Herd Bullies: Am I over reacting?
I keep my horse at an outdoor only facility here in Edmonton. It’s a very bare-bones type set up – just an outdoor arena and round pen, enclosed tack room with lockers and small viewing area for visitors, and a 2-stall barn to groom or tack up in. I don’t really need much more than this, and the price is reasonable.
My mare has been living here for just about 3 months now, and she’s still getting bullied by the other horses. I understand that horses have to settle things amongst themselves, but does it take three months? Every time I show up to the barn to see her, she has a new injury from another horse… soccer ball sized hematoma on her chest from a well-placed kick, swollen hock from another kick, bite marks, chunks missing from her hind quarters, etc. On one occasion, I walked up to the field and spotted my mare standing by herself in the corner. She wasn’t near food or water… she was just standing in a small sun beam in the middle of winter. The other horses weren’t even near her. Then, one of the horses squealed and charged across the pasture toward her. Before I knew what was happening, s/he had bitten and kicked my mare and chased her off in another direction. When I finally caught her, my mare was bleeding from the bite on her flank and limping from a kick to her leg.
There are no smaller pens to put my horse in on this property and I am seriously considering moving her to a new barn for her safety. Am I over reacting? Am I being too protective of my mare? Am I being smart to act now before something worse happens? I thought for sure the herd would settle things by now, but it seems that the bullying is just getting worse and my mare seems to be receiving the brunt of it.
For what it’s worth, I found a nice facility just a little bit further away than her current location. For just $50 a month more than I currently pay, I will have access to an outdoor arena, a large heated indoor, a round pen, indoor wash racks, a tack locker and lesson program. Not only that, but this facility has private pens and many pasture options. When I explained my situation to the barn owner, she mentioned the 20-acre field devoted to the more timid horses. Currently, there are 5 older horses residing in it and all are very docile. Apart from minor hierarchy scuffles, she assures me the horses are generally peaceful.
If you were in my situation, what would you do? :?
SOME aggressive horses are that way bc they've had to fight for their herd position so often that they are afraid of being beaten up--I had one like this, and she's gone. ALL herd or flock animals have a pecking order. Once it is established all members are happy, until a new horse is introduced and they all have to reshuffle. It's hard to establish a pecking order when they don't spend every day turned out with each other, which is how I keep MY herd.
Even when I had my best herd leader, "Tyke", he still gave me some Vet bills by putting 2 members of the herd through the (wooden) gate, and one over the gate. After they establish pecking order then they fight to eat and drink first. Many people feel sorry for the bottom horse(s) when they witness this, but you, the owner, just needs to be aware, and plan accordingly.
Sounds like someone has a belligerent horse, and that particular horse doesn't like your mare.
I'd say if it's been 3 months and she's still getting the stuffing beaten out of her, it's time to move.
I would move. Not all horses are going to get along, and it seems like your mares health is at risk if she stays there much longer.
For an additional $50 - heated indoor?
No question - move!
If my horse loved it there but I could move to a better place for only $50 per month more I'd consider moving. If my horse was getting the stuffing kicked out of her then I would definately move.
So I'm not completely crazy. Phew.
When I moved my mare here, I was fully prepared and expecting that she would get picked on and beaten up while the herd dynamic was being readjusted. I had my antiseptic wash ready and I was waiting for the bite wounds to start. I know it happens and I waited patiently for it to tone down. At around a month with no sign of it calming down, I mentioned it to the barn owner and he gave me that, “aww, you’re so cute to worry about your widdle horsie” look. I figured he knew the process better than I did, so I chose to hang tight and keep cleaning wounds as I found them. Two months in, she was still coming in bloodied and bruised. No horses have been changed and shuffled since, but apparently, she was still considered the newbie. Mid-February will be 3 months and I feel really, really bad for my poor mare. Fortunately, it appears that the herd is allowing her to eat, because her weight has stayed steady. She’s just constantly battered.
Thank you for the reassurance that I’m not over-reacting. I really tried to wait it out and see if the herd would settle things, but I’m beginning to see that I’d have better chances of a pig sprouting wings and soaring majestically.
If a new horse came in then she wouldn't get so battered.
The new horse stays the new horse until there's a new new horse!!
Vote for you moving.
For only $50 more you can have a heater indoor? :shock:
I'd so move there!!!
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