Left Behind

Holler, but don't stop eating!

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When we had three horses it was never an issue when someone went riding and left the other two horses behind. Even after Bean died, it really wasn’t much of a big deal if one horse got left waiting at home. But Dharla and Bullet have developed quite a love/hate relationship since October and Dharla’s not too happy when Bullet leaves on a ride.

We created a small paddock when Bean started going downhill. I needed to keep him apart so I could do a better job of monitoring his intake and output, which was next to impossible to do when all the horses were together. Bean was sneaky; he’d stand at the hay rack and crib, but he wasn’t eating as much hay as you thought. I’d spy on him out the kitchen window, knowing full well that he wasn’t consuming his full share. He was one picky eater, that boy. So we made up a small holding pen that had plenty of room to move about, a run-in shed with a stall he could enter at will, and water. Sadly, he died shortly after, but we never got around to taking the pen down.

When Dharla arrived we could soon see she was a hay hog. I guess she came from a farm where she always had access to hay and was turned out most of the day. I suspect their method of feeding was to toss flakes of hay around the paddock, which the horses would then consume at will. Obviously, the more pushy the horse, the more hay they got. Unfortunately, this can make some horses pretty bossy. I happen to think it makes their ‘survival of the fittest’ genetics kick in. So Dharla is downright nasty about “HER” hay. She’ll pin her ears and snake her head at Bullet if he even thinks about going near when she’s got hay in front of her. You can see the evidence of her antics below: She ends up hitting her head on anything nearby. Nutball.

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Dharla's facial skun marks

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Bullet was always low man in the herd when there were three horses, but I tend to think he and Dharla are fairly evenly ranked as a herd of two. Neither horse seems to be very much above or below the other in hierarchy. Sometimes Bullet seems to take the lead, other times Dharla is clearly in control. So when she starts trying to pressure Bullet at the hay rack, he usually just gives it right back. Unless she actually turns tail and tries to kick (she hasn’t) or goes so far as to nip him (she hasn’t) he pretty much ignores her. Believe me, she can and will move him if she wants, but he’s not a doormat for her like he was with The Bean. Often, he’ll just pin his ears and snake his head right back at her. Brats.

When riding together Dharla will lead or follow; position doesn’t matter too much to her. If the trail is wide enough, she’ll walk alongside Bullet, but then he can get a bit snarky if she starts to pull ahead. Odd, because Bullet will lead or follow too, but apparently he doesn’t like it when another horse makes a move to pull ahead of him. And leave either horse at home and you’re in for a hollering match. Never one to expend too much energy, Bullet will run to the paddock gate and stand there yelling for Dharla until she comes home. Dharla gets much more animated in her distress and runs the fence line blowing and snorting between frantic whinnies. Usually if we put some hay out for her that helps take her mind off her misery, but yesterday she simply stuffed her mouth and kept right on hollering. That girl is somethin’! When Bullet’s here she’s not too thrilled with his company, but when he’s gone …. woe is me!

Tia used to holler whenever one of the boys left for a ride, but I didn’t worry about it because she always had a pasture mate with her. Now that we’re down to just two horses, that’s not a solution. When Bullet leaves on a ride I usually put Dharla in the smaller pen and give her plenty of hay, but she’s still pretty anxious. I’m wondering what other people have tried to ease this situation or if they even think it’s worth the bother?

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5 thoughts on “Left Behind

  1. Three is your answer. It is ALWAYS easier, as you’ve noted. If your finances can take it, consider fostering or adopting an ex-racehorse who is ‘companion horse’ only (usually due to an old injury which makes him/her unrideable, or light hacking at most). They are very hard to place with adoptive homes and it’s so great when someone can take one on.

    • I know … I keep thinking three was the magic number. But our barn is really just a two-horse barn. Ideally, that is. We managed for years to have three horses, but they really don’t come in at all unless sick or injured. Still, when the weather is horrible it’s nice to know we can tuck them inside and someone doesn’t have to stand in the run-in shed. Sometimes I just like to know my “kids” are safe and warm. But you may be right and we might need to revisit the numbers game! I’ve been looking at local rescue sites lately. Seems like they’ve been getting some pretty decent horses, no doubt due to this horrible economy. Thanks for posting your opinion and suggestion!

  2. Have you considered getting a miniature horse buddy? Or maybe even a goat? We recently acquired a mini and she is the cutest darn thing ever! Cheap to feed too πŸ™‚ So far she has turned out to be excellent company for our horses. We did give a few weeks of only pasturing adjacently until I was pretty confident there wouldn’t be any serious fighting, but she does hold her own pretty good when push comes to shove πŸ˜‰

    • I don’t know if I’d do a mini. We had goats once upon a time … not doing that ever again either. I might consider a rescue, but it would probably be a full sized equine. If it’s on the smaller side that would be OK, but ideally I’d like one that’s capable of some level of activity. I don’t mind if all it can do is walk or maybe even trot, but if I’m going to feed and clean up after a third horse then it has to be able to do a little something besides babysit and burn hay … at least until it gets too old to do very much else!

  3. A little late on getting back to this, but, teaching a mini to pull a cart is really a lot of fun! My daughter learned how to drive a mini cart a few years ago and it has been a blast. They really can pull quite a bit of weight. It can also be more fun for entertaining if you have much company that likes outdoors but not necessarily on horseback, especially for kids. I know, I know, now there will be more tack and horsey paraphernalia to buy πŸ˜‰
    I will post of picture of them on my blog if you are interested in taking a peek πŸ™‚

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