Zelda takes mealtimes seriously and she is definitely not sharing. She has the evil mare stare down to a science and she rules her roost with nasty looks and a raised hind leg. You see, Curly was too close (yes, that’s Curly way in the background and that’s what Zelda is reacting to. She is not allowed to give me the mare stare.)
Sometimes she will take a run at Curly, but it’s like a choreographed dance. In all the years they’ve been turned out together there have been no bites, no missing hair, and no hurt feelings.
Some horses don’t care that much about food. When Freedom shared a pasture with Willow, I would sometimes find her sharing his grain, right out of the pan. That’s one of the great ironies of life. Freedom gets the most food and cares the least. Zelda gets a relatively small serving, so she’s guarding it with her life.
For the past 15 years, I’ve mostly fed the horses from pans on the ground in the pasture. It works fine as long as 1) the horse who is most possessive about food gets the most and 2) There is a clear hierarchy among the horses turned out together.
Zelda will share hay, but only after she’s eaten some first.
Long live the Queen.
Note: Zelda tried looking at me that way a couple of times early on in our partnership. We had to have an alpha mare discussion. Food aggression is dangerous and you can’t have any horse, let alone a horse as big as Zelda, getting into your space over food. Years ago, we had a pony at the barn who became food aggressive. She would charge you, and it got to the point where you had to carry a whip when you fed her. Luckily, Zelda decided I was scarier than she was. Either that or she figured out I didn’t want her food.
4 thoughts on “Not Sharing”
I SEE that, in the picture, I thought, whoa, she’s displaying to Liz? Yes, that sort of behaviour must be nipped in the bud. The one and only time Jordan did that to me, we had, as you say, a Discussion as to just WHO was alpha in our little herd of two.
I am probably going to draw some flames from others, but this is why I’ve never cared for mares…although Charm and I were best of friends. Mares seem always ready to push that limit, to see if they can assume Alpha. I understand completely why animals of all sorts do this. I will always keep them informed that I am a benevolent dictator.
For as long as I can remember, starting as a kid obedience training people’s dogs for pocket money, and to this day, I train my animals to allow me to take their food from them whenever I choose. It’s a safety measure. You don’t want your dog eating that plastic wrap, no matter how intriguing the smell on it. One of my cats will eat ANYTHING, and I mean, if it’s small enough to fit in her mouth, she’ll attempt to eat it. I learned that the hard way, when she ate a cat toy…and $2000 later, after intestinal surgery, the vet said, she was the first cat she’d ever seen that would eat inedible things, like some dogs will.
If I take something away, I’ll either give it right back, just to reinforce the law that Mom Gets To Take My Food Away, or I’ll exchange it for a treat.
I am highly conscious of how large Zelda is. When I first got her, she would routinely push into my space. Not aggressively, but with purpose and understanding. We’ve worked through that because respect for a human has to always come first. I remember the first time she walked off while I was putting on her bridle. She didn’t go quickly, but she just decided she didn’t want to do it. Now she opens her mouth for the bit, but she knew there wasn’t much I could do to stop her. She broke two bridles before she was cured of this behavior.
I saw this with our dogs when the kids were little. It took a bit of training, but I wanted them to know that even if a kid took food out of their mouths, they needed to put up with it. We had all kinds of kids in our house and I didn’t want anyone getting hurt. That’s not to say I let kids abuse our dogs! But you can’t anticipate every interaction with animals so I think you have to train and prepare.
How did you train her to not walk off?
In the beginning, I used a death grip on the bridge of her nose. But funnily enough, after she started becoming more agreeable (she was a real pain for the first couple of months), she also got easier to handle. Originally she would squeal, buck, try to rub me off on a tree, refuse to get on the trailer. I thought she was a Clyde – Mule mix. However, one day she kind of looked at me and said, I can work with you. I still get some of the mulishness in the spring, but she’s much better. Mares, indeed!