28 March 2011

A Rough Week...

Things have changed inside the herd. All five horses have been out 24/7 for ten days now. Two days into the turnout, I noticed a change during the late night feeding.

The horses were galloping. It wasn't playful galloping, but it wasn't panic either. Something else. There was enough moonlight to see that Compa was keeping the other four away from the feed area. He was a whirling dervish; it takes a lot of blocking to keep four hungry horses from their food.

Hummm, I thought. This is going to get interesting. If that little horse takes over the leadership of this herd, how will things shake out? Questions raged inside my brain. I ticked off what I knew about him so far:

Early on Compa worked off his own set of misguided rules. These rules nearly got him killed by the herd. Perhaps he has learned from his mistakes and is now seeking another more instinctual approach?

Observation shows Compa knows little about herd structure and responsibility. An example would be during feeding time. Compa replays his whirling dervish tape and won't allow any of the horses to get close to the hay. A good leader recognizes that all of the horses in the band must eat and many horses in the band are better than a few. Therefore he should allow all of them to eat in peace and save his leadership fights for something more practical. He must prove his worthiness as their leader. They will agree to his leadership if he is calm, fair, agile, forthright, respectful and thoughtful. He does not show these traits. He uses brute force where thoughtfulness would be more appropriate. As long as he fights for possession of all the food, the herd members will fight him for leadership. The herd will live in chaos until this is resolved. As of day ten, Compa has not shown any tendency to share. I have had to alleviate this difficulty by spreading the hay throughout the pasture. This approach puts so much space between the hay piles, that Compa cannot protect them all. While this is a solution to the feeding problem, it does not improve the leadership issue.

At day ten, Compa has chosen the "wear-them-down" approach to leadership. He learned this from my horses. They tag-teamed him when he first arrived to help him understand that his unique set of rules made no sense to them as socially adept equines. The boys kept him away from the mare and from their tight knit band by chasing him when he got too close. Now, Compa runs the herd in circles to keep the mare from the other geldings. The mare doesn't want to be with Compa. She is constantly wandering back to the geldings she understands. She leaves because she gets mixed signals from him (something that would not occur with a true leader). Part of the day she gets "stay with me or else!" and then at feeding time she suffers "get away, get away, the food is mine!".

That confusion does not a leader make...


  1. this is a wild ride Dee! Again, eyes wide, and mouth half open, even the odd sharp intake of breath as I read!
    And although its not really "Funny" subject matter, your descriptions are entertaining, too! This blog is so instructive, to read how you are handling this unusual, interesting , and, indeed, demanding situation!

  2. Look at the long, furious nose on that young fellow, Compa! Yikes!!!