Sunday, August 24, 2008

The not-so-happy herd

My happy little horse herd is not to be. I've turned Gabe out with Calypso for about two weeks now and the two get along fairly well. They aren't best buds yet, but they don't hate each other, either. Gabe is definitely a lover, not a fighter, and he's the bottom man on the totem pole. Calypso doesn't pick on him, just moves him around on occasion.

Gabe and Calypso have been hanging out at the pasture gate with Chief, so I thought I'd try to put Chief in with them and let the herd dynamics work itself out. I knew Gabe would be bottom man again, and that would be fine.

Chief is 21-years-old and he's the epitome of a grumpy old man. He picks on Calypso, as is evidenced by the bite and kick marks she comes in from the pasture with daily.

Doesn't he even LOOK grumpy? If he were human, he'd sit on his front porch in a rickety old rocker with a shotgun over his knees and scream at the kids to get off his lawn.

Anyway, all was going as expected yesterday. Chief went after Gabe, walloped him a good one in the side, and went off to graze while Gabe galloped to the other end of the pasture. About 20 minutes later Chief went after him again. Gabe valiantly attempted to defend himself and managed to perform a pretty impressive capriole that looked a whole lot like this one:
He's definitely an athletic guy! I was QUITE impressed and so was Robert. Robert's comment was: "Now, if you could just teach him to do that on command..."

More chasing ensued at regular intervals yesterday, but little kicking went on so I wasn't too worried. These things must be settled in a herd, right?

Completely different story this morning. Chief went after Gabe ceaselessly, running him around the pasture, cornering him and kicking at him. At least twice he nearly chased Gabe through the fence and it got to the point where Gabe just stood by the water tank dripping sweat and shaking. A lover, not a fighter. He was trying his best to stay out of Chief's way but he couldn't seem to get far enough. The pasture they were in is a good 3.5 acres so he had plenty of room to move out of the way...but apparently not far enough for Chief.

Gabe's attitude and demeanor completely changed when Chief was in the pasture with him. He was obviously very worried, scared, tense and seemed to have lost a lot of confidence just in a couple of hours. When I went in the pasture the big guy was practically clinging to me like I was going to protect him. It is my job to protect him, right?

While I would like to have a happy little horse herd, it's just not going to happen. The last thing I want to risk is Gabe colicking over the stress, going through the fence or wrenching a leg while trying to get away from Chief, the big old grumpy bully.

Chief can just live in a pasture all by his grumpy self and Calypso can be "top man" in the little herd of two. I'm sure she'll appreciate not being bullied, kicked and bitten by Chief.

We are in the process of putting up fence for a fourth pasture, which is around the same size as the 3.5 acre pasture. It should be done some time this week. Robert and my oldest daughter, Alexis, put in t-posts this weekend and I dug post holes for the corners. All the t-posts got capped with insulators today and the wooden corner posts will be concreted in tonight. We just need to install a gate and string up three strands of the electric rope. I LOVE the electric rope! It's visible, strong, attractive and delivers quite the shock when touched.

The new pasture hasn't had horses on it for about three years, but I've kept it mowed to keep the weeds away and we overseeded it this spring. It's absolutely GORGEOUS! Timothy, alfalfa, orchardgrass, clovers, brome and fescue are in great abundance and very thick. I can't keep up with the mowing it's growing so nicely. It will be nice to have one more pasture to add to my pasture rotation schedule. Next year, we will hopefully be able to get two more pastures fenced. Part of one of them is currently serving as my arena, but it will be nice to have it fenced in....just in case.


  1. Your pastures sound wonderful. I'm glad you decided to remove Chief in the end. My farrier told me a story about a guy who kept buying horses, and having to put them down because he kept coming home from work and finding them with broken legs. It turned out that his other horse was delivering a very precise kick to their legs each time the man introduced a new horse to the pasture.

  2. We have recently experienced the same with our new 2 year old. Introducing one at a time to the 'lesser' two horses he did great; introducing to the herd boss was bad. He continued to chase the youngster mercilessly.
    His multiple injuries he had when we got him were from the previous herd boss hurting him. He is just that super mild personality. We'll have to keep those two apart for now also. It sure is easier to have a herd that all get along together!

  3. Nuzzling Muzzles...We have been blessed this year with scads of rain and subsequently, very lush, green beautiful pastures! Last year we had a drought and by this time all the pastures were brown and crunchy. I was extremely worried about putting Gabe out with Chief but needed to give it a chance, hoping they'd work things out. My best friend had to put her delightful mare down last year when a well-aimed kick broke her leg irreparably. Needless to say, I definitely had that thought in my head when we put all three together!

    Kathy...Those boss horses can be downright nasty sometimes. I would love to be able to have a nice little herd of three to turn out together. It is so much easier to just be able to turn them all free into the same pasture instead of having to separate them every day, but, it's not to be. It sounds like your baby, like Gabe, just has such an easy-going, friendly personality that he won't fight back and the boss horse uses that to his complete advantage.