Monday, September 30, 2013

Unexpected herd behavior

I played with Chico a lot today since he's so bored locked in the barn.  He got to graze in the yard and I took more pictures of his wound.  I'm pretty disappointed in how slowly it is healing.  Here is a picture from the 29th (+ 27 days).  I'm consulting with the vets at school about further things to do.

 
This picture and the following one show how much the bottom part of the wound moves.  This is the part with the deepest cleft where I worry that there is something in there preventing closure (more serious issue that is causing drainage).


Because Chico needed a new round bale moved into the barn where he's being kept, and he has been so bored, and I was also a little frustrated wondering how much longer I was going to have to keep him confined, I decided to let him out into the pasture and see how he did.

I was hoping he'd take it easy and just mosey around eating grass, but of course that is not what happened.  He hasn't been in with Stormy yet.  The day she arrived was the day I noticed his big wound. 

Now, Stormy settled in with just the mares really well.  There was only a little bit of violence and that was almost always centered around them getting some pellets during Chico's medicine feedings so they didn't all feel left out.  Stormy is a little pushy around feed and so would get in Cody's face and that's never a good thing to do when there is food involved.  Cody would kick her a few times and they'd be back to being friends.  Cody even lets Stormy snag feed from her bucket as long as she doesn't want her head in the bucket at that moment.  Catlow too showed Stormy that she is the boss.  She often turns her butt to her to threaten with kicks and Stormy gets out of her way quickly, but Catlow rarely actually kicks her.

Out in the pasture, the three mares are almost inseparable.  And interestingly, I often see Cody and Stormy grazing more closely together now than Catlow and Cody (though Catlow is usually the outsider and watch mare in any herd). 

Now, throw Chico into the mix.  He seemed to ignore Stormy at first.  He has of course met her before on rides and for the last several weeks has gotten to know her over a gate.  Once he was settled into the fact that he was back with his herd, he had to immediately show Stormy who was the number 2 horse in this herd and remind her that she will in no uncertain terms be the bottom!  He was very aggressive about it, much to my dismay after hoping that he wouldn't race around on his wounded leg.  He walks with no limp, but trotting, I can see that he is off a bit.  However, he will race around at a canter and gallop with no worries.

At one point, Cody trotted into the round pen (I've left the gate open from the pasture side into the round pen so they can keep the grass grazed down and play in the sand since it is not being used much this year).  Stormy followed Cody, and when Chico saw Stormy following her in, he raced in there to get after her.  That was when I saw the most amazing thing.

As Chico would get after Stormy, Cody would get very aggressive and get after Chico.  So it was really mass confusion as Chico was trying to be all aggressive toward Stormy and stay out of Cody's way.  They all left the round pen and moved out into the big pasture.  There, the same sequence of events was repeated.  Chico would aggressively chase Stormy to bite her on the butt, and Stormy would double barrel kick at him with her heels high in the sky and run away as fast as she could.  Then Cody would run in and bite Chico and spin to threaten to kick at him.  In between attacks, Cody would stand sort of all puffed up and calm.  Stormy very quickly realized that Cody was protecting her and would try to keep Cody between herself and Chico at all times.

I was really just floored.  I never would have expected that kind of behavior from them.  Cody was so obviously protecting Stormy and telling Chico to knock it off with his behavior.  Catlow through all this seemed to get after Stormy a little more than usual but not really aggressively.  I think that Chico was very confused at first.  Here he thought he was chasing this new mare away from his main companion (Cody and Chico are usually the inseparable ones in the pasture), while Cody was telling him that Stormy was not to be treated like that and was Cody's new companion too.  In between attacks, Cody would graze head to head with Chico, but she absolutely would not tolerate his behavior toward Stormy. 

Poor Stormy was pretty confused.  She wanted to be near Cody, but being near Cody is what set Chico off in his aggression toward her.  Cody was her protector, but she couldn't prevent the attacks all together.  For part of the time, Stormy just stood on the outside of the group to stay out of Chico's way. 

Shortly after this, we got the new round bale in the barn and I put Chico away.  He really doesn't need to be running like that while we are trying to treat him and his wound.  I'm sure with more time, they'd sort it out completely, but they really didn't have the time to.  Next time I'll be ready with my camera to document this amazing behavior among my new herd!

1 comment:

Kate said...

It's good news that he can run around so well on the leg - probably means nothing's terribly wrong despite the ugly appearance. Big, deep wounds like this take forever to heal as they have to form new tissue from the bottom of the deepest part of the wound outwards. There was a horse at our barn with a very deep gash on his hindquarters and the wound took at least 6 months, maybe more, to fully heal and fill back in.