Sunday, January 24, 2010


For weeks I've been trying to find the culprit of a crime that happens around 3:00 AM some mornings -- the crime being that someone or something has been terrorizing my horses. They start kicking their stalls and trying to jump out their windows, sometimes injuring themselves.

This morning I went outside and found the horses all worked up again. They were complete basket cases, quivering from head to toe, snorting, huffing, spinning in circles. Gabbrielle took a gash out of her face. Now I was really mad. I'm tired of my horses getting hurt, and I desperately wanted to catch the intruder in the act.

The problem is that catching the intruder meant sitting outside all night in the snow. This is not the ideal time of year to be doing a stake out. Plus I have to be at work in the morning. I can't afford to miss an entire night's sleep.

I went outside to put the horses in their stalls this evening and found all three of them on pins and needles. They were standing on their tip-toes, necks straight up in the air, tails curled over their backs, snorting nostril spray all over the place. The excitement was contagious, as all the horses in the neighborhood were suddenly growing an extra hand tall while letting off warning snorts.

I stood beside Gabbrielle, tracking the direction she was looking in by focusing on her eye and following its path. She was looking off in the distance at a field of sage brush. I trusted that something was out there, but I just couldn't see it.

I tried herding the horses into their stalls, but they just galloped around like fools. I put them all in the same pen, hoping that if one would go into its stall, the others would follow, but they just huddled together as far away from the field as possible. After some running around, Lostine finally went into her stall. I had to halter both Gabbrielle and Bombay to get them in, though.

I grabbed a pair of binoculars hoping to spot the culprit before the evening grew too dark. It was snowing and at the end of dusk. However, by the time I reached the fence, I didn't need the binoculars anymore. I could see the perps with my naked eye.

A herd of four deer stood on the other side of my neighbor's property, all looking at me, waiting to see what I was going to do. They were too far off for me to do anything at all, but if we hear any stall kicking tonight, I'm going out there to kick some deer butt and chase them off. This is really getting to be a problem. I don't want them coming around every night scaring the daylight out of my horses and running up my vet bills.

Deer are new around here. They usually don't come this far down out of the mountains. Does anyone have some suggestions (besides shooting them) that will discourage them from coming back?


fernvalley01 said...

Ok, Now don't laugh at me here . We had a bad proble last few years with deer eating our feed , so I did some research and found out the coyote urine is a deterrent. You can buy a canned coyote urine spray at the locla outdoor camping/hunting store , Spray it on an old sock and hang it on the fence . It did work! we had to replace them about once a month with a freshly sprayed sock.
Now wipe the tears off your face ,pick yourself off the floor from laughing at me(lol) It does work!

sue said...

there are deer repelants that you can buy, but I don't know if that would work unless they are coming in very close. I would say that it's all the horse food in the neighborhood that must be bringing them in. our horses were nervous about deer at first, but they have gotten used to them.. so maybe in time, things will just work out.. hope so!!! good luck, I hope so fpr your sake and the horses..

Katharine Swan said...

NM, I did a quick Google search and found this page:

At the bottom of the page it talks about deer repellants. Of course, you won't want most of those things where the horses go, because I'll bet they'll work on horses, too.

Janice said...

Deer are common in our area they walk right by the horses when they are feeding my horses could care less.

Sydney said...

Try moth balls or spraying ammonia. You can buy commercial deer "fence" too. We had problems with them eating our vegetable garden so we sprayed the perimeter with an ammonia solution and put moth balls around and no animal dared come near it for a nibble. They also do not like stepping on weird surfaces so my dad put boards where they always came through our bushes and it's worked since we have seen them step on them and jump back.

Maery Rose said...

They may just get used to them. Mine will watch the deer come through but that's it. Your horses may be more frightened by an unfamiliar smell and maybe hearing them but not seeing what they are. Hopefully, they'll get used to them since once the deer herd pick a route, they pretty much stick to it.

Anonymous said...

A store that sells hunting stuff may
have cayote or wolf sent that can be
Sprayed over the ground .
Years a go I used this to keep the
Deer out of my garden.
I had fifty foot rows of vegtable
and left to their own most if it would
have been eaten or trampled or slept
I lived in the middle of a forest which had loads
Of deer food . I guess I had desert
Kay lee Kelly

Breathe said...

It seems weird that deer would spook horses, but I guess we're used to them running around here like feral cats.

I have no idea how you keep them away, frankly we work on attracting them.

Which is why I have no landscaping.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Although it's nice to have the deer, I agree, not at the risk of your horses.
I hope Gabbrielle didn't get hurt too badly. I wonder if that's how she tore her ear...

Paint Girl said...

We have deer on our property everyday, our horses are used to them so it doesn't bother them. But if you don't typically get deer, then that has to be triggering your horses reaction. I don't know how you can keep the deer away, our dogs will chase them off the property, and that seems to be the only thing that will keep them away.
Deer are actually really quiet, and can be within 10-20 feet of you and not realize they are there. Although horses can smell them (and probably hear them, since they hear better then we can!).
Hopefully they will just go away on their own, unless they are finding lots of food to eat close by.
Hopefully your horses will get used to them and calm down, and don't hurt themselves anymore!

Terry said...

I moved my city horses to the country in August. One night my horses were just hysterical (not the ha-ha kind). I thought maybe there was a coyote because I'd seen one in the pasture earlier in the day. The next morning I found deer pellets (poo) everywhere! It wasn't the big bad wolf they were scared of, it was Bambi! Now they are used to deer (see Dec 1 on my blog www, My best advise is to horse-proof your pens and stalls as much as possible, and be patient. My horses just stare at the deer now - no hysterics.

Anonymous said...

Dried coyote urine or Milorganite.. works on the deer that my neighbors kids insist on feeding..

JeniQ said...

wow... My horses are very accustomed to deer, even on the trail as long as deer doesn't just jump out of now where we are ok.

I do know they make "deer deterrents" scented sprays etc. I have no idea how effective they are though.

At least you know it's deer and not a human that are causing issues with your horses. I was afraid you psycho neighbors were doing something.

TCavanaugh said...

WOW! We have deer, turkey and fox that come popping out of our woods. Sometimes very close to my horses pasture. I am very lucky that my Alfa mare is very level headed. They always alert that something is coming or moving in the woods by the pasture, but rarely react this way. I would think you should walk them to the area the deer have been in and let them smell the area and get comfortable with the deer scent. I don't think there is too much you can do to keep the deer away. Good luck.

Shirley said...

If you do succeed in driving the deer away it still doesn't solve the problem of your horses' fear. If you are out trail riding and see deer, it would be good if your horses weren't too frightened of them. Too bad you can't find a way of desensitizing them to deer.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Thanks, everyone. I was trying to figure out what would attract the deer to come up my road and behind my barn at night. There are two houses beyond my barn, and then a cliff, so I knew it had to be one of the two houses beyond my barn that had something to attract them. My hay is surrounded by chain-link and my grain is indoors. The guy at the end of the street only has a dog as far as I know -- no other animal feed. So, it would have to be that the deer are getting into my nosy neighbors' yard and eating their horse feed. They leave their gate open all the time and have low and broken fences.

When I spotted the deer they were coming out from behind their barn, which is where these neighbors store their feed. Considering that they've been remodeling their barn for three years now with very little progress, I doubt I could convince them to build a hay loft or more appropriate fence to keep the deer out. Somehow it wouldn't surprise me if they are indirectly involved in this problem. They seem to be the cause of every problem in our neighborhood. Anyway, I can put the coyote scent on the fence behind my barn and hopefully deter them from walking behind the barn at least. My barn and paddock are horse-proofed to the hilt, but Gabbrielle still manages to kick herself in the face.

Lulu said...

I'd love to help, but my 'deer repellent' is my horse. When she catches the buggers in her pasture, she takes off after them at full speed. I swear, she has to be part mule with how territorial she is!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Shirley - I don't mind if the deer come around during the day when the horses are outside or in the summer months at night when they are outside and can see them. I just don't want anymore of this 3:00 in the morning in the snow behind the barn thing. The horses can hear and smell them, but they can't see them, so they panic in their stalls. I'm sure eventually they'll get used to it and be able to associate the sound and smell with deer, but at what cost? Does my horse have to take out another knee or lose another appendage in the process? That's my primary concern.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I have no advice about getting rid of the deer, but I hope you can figure something out so that your horses don't get injured anymore.

Hang in there,