Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Herd dynamics II: The followers

Yesterday I posted about herd leaders, so today I want to talk about the followers. I always cheer for the underdog, so these guys are my favorites. Perhaps that's why all three of our followers have been my horses? Hmmm, suspicious...

I'd rather be sitting on your couch - Paddy. He's definitely not boss over anyone other than Cash (and Cash wasn't worth bossing anyway), but that's mostly because he hasn't got time for other horses. He knows that the people are the ones with the food, the treats, the extra treats, and possibly carrots too. His main goal in life is to be where the people are. I've found him in the carport at 6 am (all gates shut, all fences up, I have no idea how he got out), waiting for me to come out and feed. Or he could come in the house and get himself a snack in the fridge if that's more convenient. I'm pretty sure his goal in life is to convince the humans that he should live up in the house and enjoy all the amenities. And sit in your lap while you scratch that itchy spot on his chest.

The last thing you see before you end up with a Haflinger in your lap

I can't function on my own - Saga. He was so pathetic that I felt sorry for him. He was actually boss over Taran, but not because he tried to be bossy. Taran just knew he couldn't push Saga around, so he didn't try. However, poor Saga simply didn't know what to do with himself. I remember Red was gone one weekend and Saga just stood by a tree the entire time.  He didn't eat, he didn't go to get water, he just stood there and looked really depressed. Without an alpha horse to keep him on schedule, he was lost.

I shall pretend to be alpha, but I'm really the lowest of the low - Cash. Poor guy... in the 18 years I've known him, he's never been boss over any horse for more than about 5 minutes. He puts up a good show... from the other side of a fence. When he was boarded, he was either on private turnout  semi-private turnout with the other weeniest gelding in the barn, and even THAT horse would beat him up. He's just not a fighter.

But, unlike Saga, he's perfectly capable of functioning on his own. Maybe it's from all the years of private turnout? He and Saga were BFFs - Saga would share his food (even grain!) and protect him from the others, and in return Cash would lead their little herd of two. Cash was inconsolable for months after Saga's death, which was heartbreaking to watch.

BFFs


Matchy-matchy

Interestingly, as Cash has gotten older, he's no longer able to be on his own. He's now strongly bonded with Red and cannot function without him. At their retirement barn, they have their own pasture together, they have stalls right next to each other, and they are always brought everywhere together. Apparently this is common behavior in older horses - they bond strongly and have a difficult time with change.

Must be separated by a fence at feeding time though

What about your follower horses? Do they fit into one of these categories, or do they have different personalities?

24 comments:

  1. Oh, this is too funny!!! Moe is TOTALLY a "I'd rather be sitting on your couch" horse; if he spies a person standing within a 50 food radius of his paddock gate, he makes a beeline to the gate and stares at them, hoping for treats or pats or anything, really. He follows people around when he's loose. He has zero concept of personal space. He would TOTALLY live in the house if I'd let him.

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    1. Let's make sure Paddy and Moe NEVER get together to figure out how to open doors, mmmkay? Otherwise we'd come home to find them drinking beer on the couch and watching ESPN.

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  2. Ramone is like paddy. Thanks for sharing your observations I really enjoyed them!

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  3. Nilla is like Paddy. She's more interested in the humans than the horses. She's a low dog on the totem pole, but she's good about reading the other horses and staying out of trouble. But she'd much rather be fed and pet than do anything with the other horses.

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    1. Humans are the key to world domination, clearly!

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  4. You know, my two oldies (being 19 and 30+) have absolutely no interest in anyone but themselves. Especially Darby - Darby's just looking out for Darby and screw everyone else. The rest of them regularly leave her to go up the hill and she doesn't even notice or care!

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  5. I think Paddy might have it all figured out. No leadership responsibilities and first dibs on treats.

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    1. Yes, and he knows he's adorable and uses that power for evil.

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  6. I don't remember if I sent this to you or you saw it elsewhere, but thought you'd find it interesting. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-secret-lives-of-horses/

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  7. Paddy can always sit on my couch

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    1. Paddy would totally sit on a couch. But then he'll want you to bring him a carrot smoothie or something!

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  8. we have an older paso in my mare's field who bonds very strongly to the stupid crazy batsh*t mares that always seem to be on hand (never, isabel, obvi haha) and becomes inconsolable whenever they leave the field. poor guy!

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  9. Indy can't decide if she's in love with or terrified of other horses, but I imagine she could end up being the terror of the herd of she were turned out in a group. Winn can be a bit of a bully if another horse won't back down, which was proven when he bent the fence trying to climb through to get at a much shorter paint gelding that seemed to love to antagonize him. Oddly enough, he's now perfectly sweet to the old grey mare he is turned out next to and the young mare that is in the stall next to him.

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    1. I've seen a few really belligerent geldings turned into sweet little lambs by a no-nonsense mare!

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  10. Murray used to be a total follower, but he's developed into a... something else. He is GREAT with every horse I've put him with (save one, who was a total beezy so I don't care), but he does have a tendency to get a little up in their faces... and then he just leaves them alone. It's fascinating. I am going to explore this idea more.

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    1. Oooh, I'd love to hear more about Murry! I just read a really good article on wild horse relationships, and they seem to be much more fluid than we previously thought. In our small herd it doesn't change much, but maybe in larger herds with more space it's more likely to change up?

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  11. Gem is the lowest of the low, but I think it is because she is super annoying. Anytime a new horse enters the herd she becomes Dory from Nemo "I will call you Squishy and you will be mine" and then follows them around totally attached to them until they get so annoyed they chase her away. Then she gets all sad until she picks someone else to latch onto for a while.

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    1. I wonder if something in her past made it so she doesn't really know how to interact with others? I've seen that in a few OTTBs, and I've often wondered if it's because they spend most of their lives in a stall by themselves that they really just don't know how to horse.

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    2. I know very little about her past, but the person I got her from kept her for 2 years in his front yard all alone without even a goat for company.

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    3. Horses are such social animals, I think it's very hard for them to be alone. I'm glad she has other horses for company now, even if she's not quite sure what to do with them!

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