Sunday, June 7, 2015
Establishing Feeding Time Ground Rules
Sorry no new pictures today (reusing old ones). I've been incredibly busy and had a headache all day, so it didn't happen. :(
Yesterday we turned the boys out together for the first time and it all went smoothly. Until feeding time. I knew it was going to be interesting figuring out how to feed three at the same time again, but I wasn't counting on Rocky being food aggressive. I can't really blame him since he lived in a big herd on 100 acres for several years and they fed by throwing feed out on the ground and letting everyone battle it out.
So yesterday I carried the buckets out to the pasture. Hubby was there, but I wanted to do it on my own since I sometimes have to feed by myself. I have to pour Chrome's feed in first because his bucket stays in the pasture (it's huge because he dumps smaller ones). Chrome was standing by his bucket, waiting, like he always does. Rocky came barreling in and got way too close to me, so I swung my hand around and smacked him with the feed scoop. I think I got him in the face, but I'm not sure because he was behind me.
He ran away and I walked away from Chrome to sit Rocky's bucket down a fair distance away. Rocky tried to go around me to chase Chrome off of his feed, so I chased him off again. When I got him far enough away I was able to put his bucket down and he started eating. Then I gave the donkey his bucket. We stood there and watched them all eat. Chrome got done first and to my surprise he came straight to me. He didn't even try to go to Rocky's bucket. When Rocky finished he walked over to Chrome's bucket and Chrome immediately walked over to Rocky's bucket. When Chrome found it empty he went to chase the donkey off, but I beat him there and picked the bucket up since Zep was done eating anyway. Then I grabbed Rocky's bucket and all was well. Not too bad.
Today was a whole different ball game!! As soon as we walked into the pasture, Chrome waiting by his bucket, Rocky charged!! I was appalled!!! Hubby chased him off aggressively several times and Rocky kicked in his direction once, but no where near close enough to touch him. We were both PISSED! I immediately moved Chrome's bucket into the round pen where he would be safe (he was eating this whole time) and went to get a whip.
Then I carried Rocky's bucket out again and he tried to approach me while I was still standing by it. I've decided since he's being aggressive I don't want him even approaching me when I have feed so I smacked him with the whip when he got too close and he ran off. After that he finally realized I was serious. I stood by the bucket, facing Rocky and waited. Every time he tried to approach me I chased him off (but did not hit him again). When he stopped trying to approach me I turned my back and walked away. He waited a long minute and then walked to his bucket, ears forward and started eating. I let him eat for half a minute and then turned and walked toward him. When he didn't immediately leave the feed I snapped the whip on the ground. He trotted away. I did that several times just to make sure he knew that I controlled the feed and that he had to leave if I asked him to.
Once he finished eating I walked over and picked up his bucket. I had already let Chrome out while Rocky was eating, so he came to me to see if the bucket had crumbs. To my surprise Rocky walked right up to us, ears forward, not aggressive at all. I let them both sniff the bucket, pet them both and then walked away. I put the buckets and whip outside of the pasture and then asked hubby to approach Rocky to make sure he would let him (remember he plays hard to catch sometimes too).
As soon as hubby walked in his direction Rocky bolted!!! I was so surprised considering I was the one who hit him with a scoop and a whip and I was the one who chased him off the feed. Then I realized hubby's body language was too assertive and that he was still angry about being charged and kicked at. So we went to pick apples off the tree and talked for a few minutes while he calmed down. Rocky can read people very well apparently (as opposed to Chrome who has no clue when you're mad at him haha).
Hubby tried for a few minutes to get Rocky to approach, but he wouldn't. He just grazed and watched him, moving away if he got too close. So I grabbed the scoop (Rocky needed more incentive than just an apple) and asked Chrome to follow me, then I asked hubby to walk to me. Hubby, Chrome and I stood in a circle playing with the scoop and apples. Rocky heard the apple rattling in the scoop and finally came to us. Hubby fed him an apple (these are tiny apples) and we walked away again. After a minute Rocky walked to us again and got another apple. That time he stood still and let both of us pet on him and Chrome and the goats sniffed our fingers. We were all a happy family again.
I'm disappointed that he would act like that, but I also understand why he does. Living in that herd of half wild horses and being on the bottom in rank does that to a horse. He will just have to learn the ground rules, which are that the humans control the food and he is NEVER allowed to threaten the humans. I think he will figure it out quickly since we are fair and consistent.
I do not like hitting horses, but they are large, dangerous animals and if he chooses to escalate a situation like that I will return in like kind. Once he was no longer being threatening I lowered my own aggressive stance. I was assertive, but calm. I highly doubt he will need to be touched with the whip again. All it took was one time to get his attention and prove to him that my bark does have bite if it needs to.
So that's the update on how they are doing. When there is no feed involved they are one big happy family with no problems at all. They stand shoulder to shoulder at the gate and neigh at us when we come outside, happy as can be. Rocky is a bold horse, but he's not mean, so I think once we establish that we are in charge that all of the feeding problems will go away. For the moment I'm going to continue to feed Chrome in the round pen. He's a little slow to back down from other horses when he's eating and I don't want him to get hurt if he decides to stand up to Rocky.
In happier news we ordered Rocky a bridle and I can't wait until it gets here. It's so cool!!! It's going to be a looooong week waiting for it. :)