My "perfect" Pony has an issue...food aggressive

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Frozen Feathers, Mar 6, 2008.

  1. Frozen Feathers

    Frozen Feathers Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 4, 2007
    Maine
    Since I got my pony home, he has been great. He does everything I ask of him willingly and quietly. I have not done too much with him, as I would like him to settle down and get used to us. Well this morning I threw out some hay and he went about eating it. He was sharing with the goats and all was well. That is until I went in the pen to clean up some manure. When I walked by him he turned his rear end to me and tried to kick at me. I was a bit shocked, but I immediately yelled at him and chased him away from the food and didn't let him near him until he calmed down. Obviously DD won't be going near him while he's eating for now on.

    Now my question, did I do the right thing? I have never dealt with a food aggressive horse or any animal, for that matter. So horse people, please advise so I can nip this in the bud before it gets worse.
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Well, it's usually safer not to work around new animals whilst they're eating, til you and the pony have had more detailed discussions about who is likely to do what under what circumstances... but , I would have done the exact same thing as you did once the pony kicked at me.

    If it were me I think I'd just leave the subject alone for a month or two while the pony settles in and you get to know each other better. That is, just stay away from him when he is eating, rather than 'picking a fight'. After that, though, it would definitely be something to work on. It will be much much easier for you to deal with after you know each other better.

    It might also be smart not to feed him any treats for the time being (well, at least not in any way that he associates them coming from you).

    Good luck,

    Pat
     
  3. Frozen Feathers

    Frozen Feathers Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 4, 2007
    Maine
    Thank you very much, Pat. I think that's what I'll do, just let him be while he's eating for a while, until he gets to know us. [​IMG]
     
  4. helmstead

    helmstead Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 12, 2007
    Alfordsville, IN
    Agree with Pat.

    I had an OTTB that would literally charge you in his stall if he had grain back when I was 13. He scared me to death. Finally, my trainer handed me a broom and sent me in (supervised, of course) while he was eating. It took me a couple sessions of "this is my feed bucket, you can have it when I say so and you're gonna be nice the whole time or else you must go stand in the dunce corner."

    I think you did the right thing.

    Now, it might just be the pics...but in every pic you've posted he looked aweful sunken in. Maybe he hasn't seen a lot of hay or has been pushed off it by the mare he lived with and learned he had to fight to keep it. If that's the case, the behavior might stop on it's own after a couple months as he gets comfy. Only time will tell.
     
  5. Frozen Feathers

    Frozen Feathers Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 4, 2007
    Maine
    No, it's not just the pics, he does need some groceries. [​IMG] Vet said he was a bit underweight, but didn't seem too concerned. Right now I am feeding him good timothy hay and a few alfalfa cubes a day. I'm a bit hesitant to start him on any grain.
    I also just wormed him today, too.

    I took him out and did some ground work exercises with him this afternoon. He was very respectful, knows a bit more then then previous owners gave him credit for. Dr. Jekyll-Mr Hyde syndrome, I think. [​IMG]
     
  6. equine chick

    equine chick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 9, 2007
    pennsylvania
    I really would not have messed with them while they were eating but a horse has to know you are the boss mare no matter what. You did the right thing. The ground manners is a good start, but if a horse kicks, places his behind towards you that is very disrespectful. When I had a younger horse she tried this with me a few times. I used to carry a small crop with me when I was around her, whenever she would attempt to bite, kick or put her butt towards me she got a smack from the crop. It did not take time for her to learn to respect me, now she is 4 and I would not trade her for anything. I think he just thought you were in his territory and wanted to see if you would back down.
     
  7. Equest94

    Equest94 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 29, 2007
    New York
    I agree with Pat and equine chick also. I think you are correct in believing he has food aggression, but that's not the route of the problem., I am thinking it's more of a dominance issue. If it was food aggression alone, I would believe that the pony would also go after the goats, but since he's sharing the hay with them, it appears not to be so.

    Your pony may respect you while you ride him and such, but his ground manners (at least in this case) are unacceptable.

    Horses, like most pack/herd animals have a pecking order. In the case with horses, it's the alpha mare who leads the herd to new grazing sites and is pretty much in charge (the stallion is only there to breed and protect). Usually herd members get along fine, but in the case of a new members or slim grazing, fights and aggression can emerge. If your pony is chasing you away from the food, he sees you as a lower member of the herd. The biggest issue is that he's new, but instead of being the submissive one, he's challenging you for position.

    I think you chasing him away was a good idea. Body language is the main source of communication in horses. By chasing him away, you told him that you are willing to hold your ground and that you have a higher status than he. After that I would square my shoulders up at him and stare him down, if he tried to come back, chase him away again. When you finally are willing to let him come back, simply turn away from him and walk forward. I know it sounds a bit bizarre, but that's what the alpha mare does. It tells them that their behavior is unacceptable and that if they keep it up will not be allowed back into the herd (which is very distressing because the herd offers protection and a horse on it's own most likely will not survive).

    Just be careful and don't give up.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2008
  8. verthandi

    verthandi Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 18, 2007
    Maine
    Equest94, that was very well explained. I was trying to think of the words but couldn't do it as nicely as you just did. This pony is figuring out his place in the new herd. About half of the new arrives here have tried similar tactics, but soon learn that I am head mare here. I can bring food or I can pass them by if their manners are lacking. And I am willing to wait for good behavior so they can be rewarded.

    Helmstead I had to laugh when I read your broom comment. I also had an older relative teach me the broom method...I must say it worked fairly well and can keep one out of harms way. Makes me wonder if Parelli had a broom instead of a carrot stick as a kid. [​IMG]

    Moving this pony away from his hay and deciding when he could return to eat was a great way to establish his place in his new herd.
     
  9. Meesh

    Meesh Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 12, 2008
    Rocky Mountains
    You did the right thing. If you want or need to take it one step further, after you move him off of the food, pick it up and take it out of the pen. It works amazingly well... My BLM mustang tried once to take a kick at me during feed time and was so wide-eyed-shocked that I could pick up the food and leave with it. He never tried it again. :) You don't even have to keep the food out of the pen for long, 10 or 20 minutes makes a big impact.

    Do be super-super-careful with the DD. A girl I went to elementary school with was kicked in the head by the family horse during feeding time. It's soooo dreadfully unsafe for a child to be around even a perfectly gentle horse that is not paying attention (for ex. eating).

    And Yes, ponies are wayyyy too smart for their own good and will do their best to train you. Be careful, and make sure you prevail. You don't always have to win, so much as the pony has to yield. It's OK not to get exactly what you want every time if the pony is willing to yield and try to give you what you want.

    With the mustang, I eventually have trained him that if I wave at him and say 'buh-bye', he backs up, and I pitch him his hay. He does better having a good behavior to offer, not just punishment for being pushy & obnoxious.

    Esp. if your pony has been a truly hungry horse, I would expect him to rise up and challenge you. But IME a horse that has been hungry will do their level best at first to get along (and EAT), and then will make a good effort to challenge you. There's not a concept of gratitude, just the instinct to be the top horse and have the most resources. Don't get caught up feeling sorry for him or letting him get away with things, and it will be fine.

    Just some random thoughts. Most of all, be safe! He sounds like he could be a great pony.

    Cheers,
    Michelle
     

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