A friend of mine has a young OTTB mare that she bought last fall. Horse is 6, been off the track for 3 years but not much done to her.
She came over to my barn last week and commented how the turnout situation is different at her barn. Her mare used to get full day turnout in group, now gets 9am-2pm turnout in small dirt/mud pen with 1-2 flakes.
Apparently BO says mare is a b*tch to other horses, so she needs to be by herself. Then she says the mare only eats a couple of flakes anyways so doesn't bother giving her more. BO also won't let mare out on grass, apparently she runs and ruins the small field. My friend is concerned that lately said mare is getting ribby, irritated, pushy, and is not gaining weight. Seems cranky overall.
Horse can supposedly see other horses, and most often has one other horse in the pen right next to her. I suggested the crankiness could be due to ulcers, but this mare was pretty easy-going when my friend first picked her up. I was surprised to hear this change in attitude. (I have been to this barn before, 1/2 the paddocks are big, lush fields and the other 1/2 are small-ish with dirt.) I suggested maybe she check for ulcers and see if the mare can get more hay.... but Alice loves this barn, it's overall got great care and is a nice facility.
I don't know what else to tell her... if it's not ulcers, maybe she misses being social in group turnout or..... ?
First off, 1-2 flakes in a 5-6hr period of time(depending on when she really gets out there) is a long time to have nothing to do. My horse couldn't do that either. He was a nut case when he was forced to do that. Have they tried giving her more hay? Also, if she has been boarding there since last fall being turned out with other horses, what is the problem now? If the horse was really mean to other horses then she would have been put in a dry lot by herself within a couple of weeks. Has your friend ever seen what really goes on with turnout? If I were her, I would go there myself for a day on a weekend. Try throwing more hay out there and see what happens. If she isn't fine, then maybe she needs to look for another barn if she isn't satisfied with her horse not being turned out with others.
"Not gaining weight." What do you mean by this? Was the mare underweight? What is she getting for grain? Is she a picky eater?
If the mare is a picky eater, then I would guess ulcers. Is she losing weight or was she underweight? If she was underweight and she is trying to put the weight on her, then a lot of times the xtra calories show up in excess energy/attitude before they show up in the horse's condition as body fat or muscle. If the horse is getting too much grain--I would cut it back particularly where she may not have room to burn off the energy in turnout.
The mare could be cranky just because of her heat cycles. So if you rule out getting too much grain and rule out ulcers, that may be all it is...
"Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller
I had the same issue when I was boarding my grey mare. She was aweful to the other horses and if she was in the pasture alone with no horse friends near by she would jump the fences to go where she wanted. It just came down to finding the right pasture mate for her. She was so dominate that we had to find the most laid back horse in the barn and pair them up. It actually ended up being 2 20 year old geldings. She's now in my pasture with an extreamly laid back TB. The more turn out she had the better she was with the other horses. If she had to be stalled for more than 12 hours she would take her fustrations out on the other horses. I now have her on 24/7 turnout and she only picks on the other mare if she won't stop trying to eat her food.
another note- she was losing weight while I was having pasture problems and getting ribby. She is now a little piggy!
I am going to forward my friend this thread. I don't think she's on COTH but I'm sure she will find your suggestions useful. The mare has only been at this barn for 3-4 months. It's considered a pretty high end barn in her area and finally a stall opened up for her (it's close to her house). They have tried the mare with other other/chill horses and it's been hit and miss. Mare was on the thin side before, but despite increased low-sugar food increases is definitely losing weight.
Is the aggression towards other horses new? I would have a repro check done on this mare -think GCT.
As for smaller pen with horse next door - your friend could make this work. A lot of horses live this way. Provide a nibble net, jolly ball, etc. See if BO will fill net more often. If she's truly aggressive and disrupting the herd then I have to side with the BO - she needs to be separated.
Only other potential option is to turn her out overnight when other horses are brought in, maybe with one other buddy that she gets along with.
Your friend may "love" this barn, but it doesn't sound like it's a good fit for Miss Mare. She very well may have ulcers now...but why? My vote? Stress and boredom and lack of forage going through her.
I don't think that keeping her alone is a good solution to "aggression" either (in most cases)...she may need a bigger paddock to run around in. I'd also be curious as to what the "aggressive" behavior really is. Are we talking about adding a new horse each day and it's the usual pecking order stuff? Is she going after one horse in particular? What exactly is happening?
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
And flame away all you people who think every barn owner should provide 100s of acres and 24/7 hay for every horse - If this mare is making it difficult for other horses/owners in the pasture it makes sense to remove her and find a different situation for her. Everyone else does not have to suffer because the new horse does not fit in. It also makes sense that the BO would want to not ruin what grass she has so the mare ends up in a dry lot if she is the type to destroy a small grass paddock. If said mare goes in a grass paddock and runs all day she will soon enough be in a dry lot of her own making.
No idea how big the flakes are so can not jump on the 'oh my you are starving the poor thing' band wagon. No idea how much hay the mare gets while she is in. No idea if this is a mare that simply destroys extra hay and wastes it.
Time for the horse owner to sit down with the barn owner and discuss what they can do that works for both the BO and the horse. If this BO does not have the set up that works for this horse then it is time for the horse owner to find a place that works for her horse.
UPDATE: My friend read this thread and corrected me, apparently the last barn she was at also did individual turnout b/c she had hind shoes. Mare was on a roundbale and no change in weight up or down.
Current BO has watched mare be "okay" with other horses for a few days... then start chasing them. Mare is wasting hay, hence the limited hay given. Other horses are mainly show horses, a few retirees and ponies. BO doesn't want any of those horses being "played" with nor grass being torn up. BO has been amenable to her suggestions, however draws the line at other horses being possible injured and property damaged.
I'm just not sure what else I can tell her for advice. She feels bad for her youngster in the current situation.
It really does sound like she needs a new place to keep the horse.
That said, for horses getting limited hay for any reason (and this horse isn't getting limited hay for a good reason), some sort of slow feeder will give them something to do (and they will waste less hay.) There are zillions available, as well as some do-it-yourself designs. My mare has a NibbleNet in her stall, and though not all the barn staff will use it (grr), when her hay is in the thing, it takes her about three times as long to eat. I will say this horse is a hay hoover who doesn't ever waste a single stem.
I'm sorry, I would never keep my young OTTB at a barn where turnout was that limited. He also needs company to keep from getting bored. If there is no turnout situation at the current barn that works for your friend's horse, I'd suggest she start looking for a barn where there is better turnout. Sometime sacrificing riding facilities or proximity is necessary to find a place where the horse is happy.
If the mare wastes hay there is no reason to continue to toss her hay. She will make a mess of the turn out and heck, hay is expensive. No reason to give her more hay to bed herself on.
I do love small hole hay nets and the like but I can totally understand why a barn owner does not want to deal with them. On nights when I am in a hurry I find filling them for my three a hassle, I can only imagine having to do it for a barn full. And we all know once one boarders gets something special they are all going to want that special thing.
It sounds like there is nothing really wrong with this barn, it is just not a good fit for this particular horse.