg twice because he kicked the fence so hard. He kicked me once when I was going out to his paddock to take off his blanket while he was eating.

So I thought I could put up an electrical wire between the two and that way the other mare can't get close to him. However, his over protectiveness happens in the stall too. The stalls at the barn have boards on either side all the way to the top so the horses can't see their neighbours. However, when my gelding gets his grain at night he still kicks out at the stall walls, even though he can't see any other horses! If I go into his stall to clean it while he's eating his grain, sometimes he'll lift a foot like he's going to kick just because he sees "someone" in his stall. I've gotten after him several times for this because I don't tolerate horses kicking me and for the most part he's ok now. However, with school starting I've been getting someone else to help me with chores and I really don't want them to get kicked by accident because he's being an idiot about his food.

So I guess my question is, is there any way I can get him to stop being so protective over his food? It's so annoying when he's constantly kicking the stall walls even when there's no one there.

When it's not feed time, he's the sweetest horse ever. confused0024.gif

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#2 historyrider


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Posted 10 September 2009 - 11:15 AM

Hello Taglet,

I'm sure he is the sweetest horse ever BUT, you want to realize that his over protectiveness at feeding time and agression toward YOU is extremely disrespectful and dangerous. He is treating you and any human exactly the same way he treats his fellow horses. Part of this is coming from the fact that he doesn't get to socialize with other horses. Another horse who can interact physically with him or better still a whole bunch of them would likely put your boy in his place a little bit. It seems like your horse is acting a bit like a dog who barks and chases at anything until the day the thing turns around and challenges him. It's easy to be the dominant horse when every time you get full of yourself and expressive, no one ever kicks you back. Likely at some point in his life he was in a herd and way down on the pecking order. He never got to eat first I'm sure and now that nothing stands between him and his food, he likes it that way and is really trying to tell the world that it's HIS food. What I think could help with this is to show him that it's really YOUR food.

Tell us a little about your facility. Do you have a round pen? Also, do you do ground work with him. When someone tells me their horse is really sweet, my first question is always, "Well, what do you ask him to do for you?" If you don't make requests that consistently get backed up with demand for non compliance, you don't want to just put yourself in the middle of a round pen with a bucket of grain and start telling your horse he can't have it. You want to make sure you have some respect from him first. You should be able to move him effortlessly out of your space whenever you ask. He should depart and move his feet with hustle when you direct him to and I would also like him to stand quiet and pay attention from a distance when you enforce your personal space.

The reason I'm going around the bush a bit here is I want you to be safe while you work on this issue. The end work and goal would be to take his usual food bucket into the round pen with you and do some comprehensive ground work exercises with him while you and the bucket stay in the center. It's your food. When he is polite and respectful of your dominance over that bucket, you can turn and walk away. Now you are also going to have to change your mind often and run him off of it again. He's not going to like this and you will want to have a tool in hand to help you motive him and keep yourself safer. Remember that humans work with a lot of bluff because we weight less than 200 lbs while most horses are over a thousand. We don't want to fight so you have to be prepared to win the battle mentally. This we can do but you must be effective. If he won't quit the grain when you tell him to he is going to have to be made very uncomfortable for that. If you make a half hearted attempt to drive him off the bucket and he challenges you, you are going to have to convince him through high pressure and over the top body language that he is going to die for that thought. This is very easy to type and is not for everyone I assure you. Please do not attempt to do this if you are not up to it.

The goal here is to teach your horse that he gets to eat after you decide to let him and at any time you can interupt him without hurting him or denying him his sustainance indefinetaly. It's not going to be fixed with one session I doubt but you can start to turn the tide. Once you get this concept working in an enclosure such as a round pen, you can then take that understanding into his pasture or stall. Now PLEASE don't start this in his stall, it's just way to confining and he could really hurt you. Once he gets the idea of this you can then go into his stall with grain and ask him to back up. Wait until he is respectful of your space and then dump the food. Now don't let the action of dumping food become a bell going off in his head for a feeding frenzy. Dump and turn to face him and just stand there. He doesn't get to put his nose in that feeder until you let him and if he's anything but polite, take it away and come back later.

I'm sure this will change his behavior but remember to always work safe around your horse. You have let this problem go unchecked for a while I think and now it's not just him testing but it's a really bad habit now. It's going to harder to break. Once you start this, stick with it. The worst behavior you routinely allow is the best behavior you have any right to expect from your horse.

You want to fix this but you must do so safely or you should hire a good hand to help you with it. Don't feel bad if you think this is to much to handle yourself. That voice of reason is there to protect us from ourselves. If someone else helps you with the concept that will be the hardest part and then you may very well carry on successfully afterwards. It will ultimately be up to you to be sure it doesn't come back.

Best wishes on this,

William (historyrider)

#3 redfilly81



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Posted 10 September 2009 - 12:13 PM

Really great advice from historyrider. I hope you can take the time to make this right. I would be especially concerned that the person you have feeding or cleaning stalls could be injured. I know of at least one person who died after being kicked in the head, and several others who have been badly injured, even permanently, from horses who were "sweethearts". I hope the best for you and your guy!
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#4 Mudder


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Posted 10 September 2009 - 12:37 PM

Great advice from William as usual. Be aggressive and very aggressive with this horse when you need to be. Be quick with your corrections. Most of all be very very consistent.
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