separate horses or not? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 06-26-2013, 02:35 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2013
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separate horses or not?

I'm not sure this is the right place for this post, but as its about horse behavior...I thought I'd try here.

I have 3 horses now, 2 mares and one gelding.

One mare, Choo, is a 34" pony, 7 years or so old. When we added the new mare, Choo would threaten her through the fence. Baring her teeth, biting at the fence between them, presenting rear etc. They did become good friends however. Before we added the gelding to our little herd, Choo and Jaz would stand quietly together and groom each other. In spite of her small size, when we added Jaz, Choo became the lead, and the bigger horse has been happy to follow Choo. Choo loves to explore new places and exploring is more important then staying close to another horse.

The other mare is 13 HH and about the same age. Jaz has a quiet, calm personality and doesn't like to wander around alone. While the two mares were kept separated so that they could get to know each other through the fence, Jaz would always stand quietly as close to Choo as she could get, in spite of Choo's threats etc. Jaz would stay there all the time except when eating, drinking or when we were with her. Shes never shown any aggressive behavior at all and would move off from Choo's threats.

The gelding is 22 years old, has skin cancer on his male bits and justs over 13 HH. He's very calm and gentle except at the food bowl. He'll dominate the food bowl but they have 4 feeding stations spaced about 50 feet or more apart. He's the newest and I don't know him very well yet, but he seems to be curious and friendly to other horses as long as they're not eating 'his' food.

We just started to let all three spend time together. The two mares have been spending time together for a couple of months now and its gone so smooth and easy. Choo leads, Jaz follows and at the food bowls, they both stay calm and friendly. Choo loves to flirt with Jaz when shes in heat and Jaz just loves having a horse friend.

We've had the gelding, Little Man, getting to know them through the fence and just recently let all three spend time together. Choo and Jaz are now fighting with each other. They squeal at each other and swing rears around to threaten each other. Both are presenting rear to Little in a mare-ish way...tail up etc. Jaz and Choo both clearly prefer Littles company to each other now.

Sorry for the long post, but wanted to give enough background info.

So at any rate, I'm worried about little Choo getting hurt as her and Jaz work things out. Both are treating Little like an intact stallion I think? I'm uncertain why the two mares are acting hostile to each other now. I've thought about separating all three, or maybe rotate which 2 are together for a bit so that all 3 can bond together. My goal is to eventually have all three together 100% safely. The turn out area I want them to share is about an acre, so theres enough space that they don't have to be close. Right now, when all three are out together, Jaz and Little keep close to each other and Choo stands off from them, but any time Jaz is a bit away from Little, Choo rushes in and starts kissing his legs, presenting rear, lifting tail etc and Little happily grooms her back. Then when Jaz comes closer, Choo squeals and threatens Jaz and Jaz threatens right back now. Until Little was added to the mix, Jaz would simply walk off a few steps and quietly look at Choo or ignore her.

Any ideas how to handle this so that the little horse stays safe and all three can eventually be turned out together? I tried returning to Choo and Jaz together with Little separated by a fence so that they could bond better before Little is added but even though that worked beautifully before, now Choo and Jaz are at odds even when Littles separated from them by a fence. I can separate all three or rotate which two are together, but I really want to be able to turn all three out together.
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post #2 of 5 Old 06-26-2013, 02:37 PM
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Your herd isn't safe enough to just put food bowls for grain under the fence. You must take your horses out and tie them in separate places and far enough away from each other so that no one can kick another. This is how I originally made my first herd catchable.
The dominant horse(s) will ALWAYS monopolize the grain bowls. It's part of being herd leaders and is a natural horse behavior.

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post #3 of 5 Old 06-26-2013, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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Their food bowls are grain free. Bermuda only in the feeding stations and all other foods are fed separately with the horses separated. We live in a desert and their turn out is to give them the chance to move around, run, roll, socialize etc. We have a couple of carefully nurtured grass areas but their turn out is dirt, trees and native plants.

We're not having any food bowl issues. This problem is away from the feeders. With our set up, when all are out together, each grabs a food bowl and simply moves to a different one if Little comes up. Jaz and Choo will still eat their bermuda quietly together as long as Little isn't near. None of them particularly like bermuda, but they'll munch on it in between breakfast and dinner.

The problem we're having is that both Choo and Jaz want to be close to Little and neither seems to want the other one there.
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post #4 of 5 Old 06-26-2013, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
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Thought I'd try to clarify. The food bowls mentioned are to try to give them pasturage while turned out since we're in a desert, but when I think about it, it is part of their daily diet. Little is dominant at those food bowls. He doesn't like to share feeders at all. They get alfalfa and a supplement for breakfast and alfalfa and beet pulp for dinner, and that part is fed separately. I try to give them just enough Bermuda that they have something low cal to munch but not enough that they gain weight. They do run out of bermuda before dinner time, but not long before dinner.

Maybe try to remove all food stations from the turn out in case Littles food bowl behavior is sparking this?
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post #5 of 5 Old 06-26-2013, 03:47 PM
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When you introduce new horses there are always going to be some threats and squealing but as long as that's all there is then usually its best to just leave them to sort things out.
I draw the line when there's real injury or a real risk of injury - by which I mean something that's going to require serious attention, cause lameness other than a sore spot that's going to be gone the following day and cost me a vet bill or a horse I cant ride for weeks.
I think when you keep your horses in a situation where theres no natural grazing its always going to be harder as they always want what they see the other one eating.
It might be easier on the new one to keep him apart but in full view for a while so they get used to seeing him around
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