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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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horse kicking during feeding.

Dear Franklin:

I am feeding my neighbors horses, he lives out of town. I haven't been around horses before, and have always had bad luck with them. I love them, but I do know that by reading your information on the site, one must be a certain way as they are not pets, like a dog. But one must gain the respect, and show leadership. I want to do this. I can't express the feeling I have had so far with being close, and petting, just the sheer touch of them on my hands is wonderful. I don't know how else to express it. But here goes with the problem. There a 3 males, I know the leader of the 3 by watching them. Well, I have been feeding them and he goes to each bucket and runs off the others, I feel I know why. But when 3 buckets on hanging on the tree and they are crowding me for the bucket, I thought to feed him first. Well the others got to close to him, while I had the feed bucket behind him, I felt at a safe distance, as to the fact he won't let them anywhere close to him and guess what, yep... you know he crys out which caught my attention, and proceeds to kick w / both feet . Out of the corner of my eye all I saw was feet. Lucky no contact with me of the other horses. But to be honest it scared the sh.. out of me. I was shaking a lot!!!! But I fed the other two, and did have enough courage to go speak with him. Softly, and touched him trying to get to know him better. Don't know what to do, or if I did the wrong thing. I really want to establish a relationship with these guys. The owner is going to let me ride some day , I know I have to do certain things first though. I don't feel the kick was directed to me. And I feel it was a defense move towards the other boys??

help please....

Ginger in Indiana

Hi Ginger,

First off, you must be more cautious and careful when feeding several horses at once. It is very easy to find yourself in the middle of a food squabble with any one of the horses spinning quickly and kicking out. It is a serious and dangerous situation. You can and need to become the leader of all the horses which is what is most desirable. Carry a rope or a wand or even a 3-4 foot stick with you when feeding. Insist all horses stand patiently and face you and wait until you decide it is OK for them to eat. You do this by using the implement (tool) you have carried with you. To activate it, simply raise it and/or shake it in the direction of the horses. If any one of them moves towards the food before you wnat them to activate the wand or tool and say firmly "NO!" Don't be so rough, big and loud that you scare the horses. You only want their attention and respect. So you must learn how much energy and/or firmness you put into your request that they stand and wait. There is a balance to this. You will develop a feel for how much energy to put into your communication to get the job done, but not so much as to scare the horses away from you.

Food is big for horses. It is survival and is another way they establish rank within their herd (no matter how big the herd). You must become the leader of the herd. The TRUSTED leader of the herd. A good leader does not scare those they wish to lead. But sometimes that leader must be firm and often confident that they know how to lead (especially with horses as they naturally test their leader all the time to make certain that individual can still lead the herd to safety). The leader leads the horses to feelings of safety by directing the movements, direction, etc. of the herd. This is why you need to be able to tell them to stay put (where to stay put) and when it is OK to come forward to eat.

Do not feed them too close to each other. It is too easy for one bully (bullies are not the actual leaders of the herd, they are just bullies) to hog all the food by pushing more timid horses off their food space. You need to become the leader for the bullies as well as the timid ones. Always keep a safe distance when allowing horses to approach their food. Once the horses settle into eating you may approach each one and gently stroke it with the stick, wand or rub it with the rope. You do not want them to be afraid just because you are carrying one of these objects. Rule one is for you to be careful, very careful, thoughtful, respectful, trust worthy and a great leader. Actually those were several rules........Good Luck and keep me posted.

Liability disclaimer: Please understand there is risk to caring for horses, feeding, riding and managing them. It can be dangerous and you can get seriously injured. The technique I have described has inherent dangers. Use these techniques at your own risk.

Sincerely, Franklin

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