Herd Dynamics

We have a small herd of 4 horses. As the weather turns towards the colder side, the dynamics of how our herd works together becomes more and more apparent.

This one:

Ruby

Ruby

Is our Lead Mare. She runs the joint, no matter what. Unless the Humans step into the pasture, then she gives control to us. That was a hard-fought lesson for her…if you remember, a while back she kicked The Kid, and I schooled that mare into understanding that we humans are the bosses, not her.

This one:

Cookie

Cookie

Is Second-In-Command. She’s not interested in running the herd, but, she demands respect from her herd mates. When she pins her ears *every one* gets out of her way. Including Ruby. She doesn’t do it often, she really is a laid back, gentle horse. So, when the ears pin, man oh man, look out! And, it will be over food. My Girl still has food issues, though we’ve worked very hard to settle them down. Every now and then though…they crop up. It’ll be something we deal with for the rest of her life.

These 2:

Sable and Astrid

Sable and Astrid

Are under the other 2, and unless there is some sort of serious fight, will always be. Even though she joined the herd last, Astrid’s position is above Sable.

Sable is our Omega.
She’s at the bottom. She takes the most shit from the other 3, she gets pushed out of her food, she gets chased the most…but, she’s also the first one Ruby protects, and she is the one who is always there to comfort the others.

More than once I have pushed Cookie’s boundaries hard. I mean, that horse worked her brain so hard to do as I asked, that when we were done, she walked away sweaty. Sable is *always* the first to come to Cookie with a nuzzle, a gentle touch with her muzzle, exchange breath…it’s all to comfort Cookie, to let her know that she’s okay. I have had Sable do this while I’m pushing Cookie…and I let her, because as much as I can offer comfort, I’m the one asking her to do something she’s not sure of, maybe she’s afraid of, or it’s something she’s never done. Having a herd mate come and offer comfort, shows Cookie that I’m not asking her for more than she can give.

Sable is what makes our herd work. Without her, we’d have a bunch of pushy mares vying for lead…All. The. Time.
Ugh. That would suck, and there would be far more injuries!
It just means that we have to have 2 feeders for hay. That way there is always one place where Sable can go to eat.
Whoever eats with her always changes, which is interesting too. Most times it’s Astrid, but I have noticed that Ruby will eat with Sable when she’s feeling stress.

It also means that when they get things like grain, or beet pulp, I must have 4 separate feed spots, so that everyone gets their fair share. LOL! Sometimes, I stand in their midst, supervising, just to make sure no one *ahem*Ruby*ahem* steals anyone else’s treat.

I am not joking when I call them 1200lb toddlers. 😉

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4 thoughts on “Herd Dynamics

  1. Sounds familiar. My 17hh OTB is my biggest guy and I sometimes guard him at food time to make sure he gets his fair share.

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    • WolfSong says:

      We have friends who have a Draft in their herd and it’s the same thing…something about those big horses. 🙂 It drives me nuts, some days, because I know she could just shove all the others out of the way and enjoy the mash with no problem. She just lets the others push her out and waits, hoping for some to be left.
      I’m glad our big girl is so gentle. I hate seeing the others pick on her, but her big heart and gentle spirit make her the perfect horse for my Kid.

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  2. gail says:

    my dogs have an interesting dynamic. Q is the only one who’s been here since he was a pup and they’ all middle aged to senior now but they can still surprise me. groucho has gotten really bad about stealing food lately. i had to move star’s cat food because he was eating it all and she wont eat at the oher dish.

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