Thursday, December 11, 2008
Be Careful When Feeding Horses
It took a new horse in the herd, feeding time, close proximity, an inattentive human, and a dangerous situation was created.
I wasn’t paying attention. I could have been hurt but luckily I wasn’t. It was nobody’s fault really (except mine!), but that doesn’t minimize the danger. A moment’s worth of inattention and I was knocked flying by a panicked horse.
We had just gotten a new horse - a 16-hand Appendix Quarterhorse - and although we'd introduced him to all of our "herd" members and they were fine together in a calm setting, I should've kept vigilant at feeding time. Everyone knows even in a stable herd, feeding time tends to bring out horses' innate sense of competition within the hierarchy.
I had put hay in the feeder and the horses had all started eating. I figured everyone was settled in so turned to walk away. My gelding, the dominant horse in the herd, suddenly jumped at the new horse, who spun to get away. Unfortunately, since he was in a new place in a threatening situation, his only concern was flight. He knocked into me with his rear end, sending me spinning to the ground.
I know I need to be more aware of the distance between myself and the horses and to always be ready for them to make sudden moves. This is especially paramount when you bring a new horse into the field. This is how accidents happen – suddenly and disastrously.
Thankfully, though, this time all that got hurt was my pride. As I slid along the ground on my face, gathering dirt into my hair, eyes and ears, I was thankful it wasn’t fresh manure!
Feeding Horses on a Picket Line
Not only do you have to pay close attention when feeding in your own pasture, but any time you're feeding a lot of horses at once. Another situation that can be dangerous - even though the horses are tied - is feeding on a picket line.
We had another new gelding years ago who was extremely anxious at feeding time, and my daughter narrowly missed getting kicked by this horse while he was tied on the picket line.
We'd had him for a few months at that point, so he was used to us. But we'd gotten him from a place with so many horses that feeding time was literally a free-for-all and this gelding was "low man". Every meal he had to fight just to be fed.
In this instance, bringing out a hay bale triggered this horse's learned behavior of fighting for food...even though the other horses present couldn't reach him, he still believed them to be a threat. Luckily, the longer we had him, the more he realized he would always be fed and didn't have to bite or kick (anyone!) at feeding time.
Again, luckily no one was hurt, but the bottom line is always pay attention at feeding time for your safety!