Friday, June 21, 2013

Jack Joins The Herd

I think one of the greatest mistakes that we often make with our horses is to keep them separated.  Horses are social animals.  They need that interaction to be happy and whole.  It isn't enough to have them live on a big farm where they can see other horses, or sniff them through the bars of a stall.  They need to touch other horses, to groom other horses, to play and fight and learn from other horses.

Most people use their horses for an hour or so every day.  That leaves the horse with 23 hours to himself.  If he's alone for those 23 hours, what is he learning? We expect our horses to know the "rules" of social interactions, and punish them when they break the rules, but that isn't fair if he only has an hour a day to practice.

I understand why people don't want their horses turned out with others.  Horses are big and rough, but still delicate.  They can get physically hurt when they're turned out together.  But, we're hurting them mentally when we keep them all alone.  It's a tough call.

Jack couldn't join our herd immediately, because he was still a stallion.  After he was gelded, it still takes some time for the testosterone to work out of his system.  My biggest concern was little Matilda.  Spider and Vinny can hold their own, but Matty is small and a mare.  I didn't want Jack to accidentally hurt her, so I waited.

In the end, the decision was taken out of my hands.  Jack let himself into the herd.


My barn has dutch doors on both sides, and I had been opening the top so that Jack could sniff and interact with the other horses.  Apparently, he also figured out how to open the latch.  But, he didn't know what to do next.  When I went out to do my morning chores, I found him standing in his stall like this, with the door wide open.  The other horses were at the far end of their field, not paying attention.  So, I figured "What the hell..." and opened the door all the way.


First, Jack inspected the other horse's stalls.  Once this was done, he headed out to join the herd....


The herd was not impressed.  Being a high-strung, full of himself, 3 year old TB, Jack was not happy with their lack of interest.  He decided to make them notice him.  By doing what 3 year old OTTBs do best: running in circles.

"Look at MEEEEE!"
The herd was still not impressed.



Poor Jack.  After a few laps, he eventually gave up and came over to where I was cleaning stalls to get  some attention.  He doesn't really know how to "be a horse" yet.  Luckily I've got a pretty good herd, who will show him the ropes.

By the time evening rolled around, he had given up on trying to impress them, and was just happy to hang out with his new friends.

I just need a palomino or a dun, and then I'll have one of every color!

11 comments:

  1. I agree with you 100%. Horses are meant to live in a herd. It has been my experience that it has had a nice calming effect...they are not frustrated by separation. That last shot is very special.

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  2. He will learn to be a "real" horse in short order with that crowd.

    Have to laugh about Jack's standing in the stall. My TB's would absolutely respect the fence even though all the rails were down...that is until Chance showed up. He taught them a downed fence could be crossed and that the push gate across the driveway, pushed....and....well, let's just say I have to be very careful with Chance around.

    Say, I thought you said Chance was too lazy to run around. Seems as if he did a good job trying to impress the others. I guess if you want him to work he needs an audience. *lol*

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    Replies
    1. Re-read my post and meant to say, "Thought you said Jack was too lazy to run around." Sorry about that.

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  3. I wish I could afford a herd for Val. :D

    The last picture is wonderful.

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  4. What a sweet boy Jack is, just staying in his stall despite the door being open! I really like him and am looking forward to seeing his progress. Agree with you on a horse's need for a herd.

    LOVE that last photo!!!

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  5. Our herd is always out and they've figured out how to get along. Even Dusty being the only mare fits in. I agree that tey need turnout mentally and physically. It's more natural that way.

    Love the picture of Matilda watching his antics. Mares have the best "are you done being a jerk yet" expressions. Looks like he is fitting right in with them in his last picture.

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  6. Great post!! Its so true about horses needing another horse.
    Jack is gorgeous.

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  7. Great pictures - I especially love the 'look at me' picture :). Glad it all worked out with no drama. Your herd is lovely.

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  8. I love this post! I totally agree that herd life is absolutely vital to mental health. I wish so much I could turn all my horses out together, but that Darn Killian is so afraid that someone is going to steal "his mare" he is just awful to everyone. Of course he can't really do much to Trax because Trax can out run him and has no problem kicking him in the face when needed. Danny on the other hand ends up getting hurt every time.

    These pictures are great, and I am so glad that in the end he was able to find "home".

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  9. Such a goof ball! Thanks for the laugh.

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  10. Love the pics! Also I nominated you for the Liebster award, stay tuned for my next post with further details!

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