- Hello Sandy,
The reason for my adamancy is this: I spend most of my time at these
seminars coaching people in the eradication of habits and troubles that are
primarily associated with hand-feeding their horses. Comparatively little
time gets spent inputting effective feel until the problems associated with
the old feel of a hand-fed-based relationship is resolved---- meaning:
That often doesn't happen until treats are no longer fed by hand, and those
that are expected in a bucket are waited for patiently. This can take a long
time once the expectations are firmly rooted in daily routines and a
family's tradition around horses.
When the following unsafe habits show up, it is nearly always in horses
that are fed by hand. See what you think.
-Pushing on a person at the shoulder, ("Out of my way, where's the carrot?")
-Bumping into the person with other body parts, including the head (Move, I
need the apple over there. Give it over!)
-Moving when mounted (You yield when you're at my shoulder, what makes you
think I understand any better how to stop and wait ...(read that as
respect )for you now?)
-Moving when saddled (Same as above)
-Trouble of various kinds at the tie rail, including pulling back and
throwing him or herself on the ground (If I don;t get what I want from you
now Im going to move into pressure to get it...the world yields, you taught
-Pawing the ground of stall/corral walls, side of trailer, etc. (I want that
damn carrot right now.)
-Chewing wood / (If I can't have those carrots, which I can smell and see
and I know are headed this way soon, I'll just gnaw on this wood until they
-Weaving (Hurry up man, where's the chow.)
- Biting (Can't tell if that's a carrot or not, so I might just as well try
it and find out.)
-Striking (You feed me today, I bite you tomorrow. You hit me for that, I
strike you for that. You feed me later, I like you again, until I don't.
When I strike, I finally get my space and get you away from my face. I don;t
like getting hit in the face because I can't guess when your hand is there
to feed me or whack me up side the snout. Striking is my best defense
against your offense.
-Rearing (see above, times two)
-Kicking (You hand feed me, you love me, you crowd me, I crowd you, you hit
me, you hate me, I never know what's coming. I know if I kick you, I can get
some space. Im a horse and I need my space.)
-Refusal to be caught in the pasture without grain (Bribery is bribery, and
I know it.)
-Refusal to be caught & haltered (the deal you taught me to participate in
this: you bribe me, I move you. I eat your carrot, you lunge at my face with
your halter outfit and trap my head. Barring that, you call your pals and
run me into a corner where I have 6 choices. Jump out, kick you, squeeze
past you to freedom, face up and strike, face up and be caught, or stand
tense in the corner, head up, breath held, trapped, while you---also tense
and not breathing struggle to get the buckle done up before I drag you
around.You know a lot about the last choice, which ensures that I do too.)
-Difficulty being bridled, clipped, doctored (Confinement is associated
with bribery and what happens after that. Thanks anyway doc, see ya.)
-Biting the halter and the leadrope (Babies, puppies, kitties, colts all
teeth in their own way. Chewing is chewing...OK! Here you are! carrot,
finger, apple, coat, apple, stall door, curry comb, play toys on ropes in my
stall, nother finger, rope, halter, saddle, reins....gee what fun, biting is
great, biting is natural, biting is encourages by you, until it isn;t, and
then I don't get it.)
-Refusal to lead (Bribe me, that's what you've shown me about movement,
because that' s what you understand about my willingness..........((SO FAR))
--Unwilling to come up off grass without a fight (You feed me, I move you,
that's the deal. You've taught me that you move me two ways: with food, or
force. You've shown that, so go on and pull. Im just as hard to stop when Im
running for the same reason. The lessons about what to do with my feet when
slack is offered into the rope are learned right here: You pull, I pull.
Pound for pound there is no contest, mistah. Go on missy, pull all you want.
Grass was never greener and Im going for it. Oh, now we're going riding?
Well tallyho, baybay!)
There are a number of other un-useful habits a horse learns under saddle
from the people who bribe them on the ground. These include:
-Moving when mounted (see above, this is taught on the ground.)
-Rearing (I can't recall rearing when you didn't pull on the reins. What I
learned about rearing I learned about the way force was applied to my sides
and my head and my mouth on the ground. When Im good you feed me a cookie
right out of your hand. When you're mad at me for doing the disrespectful
things you've taught me, you hit me. You yell at me. You poke me. You call
me bad things and tell people Im awful. You taught me what I first learned
about you by offering me food from your hand. Now you hate me because you
are afraid of me. You can't see your role in shaping my actions and
expectations. I don't get it, but I can rear up to get away from it. )
-Unwilling to stop or turn when the slack comes out of the rein (I learned
this being dragged here and there, leaned this when you grazed me on a
tight rope or with the lead chain pulling right across my nose. )
Reader stops here, may wrinkle brow, scratch head and mutter
......something. And may or may not ask......."All THIS? From simply
offering the poor horse a carrot?"
Why not experiment. Give it one year. See if, after refraining from
hand-feeding COMPLETLEY for 12 months, if these problems don't dissipate or
completely disappear. One reason for this is that people don't realize how
much time they spend out of position when offering hand fed treats. These
are most often given directly in front of the horse's head, or crowding him
at the shoulder. Every day, horse loving people are teaching their horses to
beg for food, crowd for food, paw for food, move you out of the way for
food, step on you for food, drag you here and there for food. These habits
are plenty unattractive, but worse yet, they are categorically BAD habits. I
say BAD. Bill would not say BAD. He never said BAD about anything. He would
say NOT THE BEST. I certainly agree. What makes them so is that they are
intrinsically unsafe. When the horse is taught to take over and then
rewarded for doing so with hand-fed food ....even by, we'll have to assume,
people with the very best intentions, it doesn't mean that either the horse
or the person is consciously participating in a rude relationship.
Nevertheless, so many unsafe things a horse is capable of doing around a
person has deep roots in learned disrespect.
The rude part of it occurs at the standstill and the walk. The dangerous
part occurs at the trot or lope, in the trailer or the cross ties, or under
saddle, when the horse in high gear, in fear, in a moment of uncertainty
when he resorts to the hand-fed foundation he had and operates with the
(taught) assumption that the person is going to get out of the way.
Blatant disrespect for a person's space, no matter where thy are, is the
main mark that hand-feeding leaves on a horse. Better to never get started
Sandy this is the expanded version of why I no longer take handfed horses at
my clinics. Im tired of it. Tired of hearing myself talk about it.
Id prefer to help people work on things that are connected to good
horsemanship. Hand feeding has no part in that.
It's important that people are proud of their horses, no matter how they
look or how they are bred, no matter the age or the performance record.
It's important that people take genuine pride in the quality of time they
spend with their horses, and with themselves and others. Its important to
take care of your horses' feet, coat, health, tack, your truck, your trailer
and, most of all, yourself. If we can agree on that, then its perhaps
easier to understand how bribing your horse with handfed treats creates,
ultimately, many situations that contain an unacceptable level of risk.
Horse owners, stable help, breeders, show grooms, ranch and farm caretakers
all lovingly perpetuate disrespectful behavior towards people by teaching
the horse that they (themselves) will yield to that horse when he advances,
One needs only to ask a trusted friend to observe them carefully around
their own horse for 15 minutes to gauge the extent of the rehab one might
want to consider in their own routines. Ask a friend to watch you closely,
ask them to count the number of times that you move around the horse to
avoid getting moved yourself. Ask them to take note of how many times in 15
minutes you push up against a horse that is crowding you. Hopefully people
will understand more clearly why I take this so seriously.
Once this information is clear to people, once the cause and effect is
obvious, which to most it soon becomes, then to continue hand-feeding and
coping with the troubles it inevitably leads to, just becomes a great waste
of time. Since we have so little of it, we might as well press on with the
business of handling and riding through feel.
Besides, Ive noticed that they enjoy carrots and apples just as much from
the ground or eaten from a bucket. In my case, truth be known, I really
don't do it for them. I enjoy that they enjoy it so much, that I must
confess that when I do feed them treats, I feed them because of the good
feeling it gives me.
Leslie Desmond, Reformed handfeeder.
- Hi Sandi,
I'd also read about not hand feeding, when I first got the book and also
heard it from an instructor who I've noticed since getting his copy of THTF
is saying and doing a lot of familiar things from the book! I'm not
complaining! Anyway, I conveniently ignored both of their advice, as I
figured I didn't give my horse MANY treats and she was so polite about
them, that it wasn't a problem, right? Well, then I started to notice that
I wasn't going into the paddock without food and I had one particular light
bulb session about 2 months ago when I thought to myself "I'm using treats
because I don't think that I'm interesting enough for her to stay with or
do things with" and this was a real light bulb! If I didn't even believe
that what we were doing was useful, and stimulating, how was I going to get
her to think that?
I've had this horse for over 10 yrs now and we have done so many different
"ways". In the last few years I've really started to look for and try to
patch the holes in my horsemanship. It makes you very humble, maybe too
much so if you are like me and tend to just feel bad for every wrong thing
you've ever done. So, I decided I would stop substituting treats for my
less than ideal feel, but I would cut myself some slack also. I've
improved, I'm still learning and well, I'm all she's got so the two of us
need to muddle along together and offer each other the best that we can.
So, in a nutshell, I was using food to make up for feeling I was
inadequate. Now, its just me, and so I get to find out what she really
thinks of that. So far so good.
Elvira J. Lanham
Flinders University of South Australia
GPO Box 2100
Adelaide South Australia 5001
Tel: +61 8 8201 2805
Fax: +61 8 8201 3015
- Elvira says:
<<So, in a nutshell, I was using food to make up for feeling I was
Elvira, after reading your post and the other great posts on this, I've come
to the conclusion that what you just said is so true for me. That is
exactly what I was doing because it seemed Loki and I just weren't getting
anywhere, I know now, I am not alone and there is reasons for it.
Sandi & Loki
- Please, everyone. Print out Leslie's post and make lots of copies. Put it
somewhere where everyone can see it at your barn. When some fool rips it
down, put up another copy. Burn it into your memory and recite it when
they pass a rule to not allow you to post it.
And if you recognize yourself or your horse in there anywhere, carry it
around in your pocket and read it at least once a day.
This is something that is important. Some folks have the knowledge and
skill to make handfeeding a non-issue.
A fairly large percentage DON'T. Even if you're one who does, why not be a
good role model for those who don't.
"The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for a good man to do nothing."
- Edmund Burke
- Oh, and be sure to include the bottom part where it talks about copyrights
and all of that.
Gail I. (rather passionately jumping the gun - sorry, Leslie!)
"The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for a good man to do nothing."
- Edmund Burke
- I am really glad this subject of hand feeding came up. When I got my now
riding gelding he had been handfed some and was an occasional hand biter
and a pusher (he would also bite at your pockets). All of that just went
away when I started working with him with feel and created space around
both of us, and ONLY ever fed him in his bucket in his prescribed
I have a new guy here now. An 18 month old gelding that was allowed to
"play" with people as a baby and was extensively handfed all his little
life. He is beyond obnoxious. I have started doing groundwork with him,
but am still very hampered by deep snow, so am basically letting "the
boys" (two older geldings) teach him some horse manners; a thing he also
had no experience with. I am seeing some little changes. I see him
thinking about the feel I am presenting to him (you stay in your space
and I will stay in mine. Stay respectful and I will stand back and let
you approach for your bucket)...but he has no such compulsion with
others, and as such I have issued an edict that no one is to get within
6 feet of this colt, handle him or feed him. I don't want him to have
opportunity to continue in his bad habits (if I get bit or pushed I
consider it my fault, my lack of timing or feel). My thoughts are to
continue to work with him and then have knowledgable people who are
familiar with feel work around him and hope that transference will
eventually take over and he will be good around others that do not have
such a good feel.
My question to the group is this. Am I headed down the right road? Is
there something else I need to be aware of/working on? I handed him a
light bit one day and he very happily took it and stood and chewed on it
and played with it for about 20 minutes, so I lightly placed a strap on
it and hung the bit on him. He seemed quite happy and amused. Is that a
thing I should continue? Are there other things I can specifically do?
or should I just introduce him to the ground work and continue with that
and know that this will go away as he matures?
New Hampton, NH
Thank-you so much for enlightening us all about handfeeding. I have to
admit I have handfed my horses and also have to admit I have at least some
of the problems you have written about. Like hitting my shoulder, rubbing
on me. Probably more in a lesser degree. I am most certainly going to take
your challenge. Absolutely no handfeeding for one year and notice any
changes. This is not something that I associated with handfeeding but now
can see that it could certainly all be connected. Thanks again!
- Ya know I have been thinking of this handfeeding issue and will take a
stab at it.I normally dont post.My time is pretty limited, this week
and will post a little about myself next week.(I dont mean to be rudly
jumping into this conversation without introductions) and dont know if
Im way off base here.But I understand the feeling of what Im trying to
write mabe not how to express it .Ive been thinking about it all day .
In the pasture the lesser or sub horses Im not sure of proper wording.
Give up their hay to the horses that are in charge. How can a horse
see you giving away your food (Your food,....food must be an important
issue to a horse) as anything but meaning that your lesser. A horse
would never give up its food to another or you.for any reason. No
wonder they would push into your space. I would think you are setting
them up to do that.As I reread page 25 where it says "People cross
that important line," To me setting a grain bucket down, hay water ect
is different than personally giving up something your
holding.especially something that is really good.And actually inviting
them into your space to take it from you. I dont know if Im on the
mark here or not but it feels along the lines Im trying to express.
- Howdy All,
Leslie, :-) times 10 to the 20th power... if, after
reading that a person cannot sit down and truly make
sense of why you (and I) don't handfeed our friends,
well, then all we can do is :-)... and all they had
better do is smile when some of those things happen
between them and their horse...
"Helping horse people develop a better horse sense."
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Get email at your own domain with Yahoo! Mail.
- Hi Everyone! I'm new to this egroup, but not to Bill's Book....
I thought I would just read, but I'd like to put in my thoughts on
handfeeding- I use the term "Kicking the Vending Machine",
when a horse is EXPECTING a treat from you. I always get a
laugh when I use this terminology, but it gets through to the folks
that do this! I don't remember if I heard this from someone else,
or if I made it up, but it works! Have a great day, Nicky Frechette
Rookery Ranch-Keene, Ny
--- In billsbook@y..., ginsr@e... wrote:
> Oh, and be sure to include the bottom part where it talks about
> and all of that.
> Gail I. (rather passionately jumping the gun - sorry, Leslie!)
> "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for a good man
to do nothing."
> - Edmund Burke
- I would like to add that even offering a bucket can
get a disrespectful horse if they don't wait for it
politely. I have one real chowhound of a horse, he
does think food is life. I try to be very careful
of how I offer his bucket. He is to stand away from
the clip where I put it and wait until I step away
before he gets to approach it. Same with feeding
hay he is not allowed to come over until I step
away from it. Needless to say, hand feeding him is
out. However, I have found carrot pieces in one of
their paddocks so I know someone else feeds them. I
guess I have to put up a fence outside of theirs to
keep the "well-meaning" folks from offering treats.
- Howdy All,
I hope you folks will indulge me for a few paragraphs.
I think I have a thing or two of interest about feel
and what it means to a horse... it is just "the"
difference is all, I guess...
This weekend I went out to trim a horse. Owner said a
year ago they were trying to shoe the horse and got
one nail in the first shoe (luckily the farrier
trimmed all four first) when the horse blew up and
that was it. The farrier left, told the woman he was a
bad horse, that he (the farrier) would not be back and
that she had best sell him before he got her hurt real
bad. Hadn't even been trimmed since and she was having
a tough time with even picking his feet out.
When I got there and went out into his paddock and
walked on out past him and sqatted down, he did not
give me much notice. I guess some might say he ignored
me but as his owner walked up to him he sure did keep
checking to see if I was still squatted down. I knew
he felt I was there and I also think he felt I ought
to be reckoned with, specially since I did not come
right out to him like I suppose most folks in his life
have. After awhile my inactivity made the owner
nervous (guess she thought more needed to be happening
right off) and she wanted to know what she should do.
So I got up and approached and he left, not fast, but
he was ready to speed if needed.
I just sort of drifted along with him and tried
putting myself in different spots to see what he would
do with me when I moved in and out of each eye. He was
noticeably keeping me in his left eye, would speed up
if the gap he desired closed any. I tried a few
changes in speed and sure enough he would move up and,
I hope because I did not go too far, was more than
ready to come back down. It was kind of hot (80
degrees, yeah!) for here and I think he was into
conservation of energy.
I guess the high point for me was something I didn't
think too much of at first. When I did let him get
back to her for some petting and approached again, he
stayed. I haltered him up, walked around a bit and he
felt like he might follow decent. I asked him to get
around me to my left and he did willingly, too much so
which left me to stand and just let him do what he
needed til he could stop again. I did that a couple
times and then when he was walking good we trotted up
and then settled to a stop together. Now here is where
it got good...
When I asked him to step on a cross and go off to my
right, to put me in his right eye, well, all systems
but back shut down. And he was ready to go back with
me in his left eye or else. I held to what I had been
asking with as far as the lead was concerned but I
sure did not try to hold him in place. He backed and I
kept trying to get out into that right eye to swing
him across. I wished I had brought out my flag so I
could reach on out around him but I hadn't. So we
spiraled out of the middle of the paddock (backwards)
until the fence became my friend. Got it set up so he
was backing down with the fence on his right, and the
corner coming up from behind. I did keep asking for
him to swing on out and he made a couple tries but
just could not leave his left eye off me long enough
to pick me up in the right and go, his feet just could
not get around that idea at all. Til the corner...
I left him plenty of room to roll out of that corner
and when he did break and roll there was just so much
to that move that I again just left him to circle me,
which he did at as high a trot as twelve feet of lead
would allow. It took about six laps for him to drop
out, and I mean drop out... at which point his owner
said, "Hmmmm, I have been trying to get him to go that
direction for three months. How did you do that?"
So what do you tell someone in twenty five words or
less... I tried a couple things and just waited for
him to find the answer that fit my needs and his
ability and she was looking lost already at that so I
took him in and trimmed his off fore, oh yeah, that is
the one he really does not like messed with, noone can
even pick it clean... and he is so relaxed with you,
that other guy was just so rough and so nervous ( and
why is your horse the bad one?) and, well, gosh, we
are done already... wow he hasn't stood like that for
almost ever (we did not tie him though she had
crossties and suggested there use cause he would not
Another call came in from a woman who has an 18 yr old
mare that had a fit with the farrier and now won't let
anyone even touch her feet and hasn't been trimmed in
over a year cause no one will come out and do her
And all it takes is offering a feel a horse can make
use of, that fits them and allows them to be way back
down off the edge of self-preservation and down where
things are just OK...
But as Bill said, you shouldn't leave it to your
farrier, lots of reasons why there... but then again,
if you don't have what that horse needs then maybe you
ought to hand the lead rope off to someone else... and
if your horse is telling you the current farrier
doesn't have it... but again how do you know what that
is or when that is?
Guess you just have to get a real good feel (in your
gut) for what you really want out of the
relationship... and then understand that it is not
given to you by a set of steps or a certain technique
but is merely (only, just) earned through hours and
horses. You don't teach a horse to respect you... but
you can sure help him to feel that you are there, to
be with and worth being so... and that looks enough
like respect to me to fit and be OK...
Thanks all, don't know why that had to come out like
that today but I guess I felt I needed it... I am just
hoping I can go at least a week right now without
another call about a horse that can't be trimmed or shod...
"Helping horse people develop a better horse sense."
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- Hi folks,
Leslie wrote an excellent piece on hand feeding last April.
You can go to the archives or if our moderator says it's okay, I saved
the article and will forward it to the list.
In the archives it should be listed as:
thu, 5 apr. 2001