Monday, June 3, 2013

Coming Along

On Sunday I tried a different approach to integrating Rock with the herd.  I found that though Lostine accepted him and had no aggressive behaviors toward him, he had this tendency to snowplow her, which annoyed her and caused her stress.  Rock is like a big dog.  He makes a beeline for the horse's butt, sticks his nose in there, and pushes the horse around from behind.  Of course, no one likes being that up close and personal, so Lostine runs away, and Rocks stays with her until she either runs to me for help or squeals and bucks.

I've been handling that by moving Rock off away from Lostine and letting him know that behavior isn't polite by keeping him on the outskirts of the arena away from the herd.  I really don't know Rock's history with other horses over the previous six years, but he strikes me as being overtly friendly and playful, but with the need to dominate since he's always testing the waters by nipping at rumps.  He needs to learn which social behaviors are acceptable and which will land him in the doghouse.  His previous owner, who only had him for six months, said that he got along with other horses during turnout just fine.

While Lostine tolerates Rock, and even sometimes treats him like he's one of her babies, I felt that Rock had the potential to form a strong friendship with Bombay.  The two of them are creative and enjoy inventing new methods of play.  They are both practical jokers.  However, Gabbrielle seemed to be getting in the way of the two geldings forming a bond.  Gabbrielle struck me as being scared of the new kid on the block.  Her attention was zoned in on him, kind of like when Scrappy, my Chiweenie, glares at Midge, my Corgi.  Anytime Rock came too close, Gabbrielle charged him with her ears pinned back.  Then Bombay felt like he had to follow suit and do that same as his sister.

So, I decided to see what would happen if I locked up Gabbrielle so that she could no longer encourage Bombay to chase Rock away.  Then I cut Rock loose with Lostine and Bombay since Bombay was still feeling a little insecure when left alone with Rock.  At first Bombay chose to hang with Lostine in the barn.  Rock approached Bombay with his usual butt-nipping greeting, and I warned Rock to take it easy.  Bombay didn't run nor attack.  He just let Rock stand with his nose on Bombay's butt.  Soon Rock stepped forward and stood beside Bombay in the barn, and Bombay relaxed.  Gabbrielle kept a wary eye on Rock, but must have decided to some extent that he was okay, because she was no longer charging the gate when he walked into the barn.

I was filling a water trough when Rock walked over and pulled the hose out with his teeth and began spraying water all over the place.  When Bombay does that, I take the hose away and spray him with the water, which chases him off so that I can finish filling the trough.  That technique didn't quite work with Rock.  I had to stick my thumb in the side of his mouth to get him to let go of the hose, and then when I sprayed him, he stood there and enjoyed every moment of it -- even when I sprayed his face.

I decided to start a game of water play and engage all the horses in it, so that they could bond through that activity.  It would refocus their attention from any contention amongst themselves onto getting wet and rolling in the sand.  I had tried lunging them together earlier, but without a round pen it was difficult to keep them bunched up and moving in the same direction.  Bombay kept ditching into the barn aisle to avoid being lunged and to get away from Rock.  The water play seemed to work in distracting them from their usual interactions.

By the end of the day Bombay and Rock were playing Tug-O-War over a Jolly Ball and Gabbrielle was sniffing Rock's nose without biting or kicking.  So, things are coming along.  I think they would be a lot further along if the temperatures weren't so high, requiring us to put the horses in the shade of their stalls in the hottest part of the afternoon.  I've also been busy, despite making a concerted effort to clear my schedule for some rest.  Some things just have to get done, even at inconvenient times.

No comments: