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Am I worrying too much about biting in the field? (long, but you can stop reading half way)

(11 Posts)
olderyetwider Fri 30-Sep-11 13:26:33

I'm really stuck in a dilema at the minute: we love the yard we're at, and it's cheap so we wouldn't want to move. We also get along with everyone there and don't want to be the cause of conflict. The problem is that our new pony keeps being bitten in the field. She's often got big bites, the most recent drew blood, and her new rain sheet has already been torn. She's sharing with another mare and a gelding, who both belong to another woman on the yard. The other mare is very dominant, the gelding much less so. Our mare is low status in the herd and it seems to be the gelding who's doing the biting (I suspect that he's preserving his second in command status).

The other owner thinks that it's just normal herd behaviour and I'm worrying too much. I just feel sorry and worried for her, and fed up about it (especially the damage to rugs and the constant wounds) and GD feels that her pony's being bullied (a sore point as she's getting a bit of bullying at school and really empathises with her pony).

So I need some perspective and advice from the collective wisdom of the tack room. Am I being over-protective? Should I leave her where she is and put up with it or should she move? If she shares with any other horse (given that she's probably always going to be low status) will I just have the same, or worse, with any field companion? Does the benefit of herd life outweigh the constant biting?

You don't need to read the rest if you think I'm worrying to much and should leave things as they are.

The yard owner is sympathetic and says it's my call but the only unoccupied field is a tiny paddock next to our old pony and his field mate. She could go in there by herself. She'll probably come in overnight when it's cold. Yard owner is also happy with a re-shuffle of the herds as long as everyone is in agreement.

If you do think I should move her then this is our set-up

We have 4 horses/ponies, DH's mare is in a field by herself, with companions either side seperated by electric fence. She's on her own as she's very possessive of food and will kick if another horse goes near her grub. She lives out all year so gets haylage in the field in winter.

Mine (mare) shares a field with another horse (gelding) who she's been with for over a year. They get along very well and have a huge field. (Both live out all year) Both are generally friendly and get on with other horses well. I get on well with this horse's owner who's a friend of the woman I bought my mare from.

Our other pony (gelding) shares with another of this woman's geldings and they get on well. Our gelding is obsessed with the other mare in new pony's field. Initially he was in with new pony and the other two but was a nightmare so moved, then when new horse arrived we tried them together and it's working well. I don't know if it's this particular mare, or mares in general that make him a bit OTT.

Any ideas for a re-shuffle? Ideally I'd love to have ours all together (except DH's mare) as it would make life easier.

Sorry to ramble!

AlpinePony Fri 30-Sep-11 13:29:41

How long has she been in with this other mare + gelding?

The reason I ask is that 3 times now I've moved mine to a new yard on 1st September and despite being the biggest and fastest, each and every time she's been bullied horrendously for the first month. She's currently sporting a dazzling array of bloody wounds, missing fur clumps and most impressively a big, wobbling haemotoma like a plate of jelly. hmm

Herds are bloody brutal - but the thing is, they're all going "in" for winter soon (individual paddocks only) and come spring everything will be "normal".

So I was wondering if it was because your mare was a recent addition "late in the summer" or not?

olderyetwider Fri 30-Sep-11 13:32:34

She's been in there since early June, they all went into the field at the same time. They'll all be out dawn to dusk every day all year round.

AlpinePony Fri 30-Sep-11 13:55:34

I would try her in with your mare (plus other gelding) and see how it goes - and then as a last resort single paddock - perhaps to try again in the spring.

I think as much as the pony's welfare it would be good to send a powerful message to GD that in the case of bullying, solutions can be worked upon! It's not just a case of "shut up and learn to live with it".

Saggyoldclothcatpuss Fri 30-Sep-11 23:38:09

Ok, ours live in herds at both yards. It is normal herd behaviour, but that doesnt make it easier to accept, when its your horse with the bite marks and your rugs torn.
From watching ours, id say, could your mare actually be winding the gelding up when she is in season? My two mares cause no end of trouble when they are in! The other mare may be posessive over the gelding, and chasing yours away when she flirts. Or, the other mare may well have bonded with the gelding, and not want to share. If this is the case, you could put her in the small paddock for isolation for the week she is in season.
TBH, id rather have all of mine in the same place, and I would definitely want my beast away from the two that are damaging her rugs, especially when the other owner is so blase about it.
At least if your own horses are bullying each other, you have no other owner to end up with bad feeling against.
We are a bit bonkers, and like ours in even numbered groups, its barking I know, but it seems to work, I suppose, as they do tend to bond, it does make a certain amount of sense. there is never just one left out. We have a mixed herd of six, and one of four, and they tend to get on quite well. Id be trying to unite your own horses if I was in your situation.

Callisto Sat 01-Oct-11 09:01:02

The yard I'm at mixes horses into herds and, although there is argy bargy to start with things should settle down quite quickly. If it is ongoing nastyness like this then the beaten up horse is moved somewhere safer. The trouble is that if a kick connects with a leg you could end up having to have your horse put down (and it does happen, I lost a hunter this way). I would definitly want to be moving my pony in your situation.

olderyetwider Sat 01-Oct-11 14:34:41

Thanks all, glad to know I'm not just being over-protective. Saggy's hit the nail on the head, I am getting pissed off with the other owner's attitude and would love not to have to deal with her. If new mare was to settle, there's also room for our gelding in there

I've just got back from the yard, having been persuaded by the owner that the gelding who shares with mine is posessive of her and so things would end up worse, but his owner says he's been in big herds plenty of times and would be fine. They came from our old yard and this gelding used to turn out with old pony, who he was lovely with.

Gd feels I've let her pony down and I just don't know what to do for the best, and how much my fed up feelings towards the other owner are colouring my decision making. It's a bit like when all the adolescent girls fall out with each other and you're not sure how far to leave them to it and how far to intervene!

Saggyoldclothcatpuss Sat 01-Oct-11 17:59:36

Id still want mine all together, even if one might be possessive, Other owners can be aPITA! I can imagine yours wouldnt be so blase if it was your horse picking on hers! My friend had fisticuffs in the field, and one of hers ended up at newmarket with a shattered splint bone. Very rare, I grant you, and very unlucky, but can you imagine if there had been another owner involved?!

Pissfarterleech Sat 01-Oct-11 18:06:16

I have my mare on her own and my three geldings together.

Shutupanddrive Sun 02-Oct-11 09:00:45

I would try him in with your mare, and the other gelding. As long as the owner of the gelding is ok with this (which it sounds like she is). The yard owner doesn't know the gelding better than it's owner I'm sure!
Can you just suggest that your both keen to try this, and stress that your really not happy leaving the pony where it is?

CMOTdibbler Wed 05-Oct-11 13:27:52

I wouldn't accept it - dpony lives in a herd, but we have had problems with biting with two particular mares on livery so they had to go with other more dominant horses, and dpony (as smallest livery) is with a tb who is very low status and also gets bitten. They are both much more relaxed since things were rejigged

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