Saturday, September 17, 2011

So, How Are Things on the Food Front?

I said there was more to come on the pasture update. That is inclusive of the food issues we were experiencing.

To refresh your memory, Milo had been exhibiting bad food aggressive behavior at meal time towards others. This had been an ongoing issue since I got him four years ago, but things seemed to be resolved between he and I. However, with him living on a pasture with another horse, there was always someone else (or another horse) involved between him and his food. A confrontation between he and a feeder at the barn made me really try and figure out how I was going to "fix" this issue towards others.

Since then, I had been volunteering to feed him as many times as I was able to try and see what kind of attitude he would present to me. I wasnt sure what to expect, but was assuming he wouldnt show any ill behavior towards me when feeding. I was right, but determined to work on the issue anyways. What I did was enter the pasture with the grain buckets and proceed to go into the stalls and feed the horses (namely Milo to work on this exclusively). Now, the feeders never have a reason to go into the pasture to feed, but on the rare occasion (like with the aforementioned confrontation), and to better work on close-quarters feed time for anyone else who might handle Milo during feeding (ie, someone feeding at a horse show, like when Melissa fed him at the last horse show).

Entering the pasture with the grain buckets (and longe whip in hand initially), I would insist that Milo stay away from me while I held the buckets. He never tried to come into my space and quietly followed behind me at a distance towards the pasture (I was vigilant, however, in knowing where he was so at no time could he suddenly advance to me). I would dump the grain into the stalls, and continue to maintain Milo outside of the stall. He had to wait patiently, quietly, and without any sort of bad behavior before I would exit the stall and let him enter. I would leave, he still had to wait until I verbally said, "OK" and pointed him into the stall. No issue, and I would let Milo eat a few mouthfuls of grain, then I would loudly demand, "OUT!" and point him out of the stall. I never had to use the longe whip, but I would raise it for him to know I meant business if he didnt listen to me first. I could not exit in a scramble or with his hind towards me. This continued to work fine.

Then I up-ed it to still maintaining a pleasant demeanor when I was in the stall with him. I wasnt sure how to approach this because he could very well get me good being that close to him and his food. But I didnt anticipate anything, and simply would walk into the stall, then loudly demand, "OUT!" and point my arm towards the exit, raising the longe whip if needed. Repeat a few times, and Milo started to sigh and get sort of bored with it all. Then I increased this even more - touching him when eating and even trying to pull his head out of the bucket. I wanted to really try and push his buttons and see what might happen. Again, no issue, and I still would demand "OUT!" when needed and not allow him to turn hind end towards me when exiting.

I repeated this exercise many times during feeding. I was then pleasantly surprised to find at the horse show that he not so much as flicked an ear as I entered the stall with food. I do not allow him to steal food out of my hands as I walk it into the stall, and he never tried to turn his rear towards me either. To hear he did splendidly for Melissa seemed to seal the deal for me.

Now, thats not to say that "problem solved, all things are great now", this will need to be maintained and tested with other people still, but it certainly feels as if things are on the right track. And although I cannot ensure he will always be respectful towards other people, at least I can feel confident knowing that he is quiet and respectful towards me, and that is all I can truly expect from him.

1 comment:

An Image of Grace said...

I had completely forgotten about Milo's food agression issues that morning until you asked me how he did when I fed him his hay. He was a perfect gentleman, even stepping back so I could put his hay in the corner.