Yes I agree, however he was pinning his ears and turning his hind end towards me just after I put his bucket down and I was even on the other side of the fence, so he needs to learn to respect me and have manners if i am near him or not. I do leave him alone to eat in peice as that's his time but I won't accept behaviour like that.
I had a big youngster who came to me very defensive about feed - breeder's instruction was to push his feed through the door or under the fence and back away fast. Errr, no! There were going to be times I needed to do things when he was eating, plus he had no business guarding anything that strongly from me and I'd rather get that straight with a 15hh ish 2yo than a 16.3 8yo. My answer with him was any feed in a bucket was held by me and the slightest threat meant yes I left but so did the bowl with the feed in it - he cottoned on very quickly lol and there was no shouting or smacking to turn it into a battle. Now obviously if you decide to try something like that make sure there's a solid barrier between you and him otherwise it's going to go very wrong, but I found it safer and more effective than telling him off and in very little time I had a horse who could be safely handled when food was around and indeed would hand me the bucket as it was easier to lick the sides clean if I held and tilted it.