Q. I have 9 month old Morab. I just bought him. He is pretty good with all of the handling that I do with him except for eating. He is very aggressive about his food. When I put the grain in his stall, he puts his ears back and crowds me out of the way.
I have been unsure what to do so I just leave quickly. If I then go near him at all while he is eating, he lifts up his hind legs and looks really nasty. I am not sure what to do. Will be grow out of it? Should I just leave him alone and let him eat in peace?
Helen L. Scranton, Pa.
A. Hello Helen, and thank you for writing.
I do not think you can let this behavior continue, but if you are a bit nervous around your horse when he threatens you, please get a knowledgeable horse person to help you.Your horse is definitely being aggressive, and you do need to reestablish his respect for you, even if now it is just exhibited when he is eating. This problem is not all that uncommon. If the horse is just a bit grumpy when eating, often nothing has to be done. Indeed, you can just let them be for the brief period of time involved when they are eating their grain.
Your horse, however, is actively threatening you. This behavior could escalate. You just have to change the pattern that he has established. I have been successful by reacting immediately when the horse threatens me. When you go into his stall carry a lead rope with you. If you go into the stall to give him the grain and he threatens you, or if he is aggressive right after he is grained, immediately go boldly into his "space" and put the lead rope on him. With definite "energy" lead him out of the stall. Walk him around and find room to work on asking him to lead forward, back up, and disengage his haunches,making him move away from your body as you invade his space.
You will have an assertive energy level, but you must never lose your temper. Your response has to be matched exactly to his actions. You want him to respect you and listen to you, but not to be actively afraid. When he is listening to you, lead him back into the stall and hold the lead rope while he eats. As long as he does not threaten you again, just leave him alone. If he threatens you again, just repeat the procedure.
Be certain that you attach a lead rope before you correct your horse. If you yell or threaten your horse in his stall without having control of his head he could wheel and kick or charge you. Please let me know if you keep having any trouble. There are good training techniques to use with young horses such as Tellington-Jones T.E.A.M. methods or some Natural Horsemanship techniques. Just make sure that the methods make sense to your horse and are non-abusive.