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Trainer Q&A - Behavior Problems & Quirks - My horse is aggressive when eating, Is there anything I can do to modify his behavior?

My horse is aggressive when eating, Is there anything I can do to modify his behavior?

Dnewman Asks:

I recently got a new mature horse. He is food aggressive. Pins his ears if you walk by while he is eating, etc. While he was eating hay in the barn yard, I approached him to give a pat for the good ride and time we had together and he bit me, on the forearm. First time in over 50 years around horses that happened. He broke the skin with his bottom teeth and gave a good pinch of my muscle. It hurt so bad I almost fainted. Needles to say I am very hesitant around him now. What can I do about this? Otherwise, he is a very good horse overall.

Our Trainer Answers:

Some horses are very aggressive at feeding time, and while this is an aggravation to us, it is best to leave this type of horse alone while he is eating. So long as your new horse has no other vices, or what we refer to as "bad" behavior problems, I would simply make sure that you have said all of your "thank you's" and given all your pats to him before you put him out to eat.

In the herd a horse has to prove his dominance at feeding time to the rest of his pals. It is normal to never have any kind of bickering between your horses, except for during feeding time. Your horse is not trying to intentionally hurt you, he is just trying to make sure that he doesn't lose out on his feed by treating you as would one of his herd mates. So don't take it personally, he doesn't mean it that way. However, if you choose not to leave him be, this behavior could carry over into the rest of the time that you spend with him. By not allowing him to be aggressive toward you, by giving him his space at feeding time, he will not learn that he can get away with it.

Thank You and Happy Trails!

Christy Mellington