Do they have individual buckets for their feed? Could you move the buckets a little further down the chute at every feeding time? Maybe cut the ration just in case the bravest horse is the only one getting the goodies.
This is crazy talk, but hang with me…
Have you TALKED to them about what needs to happen in the evening? Like…told them that they need to come to the barn via the chute, and why?
I KNOW that sounds insane. They’re horses, not people. But I swear to god this approach has worked for me when I’ve tried everything else and nothing has changed behavior.
Just last week, even. The herd had started standing at the wrong gate when it was time to come in. I have no clue why they started standing there–it’s farther away from the barn and I’ve literally never used that gate to get them into or out of the field. Finally, I talked to my lead mare and asked her to please bring them up to the regular gate instead, and explained that it was really much easier to bring them in if they could wait there.
The next evening, and every evening since… they’re in the proper place.
This sort of thing has happened dozens of times now and while I’m totally baffled by it, it takes no time or effort to ask them nicely and explain why I need something.
Worth a shot!
I’ve tried this on some level. However, I think the cuss words just confused them.
I absolutely have had moments where I’ve talked to a horse (beyond actual verbal cues) and they understood me. But I have had an equal number of times where they’ve refused to do what I say. I’m not sure if that means they didn’t understand or they just didn’t want to do the thing.
I know, I know
It sounds CRAZY. But hey…if it works, it works? It takes like five minutes of my time and zero effort to kindly ask my lead mare to bring the herd to the gate, and thank her for her help. I’m out nothing if it does nothing, but damned if she didn’t bring them up to the right place every night since.
I actually love this idea, and no, I don’t think it sounds insane at all! I have had much success using positive thinking and visualization in my every day life this pretty much goes along with that. Now, I just need things to dry back out so I can try all of these ideas!
I talk to all my animals. Imo, the trick lies in saying less & thinking more, because animals “talk” in images & ideas & by reading changes in the electrical impulses of your body & not words. Though, as you have observed, they often have a larger human language vocabulary than we give them credit for. Something I’ve often wondered about when people complain about their imports having issues is that the change in human language never seems to come up as a consideration. And yet it must be a factor.
Try picturing what you need to happen. I’ve seldom had that fail with horses. And when it does, it is because I was not grounded & calm enough to gently “catch” a horse whose mind is racing & bring his focus to me. It works on all sorts of animals, too. Even ones you wouldn’t think smart enough or interested in humans at all: Our small coop blew over early one morning. I righted coop & run & turned tk find the chickens decided they might as well start their day in the pitch black at 4am. All efforts to herd them back in failed. Finally, I grounded myself & pictured an owl swooping down on the. Immediately, they all turned & filed back into the run. And this past Saturday, the bitter cold & wind grounded a small flock of starlings. They got trapped in the chicken run looking for food & shelter & were,frantically flying against the chicken wire. I walked around the back of the run, closed my eyes, & pictured them flying out the gate. Opened my eyes & one by one they were flying out the gate.
Oh God, I hear ya, it’s SO FRUSTRATING when stuff like this happens–the fact that going down is okay, but the reverse is not. As if magically the food won’t happen, if they don’t go to the gate. Kind of like how one corner of the ring is scary going to the left but not to the right.
What are the herd dynamics? Sometimes if there’s one bully of a horse who has decided this is how things must be done (waiting at the gate, versus going up the chute), it’s hard to change the routine. If that’s the case you could take the stubborn horse out of the paddock well before feeding time and see if the other horses make their way up.
At one boarding barn the owner told me of when she assigned the evening feed to her son. These horses lived in HUGE pastures full of wonderful grass.
So her son thought it through. The next week every time he poured the feed into the bucket in the stall he would blow a toy horn right next to their ears. After a week all he had to do was blow his little toy horn and all the horses would run down to the gate waiting to be brought in for their food.