Today, I ended up at our barn at the very tail end of feeding time and I was able to observe behaviors that suddenly became interesting to me.
The scenario was all the “fat boys” who are the top horses at our 9 horse place…were hogging the last little piles of food not allowing the lesser horses to eat at all.
I’ve seen them at various times through feeding, at all stages and this is what I’ve seen. The big boys get first pick…and if they decide to want another position they take it which happens in a rotation…then they munch munch munch until it’s gone allowing the lesser horses to feed while they are preoccupied and food is plentiful, YET, when it gets down to the scraps, they again bogart the entire scene pushing the lesser horses off feed all together. The big guys are big both in status and stature, they are grossly overweight, easy keepers as we call it in our world…the two biggest are like couches even through summer because the fat pads are so big on their sides.
It got me thinking of all these interesting questions! In the wild, I’ve never seen a horse that’s super fat unless they are pregnant. Even the herd leaders, the stallions, they may be bigger and rounder in belly but they are not “un-fit” I suppose in the wild being un-fit would not allow them to be in top position. They need their leaders to be alert and have the ability to defend or lead the herd in a run away. Being fat may hinder that…yet we seem to have an abundance of easy keepers and horses that food hoard in our domestic world. I couldn’t help but wonder why that is???
I’ve seen the horses eating and attempt to eat everything in site pushing the lesser horses away even when they don’t really seem all that hungry. I wonder if it’s boredom?
The reason I say this is because even when we have 12 horses together in a relatively small pasture, at least to the horses since they are used to being out on a few hundred acres…all studs, all jockeying for status…when it comes to feeding off one large bale, every SINGLE horse has a place on that bale, no one is kicked out entirely, they may be pushed away by another higher status stud but they aren’t pushed off the bale entirely to just not eat. Same thing goes for watering, the lead horses drink first but then mill around for the other horses to finish and then they take off. They seem to be acutely aware of their herd and the needs of said herd.
It doesn’t seem to be the same with our domestic horses though so I can’t get the question out of my head as to why? Because they have never been tested? Because they are babied? Because they are just plain bored? That’s all I can come up with…horses unlike humans have little use for the kinds of emotions we have, a lot of them are just useless to them but they do seem to care for and at least in the wild take pride in their herd making sure every member is taken care of…yet in our domestic horses it doesn’t seem to be the same.
So that’s my big question of today..I have no answers I just thought it was very interesting and I’d love to hear feedback about it just because I have no answers. It was an exciting thought for me so I thought I’d share.