This week the barn owner made the executive decision to split the herd. I completely understand her reasons for doing it. Since Metku entered the herd, Kira has been extremely stressed out. I don't think it is because of Metku, but because the herd became too much for her to handle. Perhaps she is also in constant pain, as there have been issues with her back. She is grumpy, lashing out to other herd members without much warning.
Manta with her "food anxiety" has not been much better, chasing Little Love and Metku around and around at feeding time before settling down to eat. Because of the rain, the paddock has been really slippery and watching my horse skating around, trying to avoid getting kicked, is heartbreaking. Finally, when the barn owner saw Lilo defending herself against Manta with both back hooves, she decided it was enough.
I do believe horses will work things out if you give them time. I do, however, also believe that some horses have so much baggage that it makes working things out a very long and painful process. And there are no guarantees it will end well. Especially when food aggression is involved, it can get sketchy. The sad thing is that there were times when the herd had absolute peace, but then other times where Lilo and Metku were terrified to come anywhere near the front gate. Feeding time was becoming dangerous not only to the horses, but the human feeding, too.
The barn owner said she was open to trying the four horses together again some day, but for now they have been split into pairs. My husband came over to help build the fence to divide the paddock in half. Below you can see the pictures Melissa took of this event, the horses were very eager to take part in the process. In fact, at one point all four of them were around my husband, trying to see what he was doing. Good thing he is comfortable with horses!
After the separation, things have calmed down significantly. Little Love is paired up with Metku and the two of them hang out together at all times, as if they were Siamese twins. Manta and Kira are together respectively, and this solution works very well for both of them. I dare say everyone is content - even when you take one out of the mix. Today the barn owner and I took Lilo and Kira out for a walk, and both Metku and Manta stayed behind in their own paddocks. No calling, no nervous pacing and definitely no displaced anger between them (well, there was a fence there, after all). I have also noted the Little Love has gained a bit weight. I don't know if this is wishful thinking or a direct result of not having to watch her back at all times. Either way, it is a welcome change.
PS. The barn owner has finally received the results of the "hay analysis". Interesting to say the least and perhaps gives some more ideas of why Lilo isn't gaining weight even though she is eating a ton. I will reflect on the analysis another day with more time!