Feeding time is when your horse will get the most pushy. Horses are herbivores and as such like rhythm very much. This means you probably feed them at around the same time every night. If you don’t, you should, and if you do, make sure it is not at 5:00 pm on the dot every night. When they are waiting for food they begin with the stomach juice making, to prepare for the digesting process. So if one day you are abnormally late, they will stand there making stomach juices, which can lead to stomach ulcers and such what, which is very bad.
I have been reared on, head butted, pushed into a solid cement wall and just generally beaten up by horses who like their food more than they like their human who supplies it. If you feed in a paddock, I suggest you feed close to an accessible edge or the gate. If you feed by the fence you can toss it over and never have to get near a pushy horse. This is also preferred when feeding a herd of horses, though one must be aware that the horses will push each other out of the way and the horse who is furthest down the pecking order will get the least food.
If you have to walk into the paddock to feed the horse, be more careful. Wear steel-capped boots, both to avoid the mud, poop and crushed toes. If you are dealing with one horse it is much easier.
If they are standing at the gate, hope that you have a gate that opens inwards. All horse gates should open both ways; if they open inwards then you can push the horse away with it. Make sure the gate will push on his chest, not his legs, flank or buttocks, as this will startle him. Get his attention with your voice, but do not shake the food at him or he will get excited, and you don’t want him like this.
Once you have gotten him facing you, or at least not back-on to the gate, open the gate and close it behind you. Make sure you latch it after you, if something happens and you have left your gate open, you will potentially have a lost horse.
It the horse walks up to you may like to try to get the horse out of your space. You may wave your hands at him, but I would only try this if he is a couple meters away from you, where you are safely out of the kicking zone. Hand waving can help but the horse may spook or playfully dash away and kick up his heels. Of course, if you are holding feed you probably do not have hands to deal with him in this manner.
You have two options. Drop the feed in the feeding place and leave. As you leave, make sure you do not walk in the area that the horse may; he could potentially run up to the feed as soon as it is dropped. Try not to turn your back on the horse, if you can walk so that you have him at least in the corner of your eye.
Should you have to walk a little way to get to the feeding place, your horse will probably try to steal food as you walk there. I suggest a covered feeding container
, but if that is not possible walk for as long as you can as far away from the horse as possible. If the horse speeds up and trots to be next to you and the food, slow down and let him. You do not want to be accidentally run into, so walk next to his shoulder
You should always stand next to a horse’s shoulder when walking next to him. This means that you can push your body against his shoulder and chest to keep him out of the way, and if you are desperate his ear is in easy reach for use as a twitch. (Grab his ear and pull it sharply down and back. This is not as effective as a lip twitch, but a lip twitch cannot be performed with a hand.)
Constant pushing against the neck and shoulder of the horse should be enough to keep him out of your space. Occasionally giving a good “Argh” at the horse also will keep him slightly wary of you and less likely to get all up in your shizz. Rounding on him while yelling and making loud noises with your feet can also help, again be aware that he could spook and kick out at you.
Leaning over to put the feed down or into whatever container you need is where it gets dangerous. Put your arse out and bum-butt the horse in the chest. If he puts his head in the feed you can yell and slap him if he does it a few times but be careful of head slaps, it could very well make him head shy. Head-slaps should only be used when absolutely necessary. Slaps on the neck are best made with the back of the hand, and should be made mid-neck to shoulder. If it is his head you want to move, you can slap closer to the head, but for your horse’s sake, do not slap any closer than two hand widths from the cheekbone.
Once the food is down, do not turn your back on the horse until out of kick-distance. Even a happy horse might kick out at a fly.
If there are multiple horses in the paddock, God help you. I have always managed to work it so that I never have to go into a paddock to feed multiple horses, but I have been around enough herds to know that they get up in your shit like flies to honey. If you feed in a paddock, just don’t. It is dangerous. If you must, know your horses and be willing to yell, stamp and kick them. Do not let them get between you and your escape.
Of course, your horse(s) could be very calm or well trained when it comes to being fed, and so you'll be able to walk into the paddock, say hello to the horse, give them the food and stand for a few minutes watching them eat.