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Other horses protective of young'uns?

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  • Other horses protective of young'uns?

    I recently rearranged my pasture situation and have my 4 y/o gelding out with one of our yearlings and our weanling. Since the change it's like he has had a mental breakdown and EVERYTHING scares the living bejeebers out of him.

    Prior to this he was out with 2 adult mares. Feed time is driving me nuts, he is hesitant to come up to the barn nor will he allow the two fillies to. He'll take a few steps, snort, freeze, run off, snort - and it's pretty much at anything - the dogs, deer, feed buckets, lead rope on the ground, shadow, leaf blowing. So I have to trapse through the mud across our property at o'dark 30 and lead him the whole way down - with whip, to actually keep him from slamming on the brakes and running backward. Their water is in the barn, and I've been putting lures (aka alfalfa) in it as well - I think they go there out of necessity, probably aren't drinking as much as they should, and stand in the rain/snow/ice and shiver rather than go in the shelter. He has been in this field over a year and NEVER had an issue with it, the barn used to be his hangout point but now...ugh.

    So anyway - I got to wondering if maybe he is trying to protect the other two? He has always been the alpha horse, but these 2 live by his word. If he is scared, they are scared. Where as the mares would just roll their eyes at him, walk around him, and eventually he would get over himself.

    Have you ever noticed changes in your horses when they are out with younger stock - like they get more protective, obsessive?

    I've also noticed the yearling display similar behavior - putting herself in front of the baby as if to say, no, don't go over there. The only solution I have found is actually leading the baby into the barn - the other 2 will follow. If I lead the gelding, the yearling holds the baby back, and if I lead the yearling, the gelding holds her back. Fortunately for me, the baby could care less!

    Thoughts? Ever seen anything similar? It's annoying for me, no doubt. Feeding them is taking 5 times longer having to drag them into their pens
    Celtic Pride Farm
    Become a fan on Facebook!

  • #2
    Funny you should bring this up. About six weeks ago I weaned our filly by putting her with a yearling filly and an older nanny mare. Last week I blanketed the horses, including a first time blanketing for the weanling. I was surprised that the yearling was very protective of her, trying to get between us, and even turning her butt towards me. The next day I saw her trying to chase my nanny mare away. I have never noticed protective behavior towards a baby by others, but clearly my yearling is taking her new job very seriously, and never leaves the baby's side.
    Mystic Owl Sporthorses


    • #3
      Did you take his Alpha away? Spooking isn't necessarily a 'protective' trait in familiar surroundings.
      If you took his boss/mom/protector/orderly/decider away and now he's a sad little man tossed from his easy peasy protected life, well, that's scary.
      Ask any College Freshman


      • #4
        Also, I have a new OTTB out with my baby and another mare, and they guard him within an inch of their lives.
        New (scary looking) dog went out and started barking at sleeping baby on the ground. OTTB jumped in between dog and baby and you could tell he meant business. (Dog was just curious, not meaning harm)


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by FairWeather View Post
          If you took his boss/mom/protector/orderly/decider away and now he's a sad little man tossed from his easy peasy protected life, well, that's scary.
          Ask any College Freshman

          LOL. Sounds like maybe it's a combination of both. He has always been alpha - BUT out with 2 reasonable beings that did the thinking for him. Now he has to think and protect a wee-one. I do see him, and the yearling - block/get inbetween the baby and "scary" things all the time though. The baby wants to go check it out and there is no doubt she is being told "no."

          Funny how some step up to the plate and become the brave and fearless leaders and others hide and quiver in the shadows (keeping the followers tucked behind). He always pretended to be the brave and fearless one, but now I know he was probably just feeding off of the other two and is really just a big wimp.
          Celtic Pride Farm
          Become a fan on Facebook!


          • #6
            I had two little colts born in 2008. The barn where I board them, their little pasture is up against the arena, with a gate across the entrance to the indoor. There is a big pasture next to them with about 7 other horses, two of which are old retired broodmares. Those horses use the indoor as a run-in in the summertime. Well, one night one of my colts must have rolled under the gate or somehow gotten himself into the arena. BO found him beside himself, pacing back and forth at the gate, trying to get back to his mom, who was indifferent to the whole thing. The two old broodmares had formed a barrier between him and the rest of the big horses, about 20 feet away from the colt, facing him calmly, with their rears to the rest of the herd who were watching intently from a respectable distance. There was no way any one of those other horses were touching that baby with those old girls on watch! I was very grateful to them for protecting my little guy!
            Summerwood Farm Welsh Ponies~