Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Changing the Pecking Order

Though I don't always respond to comments, I do read them, and every once in a while someone leaves a comment that sticks with me. One such comment was from MIKael some time last year. She told me that she decides the pecking order of her horses and directs them on who goes first for what. She has the power to move a horse up or down the line.

Well, lately I've been getting annoyed at all the bickering over feeding time. Lostine isn't consistent in how she handles Gabbrielle. Sometimes she chases her away and sometimes she invites her to share her hay. As you can imagine, Gabbrielle gets frustrated when she isn't allowed to share, so she takes her frustration out on Bombay by charging him, backing him into a corner, and ramming her rear into him while kicking. Of course, I always put a stop to that, but sometimes this ritual starts up even before I step outside, and I'm not there to protect Bombay.

I have no problem with Lostine being in charge because she can do it with just a look and by slowly herding the other horses around. She never hurts anyone. Gabbrielle is getting too big for her britches, though. She doesn't understand that she's not being reasonable when she still chases Bombay despite the fact that he's already running away and doing what she wants. All that power of having a horse bigger than her run from her is going to her head, and she can't get enough of it, so she takes it to the hilt, not understanding that she can seriously injure Bombay.

So, I've decided to put Bombay at the top of the pecking order and Gabbrielle at the bottom. Last night I tried to control the pecking order by deciding the order of how they go into their stalls to be fed. Normally, I open Lostine's stall first because the other two horses are too afraid of her to dare go into their stalls before her. This time I opened Bombay's stall and pointed at Bombay and then his stall. He locked his stare onto Lostine waiting for her permission to go first. She wouldn't give it to him.

Lostine kept pushing Bombay away and pacing in front of her stall. Then she decided to just go into Bombay's stall. I blocked her and pushed her away. I continued to encourage Bombay to go into his stall while I fought off Lostine. Only when Bombay saw that I had complete control over Lostine did he listen to me instead of her, and he headed for his stall. There were two false starts in which he reached his stall entrance, but then chickened out and ran away. The third time was the charm, though.

Gabbrielle stood there watching all of this with an expression of annoyance, but she didn't chase Bombay or kick him. I think she's getting the picture.

In other news, I set up an appointment with a new internist who is just around the corner from my house. They couldn't get me in for three weeks, which wasn't a good sign, but I'll deal with it. I miss the good old days when I could get in on the same day I call. Having to wait has become the norm ever since everyone and his brother started moving to Nevada. New flash! Nevada is the most economically depressed state in the nation. We have the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates. Not a good place to move. Start looking elsewhere... unless you are a doctor. We need more doctors. Oh, and family restaurants. We have way too many bars, tattoo parlors, fast food restaurants, Wal-Marts, and casinos. We need nice places to sit down and be served healthy meals. Good cooks are always welcome. And good horse trainers, of course. ;)


Grey Horse Matters said...

Changing things around sounds interesting. Hope it works so the other horses can relax a little when Lostine is around.

We have one like her too but Mellon has been herd boss for many years and he's not about to give it up at this stage.

Cheryl Ann said...

Nuzz, I would LOVE to move to Nevada, but I'd lose my tenure! At least you don't have any state income tax. That really hit us hard last spring and I am just now recouping! We have lots of doctors down here, but I don't have to wait too long to see mine! Unless, that is, it is my neurologist. Then I have to wait 3 months! Go figure.

Vectormom said...

Wow, great post! Sounds as if Lostine may eventually submit. I don't really have these types of problems the way things are set up here on my place. Riffy has always been a dominant alpha, leader of all things in the universe barring the alien hot air balloons and llamas that only come to earth to steal his beautiful hide (or so he acts out). He is forever challenging me for herd leader even in his old geriatric state of mind which I believe may be showing signs of senility much greater than I thought a horse would get.
Anyway, it was an interesting post! You'll have to update in a few weeks so we can read if things turned around. Just make sure you get to be herd leader when everything is all said & done! LOL!

Breathe said...

Interesting. I've never heard of changing the herd dynamics to that degree. Let us know how it goes...

Lulu said...

After reading your post I realized that I have always controlled the pecking order at my house! I've always led the younger horses to and from the barn first, making the older (alpha) horse wait for last.

I started doing this because the alpha was chasing the others from the gate, and the situation was not safe. This all changed dramatically when the alpha learned that she would always be last; she would stand quietly and wait her turn.

Of course, now I only have one horse, so I don't have this issue any more!

Promise said...

It's pretty satisfying when a horse that picks on mine in the paddock will back down to me when we walk by and leave her alone because it knows that as a human, I am alpha. It allows my horse to feel completely safe with me, because she knows I will protect her.

As a side note...I cannot believe how much snow you guys have gotten already. It makes me remember why I don't miss New England winters! lol Stay warm!

baystatebrumby said...

hah! Nice try trying to discourage people from moving to your state! I don't blame you one bit. of course I live an area where you cannot get away from settlements and people. Around here, everywhere you go, someone is already there.
I am so intrigued by arranging the pecking order of the horses. I love watching the horses at feeding time. And I inevitably feel bad for the guys getting chased out. On the other hand, I don't see any skinny horses in our pasture!

Reddunappy said...

I have three mares, and the herd dynamics can really be a pain. The old mare gets fed by herself though, because she is the only one getting grain right now, so the other two have their own antics LOL.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Fascinating how a herd works. Too bad Gabrielle is taking thing a bit too far. Poor Bombay. I think it's cool that you're taking the lead alpha role, even over Lostine. Let is know how it goes. This will probably carry over to pasture time and even riding.


Enlightened Horsemanship said...

This is truly a great post. I love your descriptions of taking charge of the pecking order. As for moving to Nevada, I have considered it seriously. I do train horses but then you said you wanted GOOD trainers, so not so sure now. And Im only a passable cook. Anyway, great stuff.