Sunday, November 23, 2014

Food Aggressive Behaviors

With Thanksgiving approaching, food seems to be an appropriate topic.  I'm splitting our Thanksgiving food shopping into two trips this year.  I collected a list of items we would need, and then went to the grocery store around 8:00 AM to try to beat the crowds.  Didn't work.  I still felt like I was in a pinball machine being batted all over the place by pushy people.  Of course, several shelves were low on stock or empty, and there were other items that I simply forgot to get.  Those items rolled over onto the list for the second attempt at grocery shopping, but I'm keeping my expectations low.  With this being the cusp of when the snowbirds start pouring in to our area, not all stores have caught up with the demand.  I suspect I may have to shop at two or three markets before finding everything on my list.  The irony of it is that I moved to a more highly populated area in part because I thought it would be easier to find products I need.  Not the case here.

But this really isn't about human food aggressive behaviors.  This post is about the horses.  Anytime that an animal needs to see a veterinary doctor, I get anxious, because I know it means change.  Obviously, you have to change something if there is a problem, but usually the solutions to problems just create more problems.  By adding more supplements into the horses' diets as the vet directed, I have created monsters.

At first, I thought it was so sweet how the horses slobbered and gobbled and got that happy little twinkle in their eyes when I introduced new and more feed to them.  They were in heaven, and I realized how boring it must have been for them to be eating the same old, same old every meal.  How could I have deprived them of such pleasure?

Now, the second I walk out of the house at feeding time, the ass kicking breaks out in all directions.  I'm hearing hooves slamming up against iron railings, horses squealing, hooves galloping to get away from gnashing teeth...

I don't even have time to get down to the barn to lock them all up in their stalls away from each other before someone gets hurt.

Last night I was cleaning up manure before dinner and the horses were anxiously milling about, anticipating that at any moment I would be making a move for the feed bins.  I was standing between the manure wagon and a railing in the barn aisle when Rock attacked Bombay with no warning, and Bombay ran straight into me, knocking me off to the side.  It happened so fast that I couldn't yell or wave my arms or make myself bigger to stop him.  He could have easily gone around me and the wagon on the other side, but he chose to show me no respect in his act of self-preservation.  Needless to say, both horses regretted their actions.  I have no doubt that within a few days another "CRAZY LADY" comment will show up in red spray paint somewhere on my property, because of course, all the neighbors were home to witness the commotion.

The last time Bombay chose to plow me down and I chased him around with a pitchfork, some lady stood on the cliff above my backyard video taping the incident.  But what am I supposed to do?  Pet the horse and say, "Oh, it's okay, Sweetie.  You can knock me off my feet anytime."?  No.  There has to be an immediate consequence, witnesses or no witnesses.  There's no time to go get the long whip and lunge him.  I have to shun him from the herd, just as a horse would do.

I still haven't received the results of Bombay's blood panel and fecal sample test, but he's still requiring the majority of the day to eat his breakfast and the majority of the night to eat his dinner, even with the yummy supplements.  I have to lock him in a stall to prevent the other horses from stealing his rations, but I don't like to leave him locked up all night, because he sleeps in his manure and then I have to bathe him.  I'd rather he sleep on soft, clean sand in the paddock, so I go out late at night with a flashlight to let him out of his stall, and he still hasn't cleaned his plate.  This behavior is very odd.  I wish there were more answers.

The other mystery that has been on my mind lately is why the horses always start kicking the railings and banging gates before sunrise on weekend mornings only.  This has been going on a while -- before I increased their supplements.  The horses are perfectly polite and will wait quietly for me to come outside to serve their breakfast on week days when all the neighbors have gone to work, but something happens on Saturday and Sunday mornings that triggers the horses to make a racket.  

I get so embarrassed, because I know they have to be disturbing the neighbors, and the neighbors only get to sleep in on the weekends because they work all week.  I feel like I have to shoot up out of bed and run outside to feed the horses to shut them up before they get more obnoxious.  All I can figure out is that some neighbor does something early on the weekend mornings that makes my horses anxious to eat.  Maybe someone else feeds their horses earlier on the weekends.  I know my neighbors' horses used to start whinnying and banging their buckets when I fed my horses.  Any ideas on how to train horses not to kick stuff and wake people up?


achieve1dream said...

Hmm that's a tough one... are they out of hay by morning? Maybe you could hang more slow feed nets? I know when I was feeding square bales and they would be out by morning they got a lot more obnoxious than they are now that they have hay 24/7. I guess because when they get hungry they can go eat hay? I hope you can figure something out. Especially with the aggressive behavior... :(

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

achieve1dream - That's a good idea. They definitely like the supplements more than grass hay. They try to convince me that they are done eating so that I will let them out of their stalls, because they want to steal each other's supplements and leave the grass behind. But maybe if they still have grass hanging in nets they definitely won't have hunger as an excuse for getting violent.

achieve1dream said...

Yeah it might not completely get rid of the behaviors but I'm hopeful it will tone them down at least!!

Even if you can't get more nets right now you could get them in the habit of you filling the nets on your first trip to the barn and then not feeding them for another hour. It would require an extra trip to the barn, but it would break their expectation of the first time they see you in the morning they think they are getting super yummy supplements. I hope this helps or triggers other ideas!