herd order? - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 14 Old 06-14-2013, 02:38 PM
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The alpha mares here have their daughters to back them up so I have not seen any changes in the herd order due to age. I did have a dominant gelding that until the day he died at 31 ruled the roost in the herd he was pastured with.
It makes sense that the older horses no longer have the drive or energy to maintain the enforcer role. The older mares here allow their daughters the enforcer role. Shalom
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post #12 of 14 Old 06-15-2013, 03:29 AM
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Fact is that it is normally a mare that leads a herd. Nothing unusual with what has happened with these horses.
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post #13 of 14 Old 06-15-2013, 09:10 AM
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I used to love watching the herd dynamics of my bunch when I had more than 3 older mares.
My studly gelding was generally the first to perceive a threat(read coward). He would round up the young mares and start moving them away. The alpha pony mare would choose direction of travel and King would fall behind to make sure the young mares didn't straggle. Sometimes he would stop and face the threat. Usually a coyote or a bear passing through. He did have enough sense to not attack a bear. Coyotes were often not so lucky. Had a Jack donkey that didn't quite fit into the herd so neatly but he and King would often tag team the coyote and intentionally run it into the electric fence. You could see the donkey smile as the hapless coyote ran off into the woods screaming. King would prance and bluster about how brave he was. Little Chip, you could see her dirty looks, "My word you're so stupid sometimes. Knock it off!". There were times when he would attempt to move the herd for a flock of turkeys. Pony mare wouldn't budge. The herd didn't go.

Fast forward to present where I only have 3 mature mares. Less drama, less stereotypical wild horse movement. Pony mare is well aware that she is only 11 hands tall and getting old. Any challenge or breach of order is dealt with rather ruthlessly. She can swing that hind end of hers in a flash and let loose with both barrels in rapid fire. Sometimes the walker thinks she might snag a little of Chip's meal but all the pony needs to do is flatten her ears and shift that hind end a bit and the big mare moves off saying "oh bad idea, bad idea, I'm gone."
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post #14 of 14 Old 06-15-2013, 02:57 PM
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Herd dynamics are a lot more complex than people think. One thing for certain size has nothing to do with it!
Many moons ago we had a big mare that beat up all others. She was nasty in the field. One day a girl turned her pony out with her by mistake. Immediately the big mare went into attack, I will never forget that pony reacting far faster and harder. She beat seven bales out of the big mare. heels teeth and body language. After that the pair were together most of the time and the big mare a far more trustworthy to turn out with anything.
Not the only time I have seen it happen.

If you had watched the herd when I had my old mare, you would have said she was last in pecking order. When feeding the herd - mares with foals at foot and yearlings, she was always the last to go to a feed bowl. She would just wait and then foals would leave their mothers and come eat with her.
Then when the other mares finished they would not go near her, if they did all she had to do was give 'that look' and they would turn away yards before they got anywhere near her.

One day the mare you would have called alpha, first to the feed, always in the lead, must have done something really bad because when it came to feed time, the old mare would just keep her moving away from the feed bowls. No kicking or biting, just a determined 'you are not going to eat' manner.
There was no resistance from the boss mare she just rushed away to chase another from its feed, but that never worked because she was just moved on again!

We had a mare come out of race training and in foal. She was in very poor condition and refused to eat any hard food no matter what and was never really grazing either., she either walked the fence or just stood there.
I put my mare in with her and although my mare was only three or four at the time she would encourage this mare to eat. They became good pals without being 'married' .
The mare went off to stud to foal and be covered again. I get a call from the stud that she would not eat anything and was very poor and not producing milk for the foal.
I took my mare up there and put them in a large pen together - with the foal. Apart from the initial guarding of the foal the mare they were soon all eating from the same feed bowl - interestingly, my mare would almost pretend to eat taking only a few crumbs letting the other eat most.

They stayed together for about 6 weeks and then returned home. The brood mare never refused to eat again.
I do not know what it was about this mare, you could say she was a passive leader but when studied it was more complex than that because she proved, more than once to be boss without teeth and heels.
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