Then There Were Three

IMG_0692(Bullet, near the end of winter, intent on his pile of hay)

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The ride home with Dharla was 100% uneventful. In fact, given she’d only been out on the trail once in six months, I was thrilled to see she didn’t lose her trail feet or trail sense one bit. She seemed happy to see Bully and they rode back to our farm like it’s something they’ve been doing every day.

The introduction with Rascal was a bit of a show. While none of the horses seemed to have truly bad intent, there was lots of front foot strikes and squealing … mostly on Dharla’s part. Pretty typical mare behavior I suspect. Bully more of less just tried to stay out of the line of fire and when all else failed, he munched on hay. It really helped that Bully is calm and sensible about most things and not given to hysterics or drama. After about an hour all three horses were eating their own hay and minding their own business for the most part. There was still the occasional squeal and faked attempt to lash out, but nobody was really serious about hurting anyone. Thank God! Rascal has turned out to be more pushy than I expected and though he’s small, he considers himself a contender! He’s still not sure if he want’s to keep Dharla from being too close to Bully or keep Bully from being too close to Dharla! He’s a funny one, that little stinker!

The day after Dharla arrived I was up and on her the next morning. We had a really great ride down the Airline Trail. While that’s not the most challenging ride, regular readers might recall that even after three years of consistent riding I was struggling with an over abundance of spookiness and skittishness on this trail. I don’t know if Dharla was just totally flummoxed to be out on the trail again (after 6 months of arena riding) or what, but she was like a totally different horse. Things I expected to spook her didn’t even get a rise out of her and the one or two times she kind of hesitated were so understated, they were barely noticeable. We did some nice long, slow, collected jogs and a couple of easy lopes all without any shenanigans what so ever. I was VERY pleased!

Later that afternoon I took Rascal out. We also had a nice loop through the woods together. Unfortunately, that night the weather turned back into crap. The temperatures dropped significantly and heavy rain moved in. After much discussion and debate, I finally decided to put Dharla in a stall for the night. It’s a wee bit too soon to expect the horses to have worked out all their hierarchy issues enough to share a small run-in on a cold, rainy night. Right now Dharla has the least amount of coat among the three, and she’s leaner than she’s ever been, so it was kind of an easy decision. Again, I was pleasantly surprised at how she didn’t fuss or stress at all at being shut inside. Normally this isn’t our usual MO, but since that’s what she’s been used to doing at the boarding barn I guess it didn’t bother her very much. I’m not sure if my horse has really matured in the six months she’s been gone or if I’m just seeing the effects of the time she spent in training, but either way I’m very pleased and I hope it lasts!

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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?

Brats

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We’ve all had a few. You know, those horses who have a love/hate relationship with each other? They can’t stand to be together, but they can’t stand to be apart, either.

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Herd hierarchy is a funny thing. These two don’t have to stand right next to each other, but they will. And then they bicker.

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She’ll hold her ground no matter how much he pokes and pesters, but when she’s had enough …. watch out, pal!

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She’ll give it right back to him, and then some! Better put your money on the mare to win because she always does! Of course, when either horse leaves to go out on a ride the other screams and hollers like they’ve lost their very best friend in the whole wide world. Go figure. Brats!

How about you? Do you have any brats who have a love/hate relationship with each other?