Hissy Fits at Feeding Time
I have had an Arabian horse for about six monthshe is a retired Hunter/Jumper. Everything has been going great. Recently, though, he had a bit of a fit. I went into his pasture to bring him his grain, and he tried to get into the bucket before I was ready to put it down, so I gently pushed him away. He started walking away, but then took off and started bucking and carrying on. He came extremely close to kicking me in the face. I moved away and put his food down, but didn’t leave the pasture. I’m not sure what caused this. Keep in mind that he hasn’t been ridden in a while due to rain. Please explain to me why he did this. Also, how do I help him calm down?
Sharon, without seeing the behavior, it is a bit hard to know the reasons behind what he was doing, but it sounds like it was either a bit of frustration and anxiety, or simply play. If there are no other horses for him to interact with, your presence in the pasture is likely one of the most exciting parts of his day as horses are herd animals and are very social. Feeding time is always an exciting time, and it is likely you were seeing normal exuberant Arabian behavior.
You can decrease his excitement around both seeing you and food time by providing enrichment opportunities throughout the day. For example, place hay in small piles both on the ground and up high, like in between fence posts or tree branches. Try putting treats in buckets or hard plastic balls with a few holes drilled in them so that he needs to push the balls around to get the food out. Other options include items to kick, toss and manipulate. Be sure items are “horse-proof” and cannot be chewed and swallowed.