I rearranged the herds this morning to better accommodate the horses we currently have in residence. After supplement buckets but before morning hay, we led them to their new pens and observed for a while to ensure everyone’s safety and happiness before moving the next group.
To determine who would go where and with whom, I analyzed the following for each horse:
- Nutritional needs. Easy keepers (horses who gain weight easily) typically require less hay than hard keepers (horses who lose weight easily). The herds receive hay at least twice a day and it is easier to feed the right amount when each individual needs a similar amount.
- Play drive. I don’t want a horse with a high play drive or dominance level making another horse miserable by incessantly driving or bothering him.
- Age. The youngsters need plenty of room to gallop and develop their bodies.
- Health. One of the geldings is allergic to pine oil and may break out in hives if kept in a pen with pine trees.
- Personality. Occasionally a horse simply doesn’t get along with another horse. When this happens, I separate them; we want all of the horses to be as happy as possible in as natural an environment as possible.
- Development level. I like to give every horse a chance to live in different parts of the ranch for a period of time, so that they get exposed to different stimuli. The front horses learn to be relaxed about the road and the car buffs across the street, while the side horses see more of what goes on in the pig pen, the barn, and the covered arena.
Today’s arrangement took quite a bit of thought and several diagrams on the white board, but I am happy with how it worked out, and more importantly, so are the horses.