Friday, November 27, 2009

New Kids in Town

Well, it's been an interesting week. Mainly thinking about herd behaviour and how Petra's horses are integrating into the herd. Sunday, I put them in the playground. There is some fenceline in common with the track fence, though, and JB and Bruce decided to do some dominance games. These involved a lot of rearing on JB's part and striking from Bruce. I decided that somebody was likely to get hurt by getting caught in the fence, so I just put Bruce in the playground and told them to get on with it. Not what I had intended, but Bruce isn't particularly aggressive, so I figured that it would work, and it did. He and JB did a lot of airs above the ground and posturing and squealing, but I don't think they even made contact. I could not have determined a winner in this game, but it must have been Bruce because he was soon eating the hay that I had put out for Cash and JB. Once he found the hay he had no further interest in them. Why am I not surprised.... 

Things were soon so quiet that I decided to just put the rest of the herd in with them, too. I had expected to wait a few days to do that, but the horses seemed to be telling me differently. That went fine, too, so after a couple more hours I just herded everybody out onto the track. At that point the new horses did lose a bit of confidence and thought it might be a racetrack! They did a very impressive 3/4 mile sprint, then came back. However, except for breaking the playground gate, trying to go back in, they settled down pretty quickly.

The herd quickly pair off along familiar lines

Now grazing closer together

By this time the afternoon had worn on, and I decided that if I wanted to leave them out with the herd for the night, then Cash and JB probably needed a bit or a tour. I wanted to ride Iona, anyway, so I saddled her up and headed out. Cash and JB decided to overtake us, and the rest of the herd came, too. We went at a very steady pace, with Bruce eventually bringing up the rear. I think he wanted to keep track of everybody.

Iona was a real star and led most of the way, with "The Browns" occasionally forging ahead, then falling behind us again. We went so slowly that I realised that we wouldn't make it all the way around before dark, so Iona and I opened the grazing cell gate and got everybody in. She was very patient, going in and out of the gate several times to show Cash and JB where the gate is. She really surprised me by next offering to leave the herd and take me back to the yard. Of course after I untacked her and put her back on the track she had an "Oh, my god! How do I get back to my buddies?" moment. But I managed to get her going in the right direction and she calmly headed back out to them.  

View from Iona's back, taking the herd out

Monday dawned very windy. That's my least favourite kind of weather. I could see all six horses moving around in the grazing cell from the house, and I wasn't in any hurry to go out there and deal with them. I knew that they wouldn't come in. Strangely, when the weather is nice, sometimes they come in on their own, but when it's unpleasant, they are often too spooky to make the trip. Oh, well. Eventually I went out and found that although they were all in the grazing cell. the fence was down. I don't know whether it was broken by horses or deer. The Browns were high as kites, and although they were fine with me touching them around the yard, there was no way in a 10 acre paddock. I got the other four organised and The Browns made their own way over the downed electric strand and found their way to the yard looking like a couple of Seabiscuit wannabees. I got them all fed and although the weather was still rough, everybody settled down and enjoyed the rest of their day. (Except me. I mended fences in the wind...)

Enjoying a windy Monday

Tuesday I got everyone in with less hassle. The Browns decided that we should all take the eastern route to the yard, whereas we have been taking the slightly shorter western one. Either way, it's a little over a mile. I rode Bruce. However, everyone was on their toes because we saw some deer. I wasn't sure of Bruce and hopped off. Waste of time, he was only mildly interested in them, so I got back on at the next spot where I could. Rode quite aways, then got off again because I was afraid Molly (the pup) would run over to the neighbours' when we got close to their house. It worked out well, because I was able to take a bunch of photos, while I worked out how the herd hierarchy stood.

Here they come up the drive, travelling in their pairs, and it turns out, by order of dominance.

Iona is first to the water, though. Bruce might be the boss, but she is always the thirstiest!

Here he comes!

Now The Browns aren't so sure, and Hunter and Dakota take their chance.

And Cash and JB drink last.

The drinking order led me to believe that Cash and JB were still at the bottom of the heap. This was the first day I would feed them all together and I'm glad I paid attention. When I came out with the feed I gave the Fells theirs and Hunter and Dakota hung back in a very obvious way, so I went ahead and fed The Browns. That worked great, and that's the way it has remained.

I'm pretty proud of this picture. Six horses eating together harmoniously on the first attempt!

On Thursday I had a really nice ride on Bruce. I think all the passenger lessons when I'm bringing the herd in have had a good effect on his morale and on our relationship. (In fact, he seems a little miffed if I don't ride him in in the mornings now.) I rode him all the way around the track, checking fences and just generally having fun. The herd followed us some of the time. I'm pretty sure he thought we were going to the grazing cell, and that probably helped his motivation. We even had some little canters without an arguement. When we got to the grazing gate I though I would see if I could ride him past, and it was pretty easy, so we just kept going. Then there was a combine working just on the other side of the fence, and he was great about that, too. I felt really happy all evening, thinking of what a nice ride we had. It's been a long time coming.


  1. Definitely looks like Iona, Bruce and You enjoy having a purpose to your days. Checking fence, bringing in the herd...good reading about how things are going with you and yours. Also love the way you watch the herd dynamics, good stuff Kris ;-)

  2. Yep! Purpose, purpose, purpose! That's me.