Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gelding Herd Dynamics

Any time a horse joins an established herd, things get rearranged and the new horse has to find his or her place in the herd order.  Pie is a laid-back, fairly submissive guy, and the only horse I've seen him move is Fred, and even then he isn't very aggressive about it - he just pins his ears a bit and Fred walks away.  Fred has always been low man in the gelding herd, and it seems that Pie is just above him.

I watched the geldings carefully today at turnout to see if I could determine what was going on.  Pie went out first, and went directly - he trotted - to the round bale and started eating.  Eating seems to be a big priority with him - I haven't seen him play once.  Then Fred and Fritz went out.  Fred walked up next to Pie at the round bale, sniffed noses and started eating.  A minute or so later, Fritz screamed and swung his hindquarters toward Pie and kicked him.  Pie was moving away, but didn't move fast enough and got kicked again in the same hind leg - this time just a superficial blow that didn't bleed much.  Then Scout came out.  Fritz would move Scout who would move Pie who would move Fred - ring around the round bale.  Fritz tolerates Fred pretty well - they have the same owner and have been together for years.  This is a good thing as Fred is increasingly feeble and has trouble moving very fast.  When I left the barn, they were all eating at the round bale, with Pie on the opposite side from Fritz and with Scout and Fred on either side.

I told Pie to try to move a bit faster - he never uses more energy than he has to and his head is buried in the bale so he's an easy target.  I expect the bites on his rump are from Scout moving him or trying to play with him.  Poor Pie!  He doesn't seem too worried about things, though, and I hope he learns to stay out of Fritz's way - I expect he can't understand why anyone would be so nasty!  Fritz isn't usually a very aggressive alpha, and I hope he relaxes a bit soon - he's also been pretty agitated in the stall both in the evening and the morning.


  1. Poor Pie. I hate watching the innocent get bit or kicked when they really have no idea why it is happening. Nature is sometimes too cruel for me. I am a wimp.
    Pie seems to have the sweetest disposition ever.

  2. I think Pie will figure out to move faster or stay away from Fritz and his hind end. Hope he doesn't get hurt anymore, I feel sorry for him. Here he is minding his own business and he gets kicked for not moving fast enough. Wonder if you put him out last or next to last if he would join them at the round bale away from Fritz and avoid Fritz's attitude.

  3. Not a bad idea about putting Pie out last, or next to last. Giving the alpha horse priority sometimes helps.

    Here, if I put out hay, I put out three piles well separated from each other. They Boys still play musical piles until the alpha/omega sorts out. And this is after many years together.

    There is a natural instinct on the part of each horse to get the best feed, even when it's all the same, and the top horse always sets the tone as to where the "Best" feed is.

    Hopefully Pie will catch on about getting out of the way sooner.

  4. Panama is pretty submissive, and is usually low man, too. I'm sure it has something to do with age, too. Panama is accustomed to being the baby and being bossed around, and I suspect the same goes for Pie.

  5. I agree, perhaps turning Pie out last will give him the chance to find the quietest spot out of the way. Certainly hope all settles soon!

  6. Considering you have only had Pie for a few days, I would expect this to happen. I have never separated mares and geldings, foals or whatever. Here they live like a natural herd. It takes me a week or more to introduce a horse and I do it a little at a time with me standing there. This helps eliminate injury and has offered some support for the new horse. Also, your feeding situation encourages closeness. For now, I would put at least one pile of hay away from the round bale so he can gradually get into the groove and not get so beaten up. My 2 cents worth....

  7. Oh Pie with your ole head stuck in the hay bale!! Don't get hurt little guy!! I hate seeing my horse get chased and I wail about it, but then a few days later I see her going after someone else! And this makes me scream! In the end I don't know who to feel bad for. I should be more like Bill and not feel bad for any of them. Don't they know what they are doing after all? Still, I don't like to see them hurt! Especially when they are just innocently eating!!
    I think it funny that one person has a horse named Fred and Fritz. That makes me snicker.

  8. yikes! You're doing good to let them sort it out. Sounds like he's a gentle-natured boy in the herd or on the trail, but I sure hope they all settle down soon and stop kicking him in the leg!!

  9. Poor Pie! Guess he figures a few cuts here and there are worth being able to keep eating. :)

    Hopefully they get everything figured out soon.

  10. I'm a little surprised that you just have them eat off one hay bale. Maybe it's because our guys are in tight quarters, but we set out hay - we don't have them eat off a single round bale. We used to do that at our old barn, but there was considerable waste and the battles... well, they didn't work it out and we had a couple get seriously injured.

    I'd love if we did nets around the place, but it's not realistic. There's not enough strong fences or trees to hang them on.

    Any way in our gelding herd we make it a point to set hay at a distance. Sometimes there will be moving from pile to pile, but it seems to reduce injuries.

  11. Your new header photo is beautiful.

  12. Breathe - we've used round bales for years with no problems to speak of. Our bales are pretty big - 500-800 lbs. - they're big enough that the horses can't see over them when they first get here. We do have some waste, but they're in large metal holders with pallets underneath so most gets eaten. Four horses on one of these bales spaces them out pretty well and their faces aren't close together.


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