Sometimes I forget how emotional and ridiculous Henry can be, y’all. I made a big mistake this week.
The barn owners left on Monday for their winter home in Florida. They took Presto’s 2yo friend with them so he can start getting some life experience, so that leaves me with only 3 horses here this winter – Henry, Presto, and their mutual friend Quinnie. Henry lived with Quinnie last winter, and Presto has lived with her all summer/fall. Henry has also lived with Presto before, albeit on a very limited scale. Either way, all of them are quite familiar with each other and have been turned out together before. For the winter Presto and Quinnie, who live outside 24/7 the rest of the year, get a stall in the barn and they come inside at night. The easiest thing, therefore, was to also turn them all out together. Henry can sometimes be a jerk to horses that are submissive to him (if he senses weakness he will exploit it), but they all know each other and there’s plenty of space so I figured they’d settle in and work it out.
And at first, they did. Quinnie didn’t want Henry coming too close to Presto for the first few hours, but there was no major drama. They grazed together, they tromped through the mud at the edge of the pond together, they shared hay, and Henry and Presto even cantered playfully in circles together.
Until I made my mistake, that is.
The next day was a day off for Henry, but I wanted to quickly try to film an entry for an online show’s Horsemanship class with Presto. Without really even thinking about it, I went out with a carrot, got Presto, and brought him in. I groomed him, tacked him up, went to the arena, and filmed our entry.
(ok TRIED to film it… I am REAL SHIT on video y’all, nothing good came out of my two tries)
Anyway, I spent about an hour with Presto, he got a lot of attention and pets and treats, and then I put him back out and started cleaning stalls. The trouble began almost immediately. I don’t know what set Henry off – the fact that Presto got treats, the fact that Presto got attention and he didn’t… I dunno. But Henry started RELENTLESSLY and aggressively chasing him across the pasture, taking chunks out of him as they went. I had to get in there and break it up before he trapped him in a corner. That gave Presto the opportunity to seek protection behind Quinnie, who Henry won’t challenge.
And so it went the rest of the afternoon. If Presto wandered more than 3′ outside of Quinnie’s protective bubble, Henry was on him in an instant. As a result, poor Presto absolutely velcroed himself to Quinnie, which really only served to irritate HER too. They came in for the day, had a time out and a chance to reboot, and Henry got chewed out.
When I turned them out the next morning, all seemed fine again. Presto was very aware of where Henry was and stayed out of his way, but Henry wasn’t being overly aggressive towards him or feeling inclined to try to chase him. So when it came time for riding I tried a different approach. This time I got Henry out first, made sure to fawn over him to the point where he was getting annoyed, rode him, gave him carrots, and turned him back out. THEN I went and got Presto. Of course, the whole time I was giving Henry attention, Presto left Quinnie grazing in the back to come stand up at the fence and stare at me. These two. I swear.
Anyway, that seemed to work way better. Henry still isn’t being overly NICE to Presto, but he hasn’t chased him again at all or tried to pin him in a corner or take any more chunks out of him. When I put Presto back in the pasture Henry seemed content to just ignore him, which is preferable, and Presto has been able to un-velcro himself from Quinnie a bit (much to her relief).
It’s possible that the whole situation was a fluke, or that something else happened to set Henry off that day. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen some crappy/sulky behavior from him after I give too much attention to other horses though. Usually he just gets extra sassy toward me. It’s tough to say 100% what set him off, since it admittedly doesn’t take much with him. His emotions are always dialed up to an 11.
But until they settle in with each other a bit more and Henry stops caring so much, I guess I’ll be getting him out first every day. On his days off he’ll just get groomed and have a cookie and then go back out, I suppose. For a horse that pretends to hate attention so much, he sure is a freakin drama queen.