Nov 092018

By Patty Wilber

I have trained five horses that I showed at the World level and every one of them placed (hunter hack, yearling lunge line, trail, reining, working cow horse, western riding). Three of them (Ali, LT, Buckshot) won national or world titles.  None of them, including the stallion, lived in a stall, none of them lived alone, and they were slightly hairier than typical World competitors, despite my concession to slick-haired convention (I blanketed them, because they didn’t live in a heated barn or under lights).

Indy, Penny, Cometa. Happier together.

Maybe I should change my business name to Bunny Hugger Stables, but I think that, despite the inherent risks of housing horses outside, in large pens, in groups, the mental health benefits are huge.

In addition, some of my young horses have had big training attitude adjustments when their equine companions, instead of me, teach them social skills.  Somehow improved equine social skills translates well to improved horse-human interactions (and trainability). Atti, especially, is so much more relaxed and so much less pesty, if she has other equines with which to interact.

Ellie, chestnut, Atti, big butt. These two are half sisters. Atti has been here a year and Ellie just came. They recognized each other and immediately were comfortable together.

LT and Atti.

LT is easily the most neurotic horse I own and she hates to be alone. When she was a young horse, I had a hard time keeping weight on her, perhaps because she was bit kinetic.  If I tried to keep her by herself to ensure she got lots of food, her response was to eat less.  She has mellowed some.

LT is number three of my five who are, in order of rank and also age, Cometa, gelding, 21; Penny, mare, 11; LT, mare, 8; Indy, mare, 4; Lucy mare, 2.

LT also likes familiar. If I turn them out, she is usually the first to want to come back to her “normal” pen.

Open gate, and horses go through, a lot of the time. LT.

Everyone is back in.

Water cooler rulers, Cometa (right) and Penny (center). LT is waiting her turn.

They drank in rank order.

If LT does not have to deal with Cometa or Penny, she tends to be herd boss, and she is a reasonable sort. She likes almost all other horses.

Penny has a more authoritarian style and is super bossy and over aggressive, unless she is with Cometa, who helps her keep a lid on it.  If Indy is without the three above her, she follows in Penny’s style.

Atti (age 3) LOVES to have company to touch (annoy?), but she is beginning learn leadership skills.  She is the boss of Hershey, gelding (10?); Durango, gelding (16),  Lucy, still a mare and still two and Ellie, mare, three.

Atti practicing to be Boss Mare by moving low key Lucy around. Atti got covered in mud earlier when she tried to boss Lucy, but instead slipped.

“we like each other,” says Hershey. “and the sun,” add Durango and Ellie.

I have a really compatible set of horses right now and it is a lot of fun to work with and also just watch them.

Atti and Lucy, “God willing and the creek don’t rise”, will be the next slightly hairy, herd dwelling horses from Bunny Hugger Stable to go to the World level (2019). It is a year away, but I am already excited!



  One Response to “Herd Dynamics”

  1. I’ve had solos and sometimes pairs, but don’t have the room (or energy) for larger numbers. A little worried about bringing Kallie from her current boarding, where she’s got neighbors (horses can’t actually get at each other but can touch noses and talk) when she’s stalled and is turned out with others for free exercise. She’s a little more protected than most because of the navicular thing. Here, she’ll be solo. I can’t afford a second horse at least until Molly sells, and again there’s the energy component of caring for and exercising two v. one. But none of mine have ever been confined to a stall for more than an hour or so. The stall door’s open to the barn loafing area and south 30×40 pen at least, and usually open to one or both “lots” (one about an acre, one a little less.) Trainer Laci says she’s sociable and gets along with the horses she’s turned out with, but of course she came in toward the end of “the season”–the broker had told me she was aggressive with other horses there and that’s why they put her in the little paddock next to the barn alone. I haven’t seen it, nor has Laci. She doesn’t cause a ruckus when several are tied to the hitch rail. Other solos have found the horse lots ample room to run and play and graze a little and I expect to be riding her a lot, and messing around with her in between times. I know they’re social animals; I know they benefit from a group but…I don’t want to get another horse that might bully her, or that she might bully and injure (normal herd stuff like Mac and Illusion did, some nipping and occasional kicks, OK, but serious intent to harm…no.

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