I work at the Umass Amherst horse barn, and my job in the morning is to feed all the horses that live outside. Right now, there are three pastures that are very difficult to feed. Two have four horses; two mares and two foals (around 5 months old), and the third pasture has four yearling fillies.
The problem is that they all get different amounts of grain, and for the mares and foals, they get different types of grain. For them, the barn manager just tells us (I work with one other girl for this shift) to keep the foals away from their moms’ grain. Which is a lot easier said than done! First of all, as soon as we walk into the pastures to give them the grain, all four of them swarm us. It’s dangerous, if you ask me. The foals get antsy and sometimes playful and run around us. They all try to stick their faces in the feed pans before we can even put them on the ground. We had started feeding one mare and one foal with over the fence feeders, so we don’t have to go inside, but there is only room for two so the other two we still have to go inside to feed. One of the foals have started to try and kick us if he doesn’t get his grain right away. Dangerous! And bad habit.
The four fillies pose an even bigger issue. We’ve tried many different things with them. Actually, there were only three before but just recently the fourth one was put out there. The problem with them is that (when there were just three), one filly only gets a handful of grain because she is overweight. The other two get more, but one of them also gets a scoop of Quiessence. So she needs to get all of that, and the problem was that the filly with just a handful finished first and tried to steal the others. We decided to take her out of the pasture, let the other two finish, and then put her back. It worked, ish, but we had to go into the paddock to get her, and one time i was trying to halter her, the other filly was crowding us, so I pushed her away. She got mad and immediately swung her butt around and tried to kick me. We decided after that that it was too dangerous to try and go inside to feed them.
Now there’s a fourth filly! And she is extremely dominant. At feeding time, she chases the other three into the shed, corners them, and tries to bite/kick them. They freak out and it’s chaos. We tried separating her from the other three before we feed, but again, then we still have to deal with them trying to steal each other’s grain.
It’s just getting worse every day and I’m so afraid someone is going to get hurt.
Does anyone have any ideas?
The best I came up with was to bring them all inside just to feed, them bring them back out. But that would take at least four people for each pasture, and it would take a lot of time. Being a college, there’s a limited amount of time for each shift because of classes, and a limited amount of staff. I can suggest it to the manager, but I doubt that it would be an option.
Another thought I had would be to go in and tie them all to the fence while they ate. It might work for the fillies (if we can get them all without being kicked) but the foals obviously don’t know how to be tied yet.
Please give me any advice! I don’t want anyone to get hurt! Also I feel like all these young horses are getting more and more food aggressive, which will just get worse when they’re older.