Horse nasty when eating grass

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4 February 2013
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Hi all just looking for some advice, I've had my new horse for 4 weeks so still getting to know her. She was in her own field to start with and she was extremely possessive over hay. Didn't want me anywhere near it, putting her ears back and would try to bite. We were slowly getting there I was just spending time standing next to her eating so she would realise I wasn't going to take it!

She now shares a field with my sisters horse and they get on fine but I cut the hay out to stop any arguments between them. It's a bigger field with more grass so they have enough to eat. After I've done some work with her in the evenings this week I let her graze in a little paddock with longer grass while I did my jobs. When I go to catch her she gets really funny, ears back, turns her bum on me and tries to bite when I catch her. I've never known a horse to be possessive over grass? Today I walked up to her just to stroke her while she was eating in this paddock and she turned and tried to kick me. I tried walking her round but she was extremely annoyed that I was stopping her from eating, walking round with ears back trying to bite. She's not like this in her field and obviously I don't have to put her in the paddock with more grass but I'd like to get her out of this behaviour. Can anyone suggest what I could do to help get her out of this? She will be 4 at the end of may. Thank you
 

FlyingCircus

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With ponies I've had like this, if they make any sort of aggressive move towards me I drive them out of my space (with a whip, though I don't ever hit!). They're then not allowed to eat or stop until I LET them stop. Then I approach again, if same aggressive response rinse and repeat. Some take a while to get it but others are surprisingly quick.
 

amymay

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She sounds like a stroppy madam. I would stop putting her out in the paddock if she doesn’t need additional grazing, for starters.

I agree with FC about not putting u with the behaviour when it happens - although a stick usually encourages them to kick out. My favourite method is ‘flappy coat’ whilst growling. This usually moves them on pretty quick. Some horses, by nature though, are unfortunately not quite as nice as others, so you’re obviously going to have to be a bit careful with this one.

There’s also no reason why multiple horses can’t have hay in the field together. If they can’t share, them you simply put piles out, we’ll spread apart - and always two more piles than horses.
 
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She sounds like a stroppy madam. I would stop putting her out in the paddock if she doesn’t need additional grazing, for starters.

I agree with FC about not putting u with the behaviour when it happens - although a stick usually encourages them to kick out. My favourite method is ‘flappy coat’ whilst growling. This usually moves them on pretty quick. Some horses, by nature though, are unfortunately not quite as nice as others, so you’re obviously going to have to be a bit careful with this one.

There’s also no reason why multiple horses can’t have hay in the field together. If they can’t share, them you simply put piles out, we’ll spread apart - and always two more piles than horses.
She is very stroppy! But then the next second she stands there absolutely good as gold I just have to be careful as I don't know when shes going to change. I've only put her in there for 10 or 15 mins after shes been worked while I do my jobs, like I did with my last horse. I can stop putting her in there but we have to walk through the paddock to get to her field and she can get funny just walking through if I don't let her stop and eat. I'll try the growling and flapping and see if it works.

Yes come next winter I will put the hay in lots of piles like I normally do, I just wanted them to get used to each other first with no additional food in the field that she could get protective over.
 
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Do you know much about her past?
She was only with her last owner for 4 months and she lived out 24/7 in a big field of mares. I don't think anyone really went in the field apart from when they caught their horse to bring in and ride etc. So she didn't really have anyone around her in the field as they didn't have to poo pick. I'm in contact with her previous owner who brought her from the breeder and owned her for 3 years, she said she was never nasty with hay or food, she lived with their other 3 horses and never had any issues. So maybe the last 4 months she has just gotten used to the field being her space to eat without being bothered? I'm not sure.
 

be positive

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She may have spent the last 4 months being hungry and is now defensive, she should not behave in the way she is but if she has previously been good I would suspect she has had a tough winter and learned to fight for food, ensure you set clear boundaries but equally ensure she is not hungry, she is still maturing physically as well as mentally so unless she is overweight I would give her a top up of hay until the grass is really well through.
 
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She may have spent the last 4 months being hungry and is now defensive, she should not behave in the way she is but if she has previously been good I would suspect she has had a tough winter and learned to fight for food, ensure you set clear boundaries but equally ensure she is not hungry, she is still maturing physically as well as mentally so unless she is overweight I would give her a top up of hay until the grass is really well through.
She thinks she is dominant over you. On top of what has been said, I would make sure when you give her feeds that you ask her to back up and wait until you give her the signal to eat, then leave her to it.
Thank you both, really good advice I'll start giving her hay again but will make sure she gives me space before I let her have it
 

Bellaboo18

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She was only with her last owner for 4 months and she lived out 24/7 in a big field of mares. I don't think anyone really went in the field apart from when they caught their horse to bring in and ride etc. So she didn't really have anyone around her in the field as they didn't have to poo pick. I'm in contact with her previous owner who brought her from the breeder and owned her for 3 years, she said she was never nasty with hay or food, she lived with their other 3 horses and never had any issues. So maybe the last 4 months she has just gotten used to the field being her space to eat without being bothered? I'm not sure.
I'm wondering (just an idea) if she's had to fight for her food or gone without for an extended period. Maybe she was at the bottom of the pecking order and didn't get enough for the 4 months. Some horses (like people) are a bit grumpier and like their own space etc. but it seems from your description a bit more than that.
I was on a livery yard with a pony that the owner really restricted his food, starvation paddock in the day and a haynet that would last an hour max at night; he was of course very food aggressive. He did look well because he could live off anything and she gave the right things for coat shine etc in his token hard feed but his behaviour said it all.
Anyway I'd actually turn her away with plenty of forage for a couple of weeks just taking her up a treat when you check in on her. I'd want her to know/learn food isn't an issue and she'll never go without.
 

JFTD-WS

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She may have spent the last 4 months being hungry and is now defensive, she should not behave in the way she is but if she has previously been good I would suspect she has had a tough winter and learned to fight for food, ensure you set clear boundaries but equally ensure she is not hungry, she is still maturing physically as well as mentally so unless she is overweight I would give her a top up of hay until the grass is really well through.
This, really. I'd want to be absolutely sure she had enough to eat before I started punishing her for being protective about her food.
 

Pearlsasinger

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I bought a horse about the same age as yours from someone who had only had her a few months, she was known to have been kept short of food before the last person bought her. She was extremely protective of her food, including hay, for the first few months but she soon realised that there would always be plenty and she didn't have to fight other horses or people for it.
 

wren123

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OP please wear your riding hat when you're dealing with her in the field. I apologise for saying this if you're wearing one already.
I hope you get this sorted.
 

MrsJingle

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She is very young - and still growing and developing and like growing teenage kids they get very hungry at that age! - to be honest I would be making sure she has at the very least ad lib hay 24/7, is this possible in your set up - that all of them have copious amounts of hay 24/7? I suspect she may have spent this winter with just grabbing whatever happens to be put out from time to time for her and others, always a recipe for disaster IMO.
And I do wonder if the spring grass is making her a little above herself. I have had to move my bolshy mare off the grass and back onto hay as she was just getting very rude and opinionated.
Good luck and dont despair but do make sure you remain in control and she respects your decison on absolutely everything :)
 
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Hi all just looking for some advice, I've had my new horse for 4 weeks so still getting to know her. She was in her own field to start with and she was extremely possessive over hay. Didn't want me anywhere near it, putting her ears back and would try to bite. We were slowly getting there I was just spending time standing next to her eating so she would realise I wasn't going to take it!

She now shares a field with my sisters horse and they get on fine but I cut the hay out to stop any arguments between them. It's a bigger field with more grass so they have enough to eat. After I've done some work with her in the evenings this week I let her graze in a little paddock with longer grass while I did my jobs. When I go to catch her she gets really funny, ears back, turns her bum on me and tries to bite when I catch her. I've never known a horse to be possessive over grass? Today I walked up to her just to stroke her while she was eating in this paddock and she turned and tried to kick me. I tried walking her round but she was extremely annoyed that I was stopping her from eating, walking round with ears back trying to bite. She's not like this in her field and obviously I don't have to put her in the paddock with more grass but I'd like to get her out of this behaviour. Can anyone suggest what I could do to help get her out of this? She will be 4 at the end of may. Thank you
Sounds like she is testing you and unless you assert yourself she will continue to be dominant over you. Im sure she is not possesive over grass or hay but she is having problems with you as her new owner.! She is maybe angry about leaving her previous home and buddies but this sort of behaviour need to be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand.She will sense your nervousness as you jump back as she goes for you which will in turn make her unsure of you. She will be looking to you as her leader in the future and someone to trust. She will take time to adjust to her new surroundings too so you will need time and patience to with possibly help from a behaviourist for advice.
 

Ceifer

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I bought a horse about the same age as yours from someone who had only had her a few months, she was known to have been kept short of food before the last person bought her. She was extremely protective of her food, including hay, for the first few months but she soon realised that there would always be plenty and she didn't have to fight other horses or people for it.
This

We had a rescue pony that had been left in a herd with no food. Occasionally the old owner had provided one round bale of haylage plonked in the field between 20 horses. The pony we had didn’t get a look in.
When he came to us he was extremely possessive of any food. He got better with time however he was an escape artist in the field and occasionally he would end up in a field where he shouldn’t be and he would be a little b*gger to catch. I’d always give him 20 mins of freedom. Then catch him. But he’d still try and attack/kick out. He never got out of the habit.
 

Pearlsasinger

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This

We had a rescue pony that had been left in a herd with no food. Occasionally the old owner had provided one round bale of haylage plonked in the field between 20 horses. The pony we had didn’t get a look in.
When he came to us he was extremely possessive of any food. He got better with time however he was an escape artist in the field and occasionally he would end up in a field where he shouldn’t be and he would be a little b*gger to catch. I’d always give him 20 mins of freedom. Then catch him. But he’d still try and attack/kick out. He never got out of the habit.

We were fortunate enough to be on a livery yard where there was a walkway behind each box, with a strong wire partition above concrete mangers as the barrier to the stable. We made sure that there was plenty of hay and a feed bucket in the stable before bringing the horse in and then stood behind the box, in the walkway as she ate. She pulled some dreadful faces and wasn't safe to go into the stable with at that point but that, combined with holding her summer feedbucket over a wall for her to eat, alongside her companion, reassured her that the food was hers and hers alone. Years later she would still 'measure' the amount of hay in the box and get upset if there wasn't enough for the night. But she would also bring a mouthful to show/share with 'her' people on the first night in for the winter.
 
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twiggy2

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I have worked with one horse like this, she had been left in a stable for a few months over winter and given a bale of hay and some water every 4th day, we made sure she always hay plenty of good hay avaliable and clean water, called her to the gate to catch and she came round just fine, she was three when she arrived.
I also rode one for about 6 months who was caught by calling her to the gate, you could not go in the field to catch her due to her extreme aggression. I had been riding her for abut 3 months with no problems and when the grass came through she did not come to the gate.
I went in to catch her and was shocked by how aggressive she was, she ran at you teeth bared and them would swing round and run at you backwards to kick-start meant it.
Her behaviour had been caused by being run off hay and feed in the field with a whip when she was very hungry/starving.
I would not use the paddock with lush grass, make sure she has plenty of hay all the time even if she goes back on individual turn out and give her a chance to settle and trust you.
 
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I have a mare like this, when I bought her last year she was very thin and I think had had to fight for food wherever she had been previously. She would bolt feeds down and become aggressive when she had a feed / hay, particularly in the stable.

Now she has realised she has an abundance of food she has settled and will even happily share a feed bucket with my other mare and be rugged up whilst eating.

Whilst she was being Aggressive I would only take a step back (rewarding her) when she went back to eating calmly. If she was pulling faces or threatening to attack i would hold my ground or flap my coat. She is also clicker trained so it allowed me to do Some of this from the safety of the other side of the door!

It may also be worth thinking about ulcers as this can make them aggressive over food. Mine was also treated for these eventually.
 

BucksFizz

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Thanks everyone for your replies. I have put her back into her own field now with as much hay as she wants, will see if her behaviour changes over the next few weeks. It isn't a problem when I've got her on the yard tied up with a haynet she doesn't fuss at all. Hopefully she will realise there's plenty of food in the field too so no need to be aggressive.
 

Ceriann

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My mare was a little like this and generally had bad manners whden i bought her (many yesrs ago). She could be aggressive with me and with other horses in the field. I also had ridden grumpiness issues. Took a long time to get her consistently well behaved but shes now a very good companion - i had to be very stern and firm if she played up (a favourite was rearing in your path in the field and/or running her field mates). Its hard work and there’s no quick fix.
 
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