'bottom of the pecking order' horse- how to keep him safe? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 11-06-2010, 12:30 PM Thread Starter
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'bottom of the pecking order' horse- how to keep him safe?

My horse was a rescue, and apparently is used to being on the end of the food chain. We have put over 100# on him, but he still cannot be left in the pasture with the other 2 geldings. ( he is happy with the little mare he is pastured with but it would be much easier if they could all be together ) We have tried, but he gets kicked, bitten and generally picked on and kept from the food.( he was always the 'kick me' horse at the last place he was at as well...) and we just cannot leave him there for his own safety. Interstingly the 2 pastures are seperated only by a wire- and all 4 horses will lie down close to eachother, or stand together... but once the wire is removed all bets are off. Is there a way to help them get along?
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-06-2010, 12:48 PM
Green Broke
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No. If your horses don't like one another now they probably never will, especially if they're kept seperate all the time. It's a pecking order thing & it has to be established which means the only way that can truly happen is if they're all together.
I know it might sound bad, but the only thing that might work if they havent learned to accept him over the fence is to just let them chase him around for awhile. Once they're certain that he understands who the boss is & what they expect of him, things will simmer down.
You could also try switching partners for while. Put the more aggressive one in with the mare (or by himself) & put your guy in with the other horse. If the bullies are seperated that might help too & once your guy & the other gelding learn to accept eachother, then maybe bring the mare in. Once everyones good, then add the mean guy. Being the odd man out might set him off for awhile because he'll have to work himself back in agin.
If all else fails, you'll just have to feed seperate or else spread the hay around in piles that are far apart. I had to do that for 2 years! Believe me it was a pain but it was the only way my Arab would get any food until i finally sold the grumpy old nag that was causing the issues lol. I had to make 5-6 seperated piles of hay ALL over the pastures because the one mare was so bad.
The thing i found with her, though,was if you put a horse (ANY horse) into her pasture she'd go at them with teeth & hooves & drive them away from everything. However, if you put her in someone else's pasture (or removed her from her own for while) she was more willing to get along, though quite grudgingly.

"If a horse fails to do something that is because he was not trained to do it. If a horse fails to do something properly that is because he was not trained properly."
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post #3 of 10 Old 11-06-2010, 02:03 PM
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Try putting him in with one gelding or the other, at a time, and see how that goes. If that doesn't work, then you'll just have to keep them separated.
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post #4 of 10 Old 11-06-2010, 02:41 PM
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Well, how bad is it?
I had a little gelding for many years who was constantly picked on. It was worse at first and then settled down a bit and he was just fine, apart from the rare occasional less-than-pretty mark here and there. Never really anything serious. That was just his life, horses will be horses, he got a lot of nicks but he also had friends out there and the only other option for him was a stall where he would not be happy. They did chase him away from dinner some, but ultimately he still got more than enough food and did fine.
After that I had a Thoroughbred who loved to be pastured but was very hard to keep. He had to be kept stalled because he would not have made it out there.

It really depends on the situation. There isn't much you can do to warm them up to each other, they just need to go at it on their own and it's not always pretty but again, horses will be horses and that's just their way. If after a reasonable amount of time he isn't getting to eat or is getting beat beyond what's reasonable, you'll probably have to work something else out.
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post #5 of 10 Old 11-06-2010, 10:23 PM
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How long have you left him in with the other horses at a time? It can take a couple of weeks for the others to accept him into their "herd". When I first brought my guy to his new place he was the outcast for nearly a month - he came in with a generous amount of kick and bite marks for the first couple of weeks. At first they would not let him leave the field if they were all still out there - they even attacked him while I was leading him out which ended up in me being knocked into the mud (really peeved me off - but that's another story). They also would not let him within 50 feet or so of them while they were grazing.

It's been a month now and they are completely fine with him now. Perhaps you are not giving him enough time to be accepted?
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post #6 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 03:06 PM
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We have had two different groups in the past: the "mean crowd" and the "gentle crowd." The gentle crowd were ones that needed extra TLC, and would get picked on and beat up if turned out with the other guys. We just made the decison (since we have lots of pastures and avaliable shelter) to divide them and keep it that way if needed. Now, since we only have four of our own horses and one boarder, they can all be kept together with no problem.

My advice would be to keep him seperated. If he is happy with the mare, then so be it. Just my two cents :)

Shaneequah, 1998 gaited Bashkir CurlyxArab mare
Treyue, 1999 3-gaited Icelandic gelding
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post #7 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 08:34 PM
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It can take a while to settle into a pecking order, but once he knows his place he should keep away from them.

You mention they don't let him at the food. You should not feed horses in paddocks, as you are just asking for trouble. It is a much better option to remove the horses, feed them and then return them. Also make sure the paddock is not too small, it is important, especially when horses do not get along, to have them in a large area. You want at least 4+ acres.

If you must feed in a paddock ensure the feed is well seperated and there is more feed than horses.

So if there are 4 horses put maybe 5 or 6 piles of feed at least 10m apart, so that all horses can find their own without threatening each other.

It takes a few weeks for a horse to settle in. A thick rug will help prevent injuries.
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post #8 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Saskia View Post
You should not feed horses in paddocks, as you are just asking for trouble.
?? That seems an over the top attitude to me. Also, if right, means that virtually every horse property I've known of & worked on(including racing stables, stud farms, training establishments...) were 'asking for trouble'.... but never generally got any.

As horses need to eat little & often, if they shouldn't be fed in their paddock, that would mean they'd have to be brought out xx amounts daily(& over night) for feed.

I think a better approach is that if you're not hanging around to supervise(& control the bosses), feeds should be placed a fair way from eachother. There should be enough piles/buckets for each horse, but if there's one 'kick me' horse, or a bully or 2 that like to continually chase others off, a few more feed, and more space in between can be provided.

To OP, I agree particularly with lilruffian & rocky, that generally speaking, after a bit of 'horseplay' to sort out the pecking order, if left together, horses tend to come to an amicable arrangement. If they aren't allowed to stay together long enough, or are separated for a time, they will continue to need to 're-establish' their relationships. However, some horses do indeed seem to have an invisible 'kick me' sign on them, and some horses are just bullies - dominant & lacking good social skills. Separating those horses, or trying them one on one with the newby is often a good option.
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post #9 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 11:42 PM
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I would say if penning them together is really important to you; get him in proper condition, and then just turn them all out together to figure things out...they WILL eventually, and as mentioned, you could rug him to prevent bad nip marks. It could take a couple of weeks, or it may take a matter of days for them to work out the new heirarchy. Just make sure there are a few more piles of hay than there are horses, and make sure they are spread out as far as you can manage, so each horse gets his share.

Something that one of the barns I frequented alot, did, was to put lower members of the herd out into the field first in the mornings, with the hay, and then bring the more dominant ones out. That seemed to go so much smoother than putting the lower members in last...not sure why, but it just did; I've found the same thing with my own horses, when bringing in a new one...if I turn out the new one first (after the initial fence type meet and greet, and quarentine), it just seems to go better...

That said, unless you really don't want to have to feed separately for the long hual, you probably have the best situation right now, as it is; horses in pairs that get along. Especially because most places now a days don't have alot of space for horses to really dork around when integrating new members, it really is safer for the horses, to make sure they are in with horses they can get along with.

At the place I board my mare, she was in with a couple of geldings for a while...and then out of no where she started coming up with some nasty bite marks, so I had the BO separate them back out again; it's not the largest place, for horses to be idiots toward each other, so it's best if they are in their own paddocks. If the arrangement you have works right now, I would say keep it...they would eventually figure things out between each other, but if you don't have to go through all that (and potentially have them injure each other pretty good)? I'd say to not go through it.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #10 of 10 Old 11-08-2010, 12:24 AM
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That's life. It's been 5 months since we moved to the new place, and my thick headed filly has finally stopped coming in chewed to bits. It only took my Arab a week of licks to sort her place in the new herd, but my filly likes to ignore. She was covered from head to toe in bites and kicks for months - often rendering me unable to ride because of where they were. She also lost some weight.

She's starting to smarten up though - she's lowest on the rung and she's learned to be more meek and mild as opposed to playing the bored teenager bit. The ranch hands make sure there are hay piles scattered around the entire pen, so she can choose a pile well away from the bullies.

Unless they're being unnaturally aggressive and harmful, some horses just take longer to find their place. As long as you ensure there are multiple food sources so he can eat without disturbing someone, they should sort it out just fine.

I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.

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