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November 4, 2012: Herd Dynamics, Part II

I need to be honest and say that yesterday’s dispatch was prompted by the blog-related writings of Jon Katz (www.bedlamfarm.com). Been interesting, first reading his books, and then reading his blogs, now for two years.

Last spring, I wrote about his concern/lack of concern for a pony named Rocky, a 34-year old Pony of the Americas. Rocky was then not getting adequate care or attention. This past year, Katz purchased the property upon which Rocky was pastured, this after Rocky’s 103-year old owner passed on. Katz and his wife Maria subsequently fixed up the place, and have moved in. Rocky is now getting top-notch care.

Now here’s the catch. Katz also owns three donkeys, named Lu Lu, Fanny, and Simon. Now Katz has recently discovered that Simon, the male donkey, will, when in the company of the now blind pony, attack him. What to do? Katz isn’t sure. Right now he’s keeping the sheep and Rocky in

Signy and Hrimmi are buddies

one fenced in area and the donkeys in another fenced-in area during the daytime. At night, all are in the barn, but of course kept separate.

Yesterday, Katz noted that a veterinarian observed the donkey/pony interaction. Her conclusion was that it isn’t going to work out. Her take was what I wrote yesterday, that sometimes the more dominant males take on the less dominant males, because they feel that being weaker, that they are a liability to the herd. So what’s Katz going to do? I empathize –making a choice and determining which animal must go would be like our having to decide which we’d part with – Tinni or Siggi. We solved our problem by modifying our enclosure area. Apparently, Katz can’t do this. You see, he’s a transplanted New Yorker who now lives upstate. A gentleman farmer of sorts, he isn’t very handy. He pays other people to build sheds, pole barns, and chicken coops and as well to put in gates and fences. He still hasn’t sold his old farm, so money would be an object.

Money or no money, we as humans can’t dictate how animals relate to other animals. It’s perhaps the one thing we don’t have a say about, which is a good thing. Good god, they must have some autonomy. Intense likes and dislikes are part and parcel of . . . being animal.

Yesterday, I wrote about the geldings. Today, I’m going to write a bit about the mares. Tinni and Siggi really don’t harbor any ill will toward one another. They eat together, and sometimes they social groom one another. Even after sparring, they left one another alone.

The mares, oh the mares, well we do have a slight problem with Raudi, aka Princess Chub Chubs. She’s been food obsessed since our 2011 trip. And she seems to equate a lack of food with Signy. Routinely, she’ll move in on Signy, and Signy will back off or out, depending on where she is at that particular moment in time. Rather than move in on Raudi, Signy will come over to me, and in a very nice way, ask me to get her more hay. I of course, immediately cater to her wish. I don’t know yet how Hrimmi is going to fit into the equation. She will eat with Signy or Siggy. She is somewhat intimidated by Tinni and extremely intimidated by Raudi. But, like all the others, she’s getting her share.

You would not know that what I call the Battle of Bulge is going on if you ran into Raudi and Signy out on the trail, for there, Signy and Raudi are buddies. One will follow the other, doesn’t matter who is in the lead. And sometimes, when Pete and I stop, the two will touch noses and confer. And if we stop in a grassy area, the two will eat companionably, side-by-side.

I suspect that mare dynamics would be slightly different if they were confined in a large pasture. They’d keep their distance from one another, and Raudi would not pick on Signy.

Back to Katz – it’s going to be interesting, seeing what happens. I suspect that right now, he’s just hoping that things work out between the two. I myself doubt this – I suspect that Simon, given the chance, will kick or take a chunk out of old Rocky. I’m just glad that I’m not having to deal with a similar situation.

Next: 330. 11/5/12 Hrimfara, Update