I wasn’t there this morning when they put all four horses out together, but apparently all hell broke loose. In hindsight, it probably would have been a good idea to introduce Metku to the herd from behind a fence (sort of like we did with Little Love), but this didn’t happen. Interestingly enough Metku wasn’t the problem really, even though her presence in the pasture caused all kinds of things to start happening. Basically the minute the horses were in there, Kira, Manta and Lilo started “fighting”. There were apparently all three going at each other, teeth and hooves flying. This was all happening in one small corner of the paddock. At some point Kira got really pissed off and kicked both Manta and Little Love. Little Love was really confused and started kicking back. She double barreled Kira in the left hind pretty had. As a result of this, Kira was definitely out of order, especially because it was also really slippery after the rain at night. Poor Metku was standing on the sidelines looking at this drama and probably wishing she was somewhere else.
The humans present had to take Kira out of the game, since she was hobbling around on three legs. You would think this would have calmed things down, but apparently it sent both Little Love and Manta into a frenzy; they cantered around looking like they were either going to jump the fence (Lilo) or bust through it (Manta). Metku stood around wondering what all the fuss was about.
Once the people figured out that Kira was not injured too seriously, but that she was sort of compromised nevertheless, they built her a small paddock next to the bigger one (because it really wasn't working that she was in the barn and the others outside). This seemed to calm down the situation significantly. When I arrived, the set up was as follows: Kira was in her small isolation pen, Little Love was standing at the water source close by and Metku was hanging out at the bottom of the paddock nickering and whinnying in a small voice ("Hello? Anyone want to be my friend?". Manta stood guard around Kira’s fence line, to make sure neither Lilo nor Metku could get close to her. Eye witnesses reported that Manta had already been very agitated the night before in her stall when Metku had arrived to the barn and you could tell that she was ready to die rather than let Metku get anywhere near Kira, Manta's great love.
When we put hay out at feeding time, we made sure to make a dozen piles so everyone would get her share. Little Love was obviously not moving away from the gate and the water source (I'm thinking this is because it is the closest she can get to the barn, which is where she would rather be when shit hits the fan = the stall is her safe place) so we gave her a big pile there. Manta went completely ballistic, forgetting she had to guard Kira, chasing both Little Love and Metku around, not letting them eat. Since Lilo didn’t want to move away from the gate/water area, she got trapped in the corner at one point and Manta double barreled her in the left hind. I could see it hurt and for a while Lilo didn’t put weight on the leg at all, but in about 15 minutes she was walking on it again and later when she trotted, she looked sound. No swelling.
Eating was a bit tricky and Little Love got the least amount of hay, but only because she wouldn't venture off to look for more once her pile was gone. Also Manta came around to bother her a few times, but somehow Little Love managed to wiggle back to the pile and at some point she was eating from the same pile as Manta.
Every now and then Metku tried to come and make acquaintance with Lilo. When Little Love saw her approaching, she became really big, trotting around with an arched neck. Then she would approach Metku, scream, perform little mini-rears and kick outs (not towards Metku, but away). She never touched Metku, but made sure she moved away. Metku always moved eventually, but didn’t seem to be in a big hurry. She is either a little slow or really not that submissive than she lets on. She was definitely very vocal, making small little shrieks and nickers every time someone as much as looked her way. She definitely tried to make friends with Little love and Kira (who chased her away from the fence between them) Manta came at her with her teeth bared and bit her several times and also kicked at her more than once. There was no half way with Manta, it was all or nothing.
I hung around for a few hours and as the day progressed, Manta became a little more subtle and forgiving. Little Love would leave her post at the water source only in two situations: 1) Manta threatened her, which is when she would move three feet away just to turn back again (she really doesn’t take Manta seriously) and 2) Metku came too close which is when Lilo would run to meet her with an arched neck and then proceed with her antics. Since Lilo was parked next to the water source, the barn owner put water buckets out in several locations for the other horses, but Little Love let everyone drink, even Metku. She moved politely to the side when Metku came around, but once Metku was done drinking, Little Love chased her off.
Kira stayed in her small paddock and pinned her ears back at pretty much everyone who approached, but especially Metku. Manta seems to have a codependency with Kira, although Kira is not always such a willing participant in that relationship. She often gets quite irritated with Manta, especially when she chases the other horses. This is why it’s really not a good thing that It is Kira who is separated from everyone. She is after all the leader of this herd and could keep Manta in check.
Tomorrow morning I’ll be here to help put the horses out. I’m thinking the best approach would be to put the three mares who are used to each other i.e. Kira, Manta and Lilo, out together and then put Metku out separately but next to the three. This only of course if Kira is physically fit to deal with the herd. Then we can proceed from there.
I feel horrible for Little Love who I can see is stressed out and confused. When other horses get physical, she really panics and doesn't know what to do. It has been a long long time since she experienced anything like this and it looks to me like she would rather get out of there than figure it out. On the other hand, she demonstrates suberb skills in driving her point through, like with Metku; she never touched her, but definitely showed her dominance. It is Manta that seems to be the key figure. She looks least to me) to be quite insecure and is defending herself, her friendship with Kira, her food - everything. She sometimes gets into a state of mind where even if the other horse is already moving away, she feels the need to keep pusruing the horse (she takes it a bit too far, so to say). When I went into the paddock, she even tried to push Little Love away from me, getting in between us. It was really interesting to watch how she guarded Kira's paddock's fence line for hours so the other two horses could get near Kira (at the same time Kira was chasing her off the fence).
Well, tomorrow is another day. Hopefully we can get somewhere with these four horses.
PS. I hope you all noticed that Melissa posted as well!