Sunday, July 31, 2011

Herd dynamics part 2

I went to the barn this morning to help the barn owner deal with the four mares.  When I got there, she was sitting in the tack room, thinking.  Apparently she had been thinking all night :-)  I asked her how Kira's leg was doing and she said it was alright (thank goodness for that!) She said she wanted to put Kira out with Metku first, and let the two of them sort it out.  Then we would bring in Little Love and see how that worked out.  Then, after all the drama (if there was any) had quieted down, we would bring out Manta and put her in a pen next to the paddock.  If this did not work out for any reason, we would re-assess and make a new plan.  Play musical horses and paddocks.  Whatever it took.

Sounded like a good plan to me. 

We put Kira out with Metku.  Metku was extremely eager to make friends with Kira, who had a whole other opinion about that.  She pinned her ears back, gesturing for Metku to move "the heck out of there".  Metku didn't move.  She is either really really dense and doesn't "get it" OR this is her strategy: "I don't care what you do, I won't move."  So, Kira turned around and double barreled Metku into the chest. 

"Oh, you want me to MOVE?"  Metku said and slowly moved away. 

Three seconds later she was back in the same spot, asking to get her ass kicked - again.  And sure enough, Kira turned around with her hooves flying through the air.  This time they hit Metku on the side, since she actually had tried to move (she is really overweight and not the fastest horse on the block).  The barn owner and I were watching this, hoping Metku would get Kira's message fast or we would have to go save her from getting completely beat up.  Luckily the second kick was enough to snap Metku out of her act and from then on she would move out of Kira's way from just a pinning of the ears or a threatening head toss.  We watched the two horses for 30 minutes and when we were sure they had an understanding, we brought Lilo in. 

Lilo was sooooo happy to get to be with Kira.  She obviously sees Kira as the boss and follows her with no questions asked.  Part of her distress yesterday had obviously been due the fact that Kira had to be isolated because of the injury, which left the herd with no leader.  Without Kira Little Love was lost and confused. 
Today Kira let Lilo get fairly close to her, but made sure she also kept her distance.  Little Love was very polite, as usual, following the lead mare's every cue.  It was amazing to watch the way they synchronized all their movements. 

Metku (this, by the way, means "trick" or "prank" in English...) was really excited and tried to join the two mares who were trotting around.  Little Love stayed in the background as Kira asserted herself and chased Metku away, over and over again.  Lilo's behavior, of course, was correct; she should let Kira deal with Metku, at least in the beginning.  This is what went horribly wrong in the herd yesterday when Manta decided to butt in and chase everyone away from Kira.  So in a way, she took over Kira's job, which in turn really upset Kira. 

After about a half an hour of this dance between the three horses, Lilo started making contact with Metku as well.  She would trot past her, with her neck arched.  Then she would stop and do her "Spanish Riding School" act with little rears and kicks accompanied with screams.  I had my camera with me, but every time I got ready to take a picture, the two horses stopped.  I wasn't obviously fast enough.  Here is what I managed to capture, which is not much. 

Once the three horses had reached some sort of peace = Lilo and Kira were moving around mostly as a pair and Metku was finally politely waiting to be invited to join them, we brough Manta out to a fenced area adjacent to the bigger paddock.  She was not happy.  She lunged at the fence, screaming and baring her teeth every time Lilo or Metku as much as flicked an ear towards her.  Kira came by to say hello, but then walked away as if to say "can't do anything for you, sorry."  Soon Manta realized that Kira was right; there was nothing she could do.  She found some left over hay from yesterday and settled down to eat.  She was definitely less stressed out now that she knew she couldn't go sort things out between all the horses or keep watch over Kira.  Which is a good thing.  All the horses were quite tired from yesterday's rally and needed to relax. 

After a while Little Love wandered over to Manta and at first Manta chased her away from the fence line, but soon chilled out and let her come by.  They even stood side by side for a while.  It didn't happen as easily for Metku, though.  Every time the Friesian mare as much as took three steps towards Manta, she attacked from the other side of the fence.  But, Metku was relentless.  At steady intervals, she kept trying to make contact with Manta.  After about two hours of seemingly zero progress, Manta finally gave in and came to the fence with her ears forward. I believe this may be the first time altogether that Manta touched Metku other than to bite or to kick.  For twenty seconds the two horses pressed their noses together as if they were locked into a kiss.  Then they both screamed at the exact same time and separated.  Following this interaction Manta still chased Metku away from the fence, but not as furiously as before.  Something had changed. 

To get an idea of how the horses are set up at the moment, here is a picture.  You can (if you look closely) see Manta on the very right in her own separate area.  Metku is on the front left, hanging out on her own and Kira is eating on the far left.  Little Love, who can't relax and has to watch the situation and every horse closely, is in the middle.  This is how the horses spent most of their time this morning when I was there.  The barn owner said she was going to keep the horses this way for at least another day, perhaps two, depending how Manta behaved.  She is definitely the key figure in this whole equation.  If only she would get over her co-depency with Kira and let Kira be the leader (or perhaps Kira needs to be a stronger leader?). 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this reads like an exciting adventure novel! Those mares will work it out, you can be sure! I think it's wonderful that you humans are letting them do their thing will very little intervention. What a great thing!