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sarah_c

Feeding with dominant and submissive horses

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Hi Everyone,

I want to ask a question around feeding time.  My girl is quite the dominant one at feed time with her paddock mate, who is very submissive.  I feed them both at the same time with a good distance between them (yield her back, ask for a flex before putting the bucket down and feed her first, then walk over and feed the gelding).  After giving them their feed, as soon as I walk away to start poo scooping, my girl will leave her feed, yield the gelding away and want to eat his hard feed.  She only has to give him the mare stare and he walks away!  So I usually stand by the gelding and protect his space with my stick until he eats his hard feed.  If she comes towards me I will use some non-contact yielding with my stick to send her back to her own dinner.  My question is - how would she perceive this?  Am I damaging the connection between us by protecting the submissive horse or would she see me as a leader?

Thanks, Sarah

 

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Hi Sarah, 

Great question! Feed time sure does bring out the pecking order. Your mare see's herself as the leader of the pack at feed time.  You are doing the right thing by protecting your gelding, you are getting browny points from him for doing it... 

She must see you at about the same level as the gelding during this time.... If at any time they approach you, other horse around or not, in a dominant move they are expecting us to behave the same way as their herd would, either yeild or stand up for your personal space. By using a no contact yield to move her away you are saying please dont come into my space like that.... which is good.... it's what she does and how she behaves and moves while your removing her from that space that matters and what will tell you more... 

Imagine if it were a lead mare in the paddock that she moved in on.. I don't think she would be allowed back in until she moved soflty, had a nice attitude and was flexed the right way.... 

So you are doing the right thing in yielding her away, but the overall result will depend on what you release on. Thats what will either build your connection or eat away at it.

Hope this helps. 

Cheers

Jill.

 

 

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PS: Thought id mention that I have a feeding ritual. If I am giving hard feeds, I make sure that my horses come in flexed and sniff my hand before they eat. They need to be soft, calm and not pushy. If they sniff my hand and then shove their nose in the bucket ill send them away and ask again. They need to be soft to everything, including the feed bucket!

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As the leader of your herd, you can choose who to protect and when, but you will need to be fair and consistent, for your horses to except it well.

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Thanks guys.  Glad to hear that I'm doing the right thing protecting the gelding and yielding the mare away.   What I hadn't considered is what you said Jill - what I'm releasing on.  I've tried things a little differently for the last few days and focused on getting her to move away more softly with a better attitude.  It worked!

 

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Great reminder for everyone, its one of those areas that is so overlooked.  Feeding and letting your horse go in the paddock, all things that we can tend to just "do" without understanding the importance of what it means to your horse.

 

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It can be tough Sarah when you are feeding more than one horse and the feeds are different.  If you can't separate them then yes, you'll just have to wait while he finished his.  And as the others have said, it's all about personal space.  You can really make them  wait like a dog....they don't see things that way...but you can expect them to respect your space and your other horses.  Generally you'll see this flow on to calmer, more polite feed time manners.

:)

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Great tips from everyone here. Ive often had to do the same thing and what Ive learnt that really helps is to use our horses nature of picking up on patterns to our advantage. Mine have different coloured buckets, they always get fed in the same order - top of the pecking order down, and I always feed them in the same spots, just another strategy to help make life easier and clearer! 

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