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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun. 4, 2001
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    Default OTTB and feeding time issues

    I picked up a lovely 4 yr old who is super easy with every aspect except one. Feeding time. He is aggressive towards humans when he has grain or hay. He is not aggressive towards other horses stalled next to him. I do carry a crop with me to keep him from lunging. He does back down but having never had a horse act this way, I was curious as to how others handle this. He's inconsistent with the aggression but I'd like to curb/break this habit as quickly as possible.
    "Sometimes you just have to shut up and color."



  2. #2
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    Jan. 17, 2008
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    My sweetheart of an ottb also turns nasty when food is involved. Doesn't sound as bad as your guy but he does transform. He is also territorial about his stall. He is disciplined for his lack of manners and has gotten better but can still be a shit.
    Lame advice but I would say just keep working on it.
    "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."



  3. #3
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    Dec. 5, 2002
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    Lexington, KY/Ocala, FL
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    Quote Originally Posted by ponygirl View Post
    I do carry a crop with me to keep him from lunging

    Is he lunging at you because he's territorial, or are you trying to interact with him when he eats? I wouldn't tolerate dangerous territorial behavior, but if you are trying to mess with him while he is eating (such as grooming, petting, etc), then I would leave him alone to eat. In my experience, most racehorses don't want to be disturbed while eating.



  4. #4
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    Sep. 9, 2008
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    In A World Called Catastrophe
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    That depends on the horse. Some grooms will feed at the front of the stall while they groom or while the horse is in ice. Not my favorite thing, but it does happen. If the horse is being a butt, don't feed it the minute the behaviour crosses the line to disrespectful. There is no law that says you have to pack a crop to defend yourself at feed time and feed the horse regardless of behaviour. You are the Alpha and the horse is not. Take away what it wants and leave it at that. missing a mash or a graining or few won't hurt him, just his feelings



  5. #5
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    Dec. 5, 2002
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blinkers On View Post
    That depends on the horse. Some grooms will feed at the front of the stall while they groom or while the horse is in ice. Not my favorite thing, but it does happen.
    Yes, I'm sure it does, but most likely not the case here or the horse wouldn't have established feeding issues, which is the OPs problem. The majority are groomed on the wall. There are exceptions, of course, but that is the norm.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec. 1, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by ponygirl View Post
    I picked up a lovely 4 yr old who is super easy with every aspect except one. Feeding time. He is aggressive towards humans when he has grain or hay. He is not aggressive towards other horses stalled next to him. I do carry a crop with me to keep him from lunging. He does back down but having never had a horse act this way, I was curious as to how others handle this. He's inconsistent with the aggression but I'd like to curb/break this habit as quickly as possible.
    Give him his food and leave him alone while he eats. The more you escalate the food issue, the more of an issue it will be.

    I have food issues personally, I tell my own children that if we were starving I would give them all the food, but we are NOT so MAKE YOUR OWN SANDWICH! If I were on Animal Precinct I would take that damn plastic hand away from the tester and beat them to death with it!



  7. #7
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    Sep. 9, 2008
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    In A World Called Catastrophe
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    This is MO. K, lets say at feed time the hose is accustomed to being tied up. Fair enough, enough of us do it. So before feed gets mixed the horse gets hung on the wall and left there. It is commonplace for many on track. Only we might ice or change bandages and pick the stall. so hook the horse to the wall, mix his feed and walk away. Don't hang it in the stall till 4 if you started the feeding process at three. Then go into the stall with your crop and a shank. and hook on to the horse. You are the boss. He eats when you say he can. Turn him in the stall. make him stand and turn while his attention remains on you. then hook him back up and hang the tub. Mess with him again, keeping his focus on you and not the food. WHEN YOU ALLOW him to eat stay tied on to him and mess with him more. Allow a mouthful and get his respectful attention. You are the one ALLOWING him to eat. If you weren't allowing the meal, he would not eat. Reward the good and remove the food for the bad. his being fed depends on him. period.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar. 27, 2004
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    45 min W of Pittsburgh Pa
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    Quote Originally Posted by arktos19 View Post
    Give him his food and leave him alone while he eats. The more you escalate the food issue, the more of an issue it will be.

    This is great advice. I agree 1000%.
    Jessi Pizzurro ~~ Pennyroyal Stables
    Racehorses, OTTBs ~~ 330 383 1281
    Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. -- John Wayne



  9. #9
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    Oct. 4, 2003
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    Hurdle Mills, NC
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    I'm with Blinkers On and others who say handlers need to be in command/alpha, when dealing with horses. We can and should be benign leaders, but leaders we must be in the interests of everyone's security/safety. This is MY farm, MY "territory," and everyone here needs to understand that for things to run smoothly-- with my boss mare understanding that best of all . When my horses are aggressive about anything, I teach them to back off at command or do other tricks for me in order to get what they want as a reward for proper behavior. This was something I learned the hard way: many years ago, I had a boarder lunge at me and bite off part of my left ear as I was coming in to feed him. Since then, I've made a habit of teaching any horse with such tendencies to back off the stall door and stand at the feed tub (or do whatever else I ask) if s/he expects to eat. Same kind of thing with removing the halter at turn out, etc.-- no lunging: I tell them "back; put your head down," or whatever else I want and reward their patience/obedience with a bit of carrot before releasing them to do what they please.



  10. #10
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    Nov. 29, 2007
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    IL
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blinkers On View Post
    That depends on the horse. Some grooms will feed at the front of the stall while they groom or while the horse is in ice. Not my favorite thing, but it does happen. If the horse is being a butt, don't feed it the minute the behaviour crosses the line to disrespectful. There is no law that says you have to pack a crop to defend yourself at feed time and feed the horse regardless of behaviour. You are the Alpha and the horse is not. Take away what it wants and leave it at that. missing a mash or a graining or few won't hurt him, just his feelings
    I am not sure that this is the best solution. Horses don't have the ability to reason; her taking away his food will likely just make him more "insecure" about feeding and cause him to be more aggressive about it.

    A different idea would be to put the feed in the aisle or somewhere else and you TAKE him to the food. You "leading" him to the food--like the herd alpha would lead the herd to food/water--might make more of an impression.

    Just my .02.



  11. #11
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    Jun. 4, 2001
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    Florida
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    No, I'm not messing with him when he's eating. He is aggressive when I am bringing grain or hay to him. I will not tolerate this and have gone after him with a crop when he's come at me while I"m carrying a grain bucket. He's inconsistent with this behavior. Sometimes his ears are forward and he's fine while I drop him grain and hay. Sometimes he's lunging at me while I'm attempting to drop grain or hay. In this case, I don't drop it and close up the front part of his stall till he settles then drop it once he's quiet. He had a bucking fit yesterday b/c he heard the grain buckets being made. Again, I waited till he quit the antics before I fed him.

    I should say that at times I will hold the grain bucket and have him eat out of the bucket in the aisle and he's fine with this. I just need to curb the aggression quickly as I don't want anyone to get hurt.
    "Sometimes you just have to shut up and color."



  12. #12
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    Apr. 29, 2009
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    My TB was a rescue. He had definately been malnourished (I've seen the photos) He showed aggresion toward everybody and everything at feeding time. In the beginning, I carried a crop, got in, got out and left him to eat in peace. My thinking was I am in charge, but you get to eat in peace. As work increased and improved, he began to trust and respect me more. I would, from time to time enter his stall to pick poops or adjust blankets while he was eating. I went in, did what I wanted/needed to do and left him. Aside, but pertinent to the story IMO, I worked really hard on a good nutritional program for him. He was thin skinned, grumpy, prone to rain rot. He had crappy feet and a "loo brush" for a tail, SO I worked on making him healthy and comfortable from the inside out. I started w/ daily probiotics and then moved on to a homemade version of Succeed. Fed an unprocessed feed according to weight, adjusted and keep adjusting.
    I also mix up my feeding routine. I will not have horses tearing down the barn because it's 10 after 7 and breakfast is late. Sometimes, the stalls are prepped and they come in to a meal. Sometimes the hay and water are there and the meal arrives within 20-30 minutes. Evening feed can happen anywhere from 5 til 8 depending on time of year and outside activities. If we are hunting, they get brunch. All of this to say you don't have to "PROJECT ALPHA" all of the time to project alpha. They do get it if you are consistently, quietly in charge. Now, I can deliver feed to my guy in the dark in unfamiliar surroundings. He gives me room to do my job, then I give him room to do his - EAT. There was never a "battle" or a "showdown".
    If I were you, I would give him his space and think about what might be at play w/ your guy. Then set a plan, a course of action to start altering his behavior. Look outside the normal, obvious stuff. Sometimes, coming head on just starts the fight.
    Good Luck.



  13. #13
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    Mar. 27, 2004
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    45 min W of Pittsburgh Pa
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    Good post, Carolinagirl.

    I agree, declaring "I AM THE ALPHA DAGNABIT" is just looking for a fight and really serves no one's best interests. The "Real" Alphas don't need to do that, their actions do it for them in the course of their day to day activities, just as you described above.
    Jessi Pizzurro ~~ Pennyroyal Stables
    Racehorses, OTTBs ~~ 330 383 1281
    Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. -- John Wayne



  14. #14
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    I'm NOT declaring I'm alpha. I am telling him to BACK OFF when I'm trying to drop him grain and hay. He will come at me with ears back and I'm not willing to stand there and get hurt while I'm trying to bring him hay and grain. I hope I'm clear in what is going on. This isn't an issue of me being in his face. This is an issue of him being very aggressive, though inconsistently, towards a human who is bringing grain & hay to his stall. If no grain or hay is involved he's a gentlemen in his stall. If he's good, I drop his grain and hay and leave him alone to eat in peace. All I know about his history is that he came from a track to his previous owner as an uncut stallion. He was gelded later on and has been very easy for them with the exception of feeding. This I found out after I called and asked what the deal was after he went after me the first time. I was told he was dicey with grain and eventually settled down a bit. I wish I had known about the feeding issue prior but that is water under the bridge. He's been in my barn for less than two weeks so he really is new and still getting acclimated.
    None of my other horses have any vices or issues and are very simple to feed. I was just wondering what folks do in this situation b/c I don't want to exacerbate the problem.
    Last edited by ponygirl; Jul. 15, 2009 at 03:29 PM. Reason: additional info
    "Sometimes you just have to shut up and color."



  15. #15
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    Mar. 8, 2004
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    Baltimore, MD
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    I do what you have described. They must back up and give me space to give them their food or else they don't get it.



  16. #16
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    Then what you're already doing sounds good to me. You haven't had him long, so give it some time and see if it works. If not, try another approach.



  17. #17
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    Thanks guys. I'm glad to hear I'm approaching this as I should. He's a lovely animal and really fabulous in all other aspects.
    "Sometimes you just have to shut up and color."



  18. #18
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    I wasn't 100% clear from your post so I need to ask a question. You said he does this when you are bringing his hay and grain to him. Do you always bring them together at the same time? If so, try giving him a couple of flakes of hay before you even start rattling around the feed buckets. It probably won't completely alleviate the problem but will keep him busy for a while and take his mind off of it.



  19. #19
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    Jun. 5, 2006
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    Before you even feed, why don't you just throw a halter and shank on him, just so you have a little control if you need it?



  20. #20
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    Well I think that you need to plan out exactly the behaviour that you expect from him at feed time, show him what you want, and expect him to comply with your expectations. DO NOT bring a whip into his stall and start striking him with it, this will only urge him to protect himself MORE, from you, making you a threat to him. Instead, show him how you want him to behave, and reward him. This puts the two of you on the same side, not in opposition to each other.

    Put a shank on him, so that you have control of the situation. Most people want a horse like this to put himself into a corner of the stall, and wait there while the feed is put in. Then, you say "OK", and the horse may approach the feed. He is not allowed to approach the feed until you give him permission. Before you allow him to approach the feed, step him back one step, this puts you in the leadership role at the critical time. He may not wait patiently, he may make faces and complain about the requirement to wait, but as long as he waits in the correct spot, that is what is important. You could also tie him to the wall of the stall prior to your arrival with the feed to control his motion. Put a shank on him before untieing him, step him back one step, wait, position yourself so that you can safely exit the stall, then remove the shank and allow him to approach the feed.

    I also agree that removing the feed, or not giving it to him at all as punishment will not be understood by the horse. He must be shown what you expect in terms of behaviour at feed time, and he is expected to comply. If this has not been done previously in his training, it is up to you to do it now. Good luck, it sounds like the horse just needs some direction in terms of what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable in terms of behaviour at feed time.



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