Henry has been living the solo turnout lifestyle for a while now. Almost 3 years while we were at the western barn, and while he started out in group turnout at the vet’s place, he eventually got banished again. Why? Because he’s a butthole and if he senses any kind of weakness or submission in another horse, he will chase them, or have random outbursts of rage.
When we moved to the new place I didn’t even bother trying him with other horses. Mostly because he makes me kind of nervous, since I never quite know how he’ll react, and I didn’t want him to hurt anyone. He’s content enough on his own, and it’s worked out fine.
And then February decided to be rainy. Like day after day after day. This presents a bit of a quandary for me, because 1) only one of the pastures has a shelter 2) I’m gone like 10 hours, all day long. I don’t really like for horses to be stuck outside with no option for shelter, especially since I work so far away and can’t get there at the drop of a hat if a more severe storm were to pop up. Of course, I also don’t want to have to leave them inside all day either, especially if the rain is spotty or light or the chances are like 50%, which is how this week was. None of us want them stuck inside for days at a time for no real reason.
So last weekend, knowing that the rain was coming, I started experimenting with how I could make sure they still got turnout, but also that everyone had the option for shelter. In the past I’ve tried putting Presto, JB, and Quinnie in the front field with the shed, and leaving Henry’s pasture gate open so that he could use the barn as shelter. But since him going to shelter would require putting himself very much out of the line of sight of the other horses, he refused to use it, just parking himself dejectedly at the fenceline. That doesn’t work.
Henry has played with the other horses over the fence and I never saw any aggressive behavior from him, so first I tried the easiest option of putting him in with them and making a group of 4. That lasted for about 10 minutes. He and Presto are well acquainted enough to where Henry isn’t TOO psychopathic towards him, and Presto knows to steer well clear. But JB just kept trying to go up and make friends with him repeatedly, and he made the crucial mistake of being way way too submissive about it. Henry sensed weakness, pounced on it, and started chasing him. I had to intervene and quickly put the kibosh on that. As I suspected, he can’t be trusted alone with the babies.
Plan B was to make two pairs, which I really hate doing in general because I feel like 2 is the worst number for horses. They tend to get overly dumb about their friend, and one or both turns into a moron when the other one leaves. But… I didn’t have a lot of options, and was willing to try it. So the babies went out in the front pasture with the shed, and I turned Henry out with Quinnie in the middle pasture that opens up into the barn courtyard. I figured I could just leave that gate open and they could have the barn to use as shelter.
I put Henry with Quinnie and thought “Ok, here we go”. He marched up to her, they sniffed noses, he squealed and pinned his ears, and Quinnie looked at him deadpan like “Who the fuck you think you are, bucko?” and starts grazing, ignoring him completely. Henry was perplexed. You could see the hamster spinning at mach 5 on it’s wheel in his brain. He tried again, puffing up to her, ears pinned. She didn’t even so much as acknowledge his presence. And so began Henry’s love affair with Quinnie.
They’ve been out together all week now, and he is very much NOT the alpha in their relationship. He goes where she says, when she says, how she says. He’s been transformed from a psychopathic baby-chaser to a relatively pathetic puppy dog. She owns his ass.
But she’s also nice about it, too. Not mean, just very clear firm lines. They’re always pretty close together and she seems to enjoy having an adult companion again. She still keeps track of what the babies are doing in the pasture next to hers, and they tend to all tend to hang out in the same area. One time I caught Henry trying to mess with JB over the fence and Quinnie came barging between them, reprimanding Henry and moving him back away from the fence. She ain’t got time for that shit, and she ain’t having it. She couldn’t really manage him when all 4 were together, it was too much chaos, but she can manage him pretty well one-on-one.
Having the barn for shelter on the rainy days worked pretty well. I hung a couple slow feed nets, so they wouldn’t have reason to wander out into the rain if they didn’t want to, and they chose to stay pretty dry. Presto is a little salty about the whole ordeal because Quinnie is his favorite friend too, but he seems to be getting over it. And Henry, while totally devoted, has not been stupid about it yet, knock on wood. Yesterday I rode him and no one had a meltdown about being separated.
I like that Henry finally has a friend, and as long as he can keep himself together about it, he can keep her. We’re getting a few days off from the rain but I’ve kept them in their pairs. If he doesn’t try to kill anyone and can keep his brain in his head for riding, I’m happy to let him stay with her. We shall see. For now, they’re pretty darn cute. They both look like fat old mares… they’re BBFs – best broodmare friends. There’s a real Golden Girls aspect to them, especially when they’re standing nose to nail under the tree in the afternoon, taking a nap.
Fingers crossed that we’ve found a good solution and Henry can actually have a friend that he doesn’t try to murder for once.