Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Snowing--And They're Not Letting Beautiful Eat!

It's snowing today! And yes, that's snow on my deck! It's not laying on the roads, but it is putting a dusting on the ground, as you can see. It's on the verge of becoming rain.

We put the Timothy out for free-choice eating, but it creates a dilemma, and one that I'm interested in everyone else's opinions about. The herd pecking order.

Since we put out the round bale the usual herd order politics have kicked in, and Beautiful is getting shut out of eating.

I've been watching from the window all morning to see how it progresses, and it looks like she gets in for a bite here and there.

My thinking about the herd order is, even though on one level it bothers me, it serves the function of training the members of the herd. My theory is that if Beautiful is being kept off the hay, it's because they need to teach her respect, and I need to let her learn her lesson and learn how to approach them and be allowed into the feeding circle.

I'd never let it go so far that it jeopardized her health, but it has never gotten to that point. In fact, she's out there eating for the first time right now. She had to wait a few hours and only get nibbles for her appetizer, but it appears they're cautiously allowing her to feed at this point.

How do you all handle the pecking order? And for you readers without horses, how do you handle it with your dogs, cats and other animals?

I've seen on the Dog Whisperer that many of the same dynamics occur in the human/canine pack. The human, to establish their own dominance and get respect, should make the dog wait to eat until they give the signal it's okay. Do you dog owners do this?

***Update: They ran her off again! Sheesh!


  1. We use round bales in the winter as well. Depending on the size of the herd and the number of dominant horses and their personalities, we use either one or two round bales per pasture. Last year our mare herd had both Dawn and Lily, and we needed two bales to be sure all the mares could eat. This year Lily is retired to Tennessee and Dawn is the alpha, but we'll be able to do with only one round bale because there are only 4 mares and Dawn will let the others eat. We also had to remove our oldest gelding from the herd last winter and put him in a separate paddock as he was being harassed by the youngest gelding and is too feeble to get away. So I guess the answer is it depends on the particular herd, and the dynamics of the herd. It certainly won't hurt her to be run off the bale - horses don't care about being low in the herd order - provided she can get enough to eat.

  2. I am not a horse women but did learn and help a friend with his horses for a year. He passed away and I the "novice" was left to my own devices for a few months. I set up feeding stations where the mares and foals could rotate if they were kicked out of one. It worked so well, I was proud of myself.

  3. This is my first stop over at your blog but I'll put my two bits in anyways:) I am also a fan of feeding at two or more spots so that the lower guys in the pecking order can get more. In terms of economics...Beautiful is going to have to eat more to maintain a healthy weight if she is being chased off of her feed (cmoving around as she tries to get in on her feed and then being pushed off is burning calories... plus the stress of it.)

  4. Good thoughts--thanks for all your comments!

    Have any of you ever heard of a horse foundering on free-choice Timothy? My horses also get a flake of alfalfa morning and night.

    There's one I always worry about--the herd leader, Shadow--but I haven't foundered him yet. When I bought him, about five years ago, he was so fat and his neck so thick I thought he may have foundered at some point--but the vet and farrier confirmed that he'd never foundered.

    I've always fed him this diet, but usually a poorer quality grass. This Timothy is pretty green, so I'm thinking about taking his alfalfa away.


    I don't grain through winter, but I do give my 29 year old Senior Feed as a supplement, though he isn't showing any signs of weight loss or Cushings.

    The update on what's happening in the pasture is that they have mostly moved off the hay and left it to Beautiful. I'm going to go out and put her back in her stall in a few minutes--give her night time feed--and I need to worm her.

  5. I've heard that in the humans/dog relationship, the human must establish themselves as the alpha-wolf to maintain control & respect. I've heard that about the dinner too, and it makes sense. Whenever I see a very well trained dog in this regard, it's really an admirable sight, and these dogs seem happier than the ones out of control.

    Now in my family, our cat Puddin sits in the throne, and we are her servants.

  6. We have 2 of our horses and 3 goats in a pasture together. We feed a bale of hay a day (grass). It is split up morning and night. We throw out around 6 different piles that are far enough away so they all can eat alone, or together. Fritzy is our dominant mare. She sometimes chases Brandy away from the hay, but since there are so many hay piles, Brandy gets plenty. I have never had the problem of any of them not getting enough hay. They also get a supplement every night.
    Chance is in her own pasture. I don't want to worry about her not getting enough food, especially with Fritzy being so dominant. When Chance gets older, I probably will put Chance and Brandy together, and put Fritzy in her own pasture. She has bit Brandy one too many times last summer. The last one was on Brandy's back, which prevented me from riding her for about a month.

    My dogs must wait to get that signal before they can eat. They are given the command "wait" and when I say "okay" that's when they can start eating. We only started doing this when we found out that Sadie is a socially anxious, insecure, with dog to dog aggression and is totally dominant over Bailey, and used to be dominant over me. She also has to wait before she can go out doors, the human always goes first, Bailey always gets fed first, gets treats first. In a dogs eyes, the dominant dog gets to eat first, and what we are trying to do is make Bailey seem like he is more dominant (he is far from dominant) but with a dog like Sadie, this is what you have to do. I have had excellent success with Sadie's behavior since I started the behavior training, and have only had one dog attack in the last 5 months. Which is great considering she would attack Bailey at least a couple times a month. I worked very hard while I was unemployed to change her behavior. I probably own stock in the local pet store with how many training treats I have to buy!! It really does work, even though it takes a lot of time, but so worth it!

    I can't answer your question on the Timothy hay. I don't have experience with foundered horses, only know what I have read. I do know that it is good to feed free access hay.

    Good luck with your pecking order! Hopefully Beautiful will figure it out and everything will be fine!

  7. Joanne--That's funny! I think cats rule, don't they?

    Paint Girl--That's all good advice--and you put the dog training to work! Your horse feeding schedule it's much like mine was when I fed them outside by the bale. I think that system works out pretty good. I'm starting to think I should put out another round bale--wouldn't hurt!

  8. Our horses are in a boarding barn, so they are fed hay before they go out to pasture and then again once they come in at night. In the summertime they are fed hay outside in their own individual piles. The piles need to be far enough apart to keep the dominant horse from claiming them all.

    I do make my dogs wait to eat until I give them the "Okay" signal. I feed them in separate rooms. I also make them let me go through the door first.

  9. It sounds like everyone kind of does it the same way with the separate piles. I spread mine out this morning, too.

    I have a horse injury today, but it's not related to the round bale issue. My old guy, Red, isn't putting weight down on his back left leg. I can't find an injury, so I'm thinking about calling my farrier to examine the hoof before I decide what to do next. :(

  10. I don't feed enough horses at the same time to have pecking order issues. I know our cattle are horrible to the younger cows. The younger ones get butted really bad by the older ones. It's all based on age with our cattle. Even a young cow with big pointy horns will get rammed in the side by an older hornless cow..and the younger cow never fights back.

    We solve the problem by spreading the hay all the way along a very long feeder. The young cows get to eat in peace because older cows are too lazy to walk all the way down to the other end to beat them up.

  11. Herd pecking order is such an important thing, though it's sometimes painful to watch. And it's not just a feed-time issue either. Each horse needs to know where they stand in the herd. It's painful and terrible to watch, but they'll get it worked out.

    Mom's herd shut out my mare for a while, and we did end up feeding her separately, but once we got her teeth floated and she was feeling better, she incorporated back into the herd well.

  12. Hi I just found your blog! I have a horse who was almost starved to death as a youngster; he was chased away by his father and others. He was rescued and was on the road to recovery when I found and bought him. At the time I got him we had cows, the old head cow hated him, but the rest of the herd tolerated him. He like all of them even the head cow, he ate with them and was somewhere in the middle of their pecking order.
    Later we sold the cows and Gilly was alone in the field, then I got a 7 month old donkey. Gilly shares his food with Pokey, they never fight over food, hay or grain. Sometimes I have seen Pokey finish his grain first and come to Gilly's feeder and start eating. Gilly just moves over and lets Pokey eat with him. He would even share with the cows. He is a very kind horse.
    I am glad I don't have a problem with food fights; I have seen some other horses that really get nasty when eating.
    You have beautiful horses!
    Happy New Year!!!
    Jane and Gilly

  13. GunDiva--I agree, it is necessary and often makes them better behaved for us when they know their place.

    Hi Jane--you point out the other side, I've heard of horses being starved out, too. Glad you don't have those issues now. Happy New Year to you as well!


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.