Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Herd Dynamics

Killian his first day with the herd, just standing there minding his own business.

I have always been fascinated by how the horses in a herd (in this case MY herd) move up and down the totem pole.   I ran across these pictures of the day that we brought Killian home. We gave them some time over the fence and then decided to let them together to sort things out.  Danny was pretty much top horse but he is not an aggressive horse so he had no problem with the new addition. Sassy had been having fun pushing Trax around for a while so she was certainly second in line. Trax, for some reason is perfectly happy being bottom of the ladder.  He is the last one to eat, and can be pushed away from any feeder easily.  He could care less about mares in heat, he just wants to be left alone. 
Uh Oh, Sassy has just spied the intruder

She is headed over to give him a piece of her mind.
Note Trax in the back watching with interest.

Oh yeah she is not happy
"Hey You Big red horse- get the heck out of here!"

"Thats right- don't mess with the mare"
"Can I go back over there please?"

Interestingly enough, it has all changed out there.  Once Sassy realized that she could not get rid of him, he settled in nicely.  I was able to put all the horses together with out any issue at all. Danny still ate first, sharing only with Sassy, and everyone else fell into their places.  Somewhere along the line, and I am not even sure when, Killian took over.  When spring came and we finally had pasture I started separating and rotating horses. Sassy hurt her foot and was put into confinement.  I moved Danny to his own pasture so he could have plenty to eat and in just a couple of month of him being on his own, he and Killian have become enemies.  One day I opened the gate between pastures and let everyone have free run of both pastures.  The next thing I knew I saw Killian going after Danny, and GETTING him.  He was all bit up, so I separated them.  The next day I saw that Danny had a huge gash on his rear Stifle.  He couldn't even walk right.  Now I see the two of them fence fighting constantly, and the worst part is that Danny tries to start most of the fights!  The problem there is that he can't kick or run fast due to the stringhalt so he gets hurt everytime.  So now its Killian on top and then Sassy, Danny I guess would be third and poor Trax is still at the bottom.  I think he likes it there best though.
I can leave Killian and Trax in a pasture together without issue.  But if I pen them up, Killian spends the the entire time chasing Trax around and biting the crap out of him.  I can pen up Sassy and Trax and they do fine until feeding time, then she gets bossy. I can always put Trax with Danny but since Danny will share food with him and he eats slower than Trax, he gets thin and Trax gets huge!  It is quite the dilemna having to figure out who to put where these days.  I suspect if I didn't have a mare so ready to be bred all the time, it would be different, but  I won't get rid of her so for now we play musical horses. Winter will be interesting though because I can only get water and electricity to certain areas so penning will not be possible.

So I would like to know about your herds, who is on top, the mares or the geldings? 

The whole herd- Note Danny's Stringhalt leg



  1. Mellon (our oldest) is top dog in the herd for the past 20 yrs. We have seven horses and in that mix only one mare. Dusty's a tough little quarter horse and takes no guff from anybody. But she will listen to Mellon even though you can see in her face that she doesn't like the idea. Nobody bucks his authority or they pay the price. He was once nicknamed the Terminator at one barn where we boarded years ago.

    Love your herd. They are gorgeous.

  2. Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog (via Browneyed Cowgirls). I liked the most recent posts I read so I've headed back to the start to catch up :)
    Not sure if you'll even see this as it is an older post, but if you do...
    I think the reason Trax is perfectly happy where he is in the pecking order is because it's stable.
    Usually the happiest horses are the very bottom because they know their spot and don't have to argue with anyone.
    Next up would be the top horses, unless there's constantly changes in the herd.
    Normally the horses that are in the middle are the ones in constant flux, or have the potential for it, and therefore most likely to have issues with anxiety when there are changes in the herd.

    1. Hey thanks for stopping by, and yes you are right. Trax is happiest at the bottom. Mostly I keep him and Danny together now and they are best buds. I finally had to separate Sassy and Killian because he was stealing her food. I can still let them graze together, but when penned up they have their own space.

      I really am glad you are enjoying catching up on all my babble.