How to Hand Feed a Horse

Whether you own your own horse or just enjoy visiting them in pastures or stables near your home, it can be a rewarding experience to hand feed a horse. If you follow safety procedures and offer the horse the proper food or treat when hand-feeding, you and the horse can enjoy a bonding experience.

1Get permission to approach and feed horses that are not yours. If you see some horses grazing in a pasture on the side of the road, don’t assume you can simply approach the fence and offer them food. You must always as the owner’s permission before approaching or feeding any horses that do not belong to you.
  • Some horses might be on a very specific diet, and offering them food outside of that diet could be harmful. Alternatively, some horses may have biting tendencies or aggressive behaviors, and you don’t want to approach any horse without being aware of these tendencies beforehand.
2Approach the horse with caution. Never run at a horse. Do not come at the horse from behind, as you might spook it. Approach the horse from the front, and off to the side a bit. Approaching at a slight angle toward the shoulder will allow it to see you a bit better.
  • Don’t approach a horse directly from the front since that’s where its blind spot is. Make sure you are coming to it from the side a bit as that is where its best vision is. Walk slowly and don’t lunge towards the horse or make any sudden movements.
3Let the horse know you are coming. Talking softly, clicking your tongue, or speaking the horse’s name will let it know you are approaching. You might see its ears twitch as it hears your voice, and it may turn to look at you when it hears you. This will let you know the horse has acknowledged your presence and you haven’t startled it.
  • Don’t make any strange or overly loud noises to let the horse know you’re there. Just speak quietly or make noises it is used to hearing.
4Hold your hand out flat. When offering a horse food with your hand, you want to make sure your hand is flat with your fingers together and the food or treat on your palm. Doing this will keep your fingertips away from the horse’s mouth, and it will be less likely to accidentally nip you while taking the food.
  • Avoid holding your hand too high. Let the horse drop its head down to take the treat from your palm. That way, the horse will be reaching down into your palm rather than coming straight onto your fingertips.

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