Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Earning your place in the world

It's tough being a small younge horse in a group of big older ones. You are at the bottom of the pecking order, at the end of the queue for a place at the haylage bale, and there is not much you can do about it. You will be kept in your place by baring of teeth, bites and threats. Ivor is reminding little Poppy above, who is the boss round here.

So what do you do if you want a place at the haylage bale? You can try puffing yourself up and going for the next in the hierarchy with teeth and hooves. If you are fierce enough you may succeed. You can wait in the corner until the rest have tired of eating and go a snatch a bit while they snooze.

I have watched my younge horses as they grow, deal with this situation in different ways. Little Piper tried the teetch approach and did quite well at it, until one morning I found him with a swollen head. A good kick in the face had put him back in his place. Supercub, the biggest horses on the farm, decided he was a victim early on, and despite putting on his best "I'm only small, don't hurt me" face to every horse in the place, he was unmercifully bullied.

Little Poppy has another approach. When scolded for trying to push in for a bite of the bale, she doesn't run back to the corner, but moves back just enough to avoid the teeth, waits for a bit, then tries quietly and respectfully to have another go. She is careful not to antagonise the other horses, does not take offence when they snap at her, but at the same time wants to make it clear she is not going away. This strategy of quiet persistance seems to be successful. After two weeks away I see she has earned the respect of her elders, and while she still is last in line for the bale, they do not try to bully her anymore.

Mad Dog, Ivor, Katy and Poppy.

1 comment:

Phoebe Bright said...

A few weeks later and I see Poppy has moved up a place in the pecking order. I saw her pushing poor Mad Dog out of the way and stealing his food. Cheeky baggage!