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The following information is taken from the book:
What Your Horse Wants You To Know
By Gincy Self Buckin

Feeding Problems: Making Noise While Waiting
"Gerry is in the feed room preparing the grain for her two horses. When she brings the pails into the stable, both horses immediately start to paw. Joey stands at his door and paws to that he bangs on the door, while Sukey prefers to stand in front of her manger and dig a hole, apparently with the intention of reaching China. The behavior stops as soon as they have their grain, but it is destructive as well as very annoying. Gerry shouts at them, or runs over to their stalls and threatens them, but while this may stop them briefly, they start again as soon as she steps away. She enjoys spending time with them and likes the feeding routine, but is getting rather frustrated with this behavior."

What your horse wants you to know
  • "Pay attention to me! Me first, me first! The horses are perfectly well aware that they are annoying Gerry when they paw, but they want attention any way they can get it. This is especially true when food is involved!

  • This is sooo exciting. I haven't had so much fun all day. Horses who spend a lot of time in stalls or small paddocks get rather bored. Feeding is one of the highlights of the day, so it is greeted with much anticipation."

What to do about it
  • This is a fairly simple problem. You want your horse to stop pawing, so you must mark and reward-that is, positively reinforce-the behavior you want and not the behavior you don't want. You can use the same methods if the horse bangs on his feed bucket or does any other annoying, attention-getting conduct.

  • When the horse paws, simply stop wherever you are in the feeding process. You may even turn around and leave the stable for a moment. It doesn't make any difference whether all the horses paw, or only one. When the pawing starts, the feeding stops.

  • When the pawing stops, you start feeding again. As soon as it starts up again-which it will-handle it the same way. The first day or two feeding will take longer than usual, but once the horses figure out that silence is golden and noise means no supper, quiet will quickly become the rule at mealtime.

  • You have to be very consistent, especially in the beginning, so be sure to allow yourself enough feeding time so that you are not tempted to ignore the pawing "just this once." If you do, you are liable to find yourself right back at square one, although the second round of training the horse will figure it out a little faster. But they will figure out that they can make you give in if they are persistent, so you have to be more determined than they are.

What not to do about it
  • Don't waste your energy yelling at your horse for pawing. As Gerry found out, it only works for a brief moment.

  • Don't try punishing him by going to the stall and hitting him. When you reach the stall the horse will, of course, stop pawing, so you will then be punishing him for stopping.