Horses and ponies often develop bad feeding habits and the way to fix them is fairly simple. The idea is that you ignore unwanted behaviour and reward the good. In the case of feeding manners this means that the horse only gets his dinner when he is behaving how you want him to behave at feeding time.
For example, many horses start door banging at feed time and owners would quite like them not to (bad for leg and bad for door!) but they feed him to make him stop. This reinforces the behaviour – if he bangs the door he gets food. So you have to ignore the behaviour, walk away, put his food back in the feed room and only take it out and walk towards him again when he has stopped banging. If he starts banging again, walk away and keep repeating this cycle until he doesn’t bang when you go towards him with the food (verbally praise this immediately!). Once you walk towards him with the food and he isn’t banging you give him the food and praise him. Do this every feed time. If the habit is ingrained you will have to dedicate a lot of time to the retraining but every time it should get easier 🙂
Other bad food manners are sorted the same way – a horse that barges or lunges for the food doesn’t get the food until he is still and behaving as you want him to at feed time. Remember to praise all good behaviour and ignore all the unwanted behaviour.
Horses will get excited at feeding time because they know what is coming as it is part of their routine. If you have real difficulty with them, then try splitting their feed into lots of small meals so you can practice and train many times a day. The food becomes a little less exciting and they become less worried about missing out on their single big feed. You are also less worried about the time you may need to take before they get their food! You can work back to one or two feeds a day once you have the behaviour you want.
Feel free to like, share, and comment, so I know what little problems you all have so that I can feature them in a future Tuesday’s Tip!