Get Your Horse’s Mealtime Manners Back on Track

Does your horse become a monster at feeding time? Does he pin his ears and paw at his feed bin, or even kick the stall walls?

This behavior can easily escalate, and it requires intervention to preserve your sanity, your safety, and your barn walls.  The bad news is that there’s no one size fits all approach, but the good news is that your horse is fed at least twice a day, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity for trial and error.

Observe your horse at feeding time. Is he acting aggressive and dominant? If he’s watching the other horses in the barn and pinning his ears, shielding his food bucket with his body, or kicking the stall walls at the other horses, he’s likely food aggressive, in the same way that dogs can be.

Be wary when working with food aggressive horses and wear protective shoes and a helmet, especially if they kick. Work with the horse when it’s not feeding time, and assert your personal space by doing some ground work and getting the horse to yield to pressure. When you walk with intention towards his head, he should back up. If you do the same towards his side, he should move away from you.

Next, work on expanding your personal space in the stall. The end goal is that the horse learns to stand in the back of his stall when you come in to feed him, and only approaches his grain once you’ve stepped away or invited him by softening your body language and turning to allow him to approach the grain. When the horse understands that he is to stand at the back of the stall when you walk in with grain, you’ll be much safer and his brain will be focused on you instead of guarding his meal. If you feel intimidated by your horse, please consult your trainer.

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