I now have only one horse in my pasture. For the last several years McKenna, a Morgan mare belonging to a friend of a friend, has been a companion to my gelding Grey. On Saturday McKenna left. The decision for her to leave was made based on human needs and wants. The horses were not consulted.
Horses are herd animals and providing Grey with a “herd” even if it was only one other horse always seemed important to me. Eight years ago when my Appaloosa mare Spice died, I decided that I didn’t want to buy another horse. So I’ve provided Grey with company using a series of horses belonging to other people during that stretch of time. But these other horses brought extra work and extra expenses and I was finally ready to see how Grey would do by himself. After all some of my friends have only one horse in their pasture and those horses cope with the situation. And, unlike with some horses, Grey and McKenna weren’t buddies. So he wasn’t attached to her, she was just another horse.
With some experimenting last week and some planning, we were able to get McKenna loaded into the horse trailer before Grey realized what was happening. But as the trailer with her in it drove away he knew that she had left. And he started running around and screaming at the top of his lungs.
I opened the gate to the small pasture he had been placed in and gave him the full three and a half acres of pasture and yard to run around in. I also shut the dogs into the dog yard so they wouldn’t interfere.
The first 45 minutes were pretty intense. Grey was clearly upset as he kept calling out to McKenna and ran around the yard and pastures looking for her. Then he finally noticed one of the flakes of hay that I had strategically place in all of the pastures. He stopped to eat a bite. Then there was more running around and yelling but the hay had too much appeal. In less than an hour the drama was over. Grey was hanging out in the pasture eating and not caring that he was the only horse around.
He got a more attention than usual the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday. That included two baths. On Saturday he was sweaty from all of his running around on a very hot day. The bath on Sunday took off the layer of dirt from rolling while he was still wet from the Saturday bath. Sunday morning he seemed subdued. I worried that he hadn’t slept well Saturday night but eventually I realized that he was just calm. Sharing a pasture with a dominant mare who wanted more than her share of the food was obviously more stressful than I realized.
With plans for Monday I was gone for most of the day. The lack of attention didn’t seem to be a problem for Grey. At night before going to bed I usually take out good night carrots. It is my way of checking on the horses at the end of the day. When I did good night carrots on Monday night Grey seemed happy just standing there and eating all of the carrots I had brought. I realized that from his point of view not having to compete for food and treats was well worth the price of being the only horse in the pasture.
My trying to provide horse companionship for Grey had created more work for me and more stress for him. If I’d realized that, I would have changed the situation earlier.
It makes you wonder though, how often people do that. They create a situation where they think they are doing something good for someone else and they are actually causing other people problems. In my case it was a horse I was creating problems for. But it could have easily been a person. Would I have had the common sense to have the conversation that could have easily resolved the situation?
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