The Horse Forum banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 14 of 14 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
719 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have two horses Flicka and Midnight. Flicka is a mare and Midnight is a gelding. Ever since I was given midnight (9 years ago) he has always been the "alpha" so to speak. During feeding time he would pin his ears if another horse got ahead of him and really just anytime he was always the bossy type horse (when out in the pasture, not when riding or handling). He is getting older now, he's about mid twenties according to the vet, and it seems like he has backed down from his positon and Flicka is now the bossy one. She bosses him around and if she even pins her ears he backs off big time.
I guess my question is, is it normal for horses to switch their herd orders? Is it since he is getting old that he is backing down?
I'm just kind of curious as to what is causing the sudden change.
Thanks:D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,569 Posts
I don't know if its the norm, but my gelding does the same. He used to be bossy, but now(20 yrs) he doesn't care to be pestered by the youngins and will usually give in. Now he still doesnt take any crap, but he doesnt persist as hard as he used to.
Posted via Mobile Device
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
719 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I don't know if its the norm, but my gelding does the same. He used to be bossy, but now(20 yrs) he doesn't care to be pestered by the youngins and will usually give in. Now he still doesnt take any crap, but he doesnt persist as hard as he used to.
Posted via Mobile Device
That's pretty much what is happening here except my gelding will let her boss him around and really doesn't stand up for himself at all anymore. It's definitley out of the norm for him. :?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16,508 Posts
It's the normal order of things. The older horse will eventually give way to a younger herd boss.

My 27 y/o has been the herd boss since 2007 when my beloved heart horse had to be put down. He was second in command to Conny until then. Now that he's getting up there and slowing down tremendously, my young TB is starting to vie for the head spot.

Completely normal, although it can be kind of sad to watch.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
91 Posts
It happened with the pony I used to ride at the riding school too. He was never the bossy type, but not many horses bothered him and if they did, he showed them what he thought of it. When they waited at the gate for feeding time, he was usually one of the closest (if not the closest) to the gate. Now that he's older (late 20s), he hangs back and waits until almost last. He also prefers to move away from a horse looking for trouble, rather than risk confrontation. Seems similar to yours.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,391 Posts
It's the normal order of things. The older horse will eventually give way to a younger herd boss.

My 27 y/o has been the herd boss since 2007 when my beloved heart horse had to be put down. He was second in command to Conny until then. Now that he's getting up there and slowing down tremendously, my young TB is starting to vie for the head spot.

Completely normal, although it can be kind of sad to watch.
<sigh> ^^^this:-(

Last year my vet asked me if my Alpha was starting to turn over some of the herd duties to Horse #3. Astounded at how he picked up on that, when they were all in their stalls, I said that he was.

The Alpha Guy is 25-1/2, has metabolic issues and hock/ankle arthritis. While he is still the boss and everyone respects/listens to him, he is allowing #3 horse to have more and more leadership. Unless there's an impending storm then everyone had better listen to #1.

The #2 horse is what is called a Passive Leader; he just turned 27 and never has had the desire to lead the herd. His mission has always been to be a good listener and offer comfort when needed. He is my best nurses aid when I have a horse in the sick bay yard.

It is, indeed, sad to watch the shift of power. Especially when the Alpha Guy has been my heart horse for 22+ years. He is the handsome fella in my avatar, when he was 16:D

The Fella in my sig is my 27 yr old Arab who is the Passive Leader; he was 23 when that picture was taken:)
 
  • Like
Reactions: morganarab94

·
Registered
Joined
·
719 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It's the normal order of things. The older horse will eventually give way to a younger herd boss.

My 27 y/o has been the herd boss since 2007 when my beloved heart horse had to be put down. He was second in command to Conny until then. Now that he's getting up there and slowing down tremendously, my young TB is starting to vie for the head spot.

Completely normal, although it can be kind of sad to watch.
Ok I am glad to know it is normal at least. It really is sad considering he is my heart horse. That's life though.:?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,871 Posts
Its just the natural cycle of life. It happens with all animals. Doesn't mean its easy to acknowledge and accept, but thats just how things work.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,015 Posts
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
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,934 Posts
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."
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
16,046 Posts
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.
 
1 - 14 of 14 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top