Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Pecking Order

This entry could have been named "introductions," but due to the nature of the interactions, I felt the current title more appropriate. . .

Louie and his girlfriend finished their quarantine time and joined the herd today- all four of them (it's a smaller herd in the summer because only a few horses come in to be grained once a day, the rest get enough to sustain themselves on the lush pasture).  Two of the 6 are senior horses, two are our Tennessee Walking Horses (Cash- the Alpha, and Jackson- the Sidekick), and of course Louie and the lady. 

I don't know if it was because there was a mare introduced to the herd or if this is the way Cash always treats newcomers, but I felt bad for poor Louie and the mare.  At first I didn't notice any commotion, just the two of them grazing out away from everybody else, which I thought was pretty normal for new horses in a herd.  Then while I was tacking Louie up to ride I saw Cash and Jackson chasing after the poor mare, running her down back and forth, back and forth.  Then when they felt they had had enough fun, they retreated back to their shelter and left her in a corner separated from the herd.  After a little while they were back at it again. . .

I went and rode Louie, we had a nice ride, the footing was a little slick from all the rain we had yesterday, but not too bad.  We worked on extensions in the walk and trot, and suppleness/roundness in all gaits.  I got a good work out- wore my new heart rate monitor and burned 541 calories in a 35 minute ride!  Wow!  Louie got a good workout too.  As an afterthought, I probably shouldn't have pushed him too hard. 

When I put him back in the pasture all was quiet for a while.  I walked him over to the automatic waterer and pushed down on the floating cover and put some water to his mouth.  I thought maybe he'd want to drink after a hard ride, but instead all he did was scratch his head on the waterer.  You can lead a horse to water. . . I stayed in the pasture for a little bit, watched Louie roll, then he and the lady went off to graze together.  No action from the Alpha, so I walked over to say hi to them and check on them.  I told Cash to be nice.  Unfortunately he didn't listen. 

As I was putting my saddle away I heard commotion and looked to the pasture to see Cash and Jackson chasing Louie and the mare all over the pasture, weaving in and out, tight on their tails.  Louie let fly and clipped Jackson in the face with both hind feet (I don't think he was seriously hurt, just brushed him I think).  Louie led the chase, with the other 3 behind him, like 4-in-line barrel racing.  Luckily Louie is more agile than he looks, he dodged around some trees, cantering like he wasn't all that worried, just fast enough to stay away.  Cash tried to corner him , but Louie protected his lady.  At one point another boarder came up to see the action and pointed out that the two new horses were being chased, so I told her, "the funny thing is that 3 of the 4 horses invoved are mine. . ."  We had to laugh a little.  After a few minutes of action-packed adventure, Cash and Jackson retreated to their shelter, where Cash, the Alpha then proceeded to remind Jackson that he is the boss.  All in all, I think Jackson took the brunt of the battle, he tripped or fell once (all fours in the air), took a kick to the face, and I think got kicked or twisted a hind leg, which he limped on for a few strides, then shook it off and proceeded to try to remind Cash that he was his Sidekick buddy, and they were a team. 

Louie and the lady stayed in the far corner of the pasture for the rest of the time I was there, where one of the senior horses ventured out to say hello, in a much more kind manner.

I am interested in the herd dynamics in this situation.  I am assuming Cash wants Louie's lady, and they're going to have to duke it out and somebody (I'm sure Louie) will have to back down and assume his spot in the pecking order.  It's a matter of how long. . . how long will they continue to work out their differences?  I wonder if it had just been Louie new to the herd how the situation would be different, just adding one gelding versus a gelding and a mare?  At the same time I'm glad Louie has a buddy, I figure two on two is better than two on one!  I'm sure they will sort this all out quickly.  Louie can be a bit of a pest, and Cash doesn't put up with any non-sense.  I had hoped that since they knew each other and lived together for more than 6 months, used to get ponied together (granted it was a couple of years ago), that they would remember and get along.  Apparently not.  I just hope they get it figured out soon and nobody gets hurt too badly in the meantime.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Leah,

    Hopefully they will all settle down and play nice. Please let us know.