02 March 2011

Integration Difficulties

It's not going well. Compa insists on his own set of rules; rules that make no sense to other horses.

Compa believes he is acting like a normal horse. To his way of thinking (his rules) he is. But my horses, who have seen a multitude of unusual equine behavior, think he is crazy.

Monday Afternoon = Day One ~ Prior to releasing Compa into the pasture, I removed all the manure and removed my herd from the pasture. I tied them where they could see Compa experience his first real freedom. I set up the video and still cameras and untied Compa from the high line. He was soft and quiet when I released him.

He didn't go far. He knew the others were tied and watching. He moved around a little and then began frantically pacing the fence line closest to the herd. Things were reversed, he was free, the herd was tied. It didn't make any difference, Compa's reaction was the same. He became mentally and emotionally unstable. Sometimes reversing the free and tied horses can swing the socially incompetent to normalcy. The hope is that the freedom of open space will cause a release of the nervous, pent up, negative energy. It didn't work with Compa. He demanded companionship. Not that I blame him, but I wasn't happy with his mental state. I knew he would not improve with any additional time alone in the pasture, so I untied Berlin.

The meeting was anything but uneventful.

When I brought Berlin close to the gate, Compa attacked him. Berlin was confused for a moment and then I had to stop him from retaliating. While I had complete control over Berlin, I had none over Compa. I used the longe whip to crack a snap over Compa's head. That stopped him in his tracks and caused him to calm. He stood back from the gate and waited. Each time Compa came forward, I would sharply lay the longe lash down on the ground. Compa would back up or circle away. I repeated this procedure until Compa would stay quiet and calm. Now I had control over both horses. I unlatched the gate, brought Berlin in, kept Compa away, released Berlin and left.

They were on their own. I have observed my herd help to integrate many horses over the years, so I wasn't concerned about Berlin harming Compa. And he didn't. At one point, when Compa got too aggressive, Berlin turned butt and kicked Compa square in the chest. The kick was sharp and quick and designed to teach rather than maim. This placed the leadership role squarely with Berlin and the dominant gesture made a huge difference in Compa's behavior.

One down, three to go.

I untied Ziggy and brought him in the same way. I didn't have to do anything to keep Compa away from Ziggy, Berlin took care of that for me.

Ziggy tried a different tactic with Compa. He introduced himself and when Compa behaved aggressively toward him, Ziggy diffused the situation by walking away. He repeated this so many times, it completely confused Compa. Ziggy wasn't playing by his rules and Compa had no alternative behavior to retaliate with.

The three of them worked hard to get things right. Compa repeatedly approached Ziggy and Berlin with correct friendly behavior and in a split second he would attack one of them. Berlin would sharply correct the vicious behavior and then Zig and Berlin would walk away, leaving Compa alone. Who wants to be around such incongruent behavior?

Well, Compa didn't want to be alone. He would race across the pasture, teeth bared, ears pinned and crash into them, just itching for a fight. Berlin would comply, nail him a good one and an instant later, Compa would perk his ears and act friendly again. Compa could not figure out that his rules were not working.

This behavior was repeated for an hour without improvement. Berlin and Ziggy got so tired of the pattern that when they saw Compa galloping toward them, they turned tail and fired out at him. Strangely, no one was injured, but I didn't see any reason to add another horse to the mix...

A sour beginning to the integration...


  1. Golly...I bet they will all work it out.... This is a real cliff hanger....!
    I think its correct for the human (Super Alpha Leader over all of them) to intervene to show whats acceptable, like you did.

  2. Wow ... not a good way to start, but I agree with Pam. I bet they will eventually work it out. Have you ever seen a case where it could not be worked out? Just curious ...

  3. Oh my...bet it made for a very interesting afternoon for him. My fingers are crossed that he'll find his 'horse-ness' soon - very soon. :) Thank goodness he's got great teachers - you, Berlin, Ziggy and Carli...xo

  4. When I first got Dakota it took her very little time to establish that she was THEE QUEEN. I was surprised how quickly Jojo accepted her as the leader. Now Jojo and Fancy (the foal that was with D. when she first got here) are buddies and D"s last foal (a colt not yet gelded) is the prince. He plays with everyone.