What to do When Your Horse Paws at Feeding Time

Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has developed an effective method to train horses, regardless of their age, history, or any behavioral issues and past traumas. Join him on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and with problem owners. This week, we’ll join Clinton as he shows us what to do when your horse paws at feeding time.

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Typically, when a horse paws at feeding time, it’s because they’re anticipating being fed. Pawing is a sign of impatience. They want you to hurry up so they can get fed. Since a lot of people feed horses at specific times each day, the pawing becomes a by-product of anticipation. While timed feedings make sense to some degree, they perpetuate anticipation and when horses catch on to the feeding schedule, they’ll slowly try to get you to feed them earlier and earlier. Pawing is their way of saying, “Feed me now!” To help mitigate this behavior, there are a few things Clinton recommends.

If your horse is in heavy training or extremely active, you can give him access to forage 24/7. Theoretically, this means that the horse should never be hungry.

If you have a horse that continues to paw when getting fed, the best way to correct his behavior is to skip feeding him. Clinton shares an example of his personal horse, Mindy. Mindy joined Clinton on the road for many years, especially when Clinton was starting his career in the United States. When traveling, she’d get fed by different people in the barn. She soon discovered that if she pawed and carried on, people would feed her to quiet her down and she’d get instant gratification. The people feeding her were unintentionally reinforcing her bad habit. Finally, when it was brought to Clinton’s attention, he advised them not to feed her if she was pawing and carrying on. When Mindy realized she wasn’t being fed with the other horses, her behavior immediately intensified. Clinton explains that they’d set the grain in the bucket outside the stall, walk away, and come back a few hours later. When they’d come back, Mindy would be calmly standing in her stall, so they’d give her her grain then. They continued this pattern, only feeding her once she had settled down, and eventually she stopped pawing at feeding time.

The trick was to feed Mindy only when she was quiet and relaxed, not when she was pawing and banging her hoof against the side of the stall door. This eventually broke the bad habit. You may have to occasionally reinforce this lesson occasionally, but it is a great solution to pawing at feeding. It might not be easy or convenient to your schedule, but it’s effective. If your horse pitches a fit and throws a temper tantrum and you give him what he wants, he’ll continue the bad behavior. If you ignore it and act like nothing’s happening, eventually he’ll give up and stop pawing at feeding time. However, Clinton reminds us that while delaying feedings is a good technique, you have to use common sense and should never completely skip feeding your horse as it can lead to starvation and health issues.

Clinton Anderson has developed a method to help train any horses, regardless of their problem. It doesn’t matter your what your experience level is, if you follow the Downunder Horsemanship Method, you’re going to see results. Unfortunately, up until now it was nearly impossible to access the Method when you’re on the go or at the barn. That’s why we’ve developed the Downunder Horsemanship app, which gives you access to digital training kits and allows you to download videos and training content directly to your mobile device or view them on your computer. The Downunder Horsemanship app also offers over 100 hours of free, in-depth training content. You can access all the training material through three different levels by joining our No Worries Club.

To learn more about the Clinton Anderson training method, become a member of the No Worries Club, or to get information on any of the products seen on our show, head over to our homepage and download the Downunder Horsemanship app today!


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