Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘herd behavior

Swollen Eye

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I was simply killing some time while waiting for a delivery after I got home from work. Strolling down the driveway from the house toward the barn, I decided to go see the horses.

I found all four of them fully engaged in grazing from the freshly filled hay boxes. Not wanting to bother them, since I really had no agenda, I scaled the fence and walked past them to go kick around one of my several landscape projects in the large paddock.

Minutes later, Cayenne appeared out of nowhere. Unhesitatingly, she closed the gap and came face to face with me. It was impossible to miss the extreme swelling in her left eye. She was obviously seeking help.

I phoned Cyndie in the house to alert her and comforted Cayenne as much as I could. She seemed to appreciate being scratched around the area of swelling. If there is such a thing as referred pain, I figure it’s possible there can be referred relief, as well.

Cyndie arrived with a saline rinse and we moved Cayenne under the overhang to look after that eye. Hunter and Legacy seemed genuinely concerned for their ailing herd-mate and leaned over the fence to observe.

Cayenne was surprisingly cooperative with Cyndie’s effort to rinse, inspect, and clean the swollen eye. When the drops were applied, Cayenne actually turned her head in the optimum angle to accommodate the rinse, and blinked repeatedly to aid the wash.

It was as if she knew better than us what needed to happen, but just didn’t have the opposable thumbs to pull it off on her own.

We sent a picture of the eye to our vet, but it was after office hours already, so that contact will need to happen this morning. We will get a professional opinion and watch her closely to see if it the wash cleared out an irritant or some other problem is still brewing.

I’m sure glad about making that unplanned decision to wander down among horses. If I hadn’t, with darkness arriving at the hour earlier Central Standard Time, we wouldn’t have discovered how swollen it was until Cyndie showed up this morning to feed them.

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Written by johnwhays

November 8, 2017 at 7:00 am

Tender Footed

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Last week, Cyndie mentioned to me that Cayenne looked a little uncomfortable on her feet. The next morning I confirmed back to Cyndie that Cayenne definitely was hurting. I brought out the morning pans of feed for the 4 horses and she didn’t move from her position down in the paddock.

Aware that she was having some problem, I chose to accommodate her and carry a pan down to where she was standing. I stopped one step short to see if she would move at all to get to the pan I had placed on the ground in front of her. She did, one hesitant step.

That morning, the tree trimmers were just pulling in and that startled the herd, sending the other 3 rushing down from the overhang, leaving their rations unfinished. Now they all wanted to eat from Cayenne’s pan. She didn’t move.

I lingered with the horses and watched as Legacy bit her in the butt a couple of times. I couldn’t tell if he wanted her to move, but one theory of Cyndie’s is that he is checking to see if he would be able to make her move in an emergency. It is very important to him as herd leader to know how serious her condition is, which then directs his decision-making, accounting for whatever her limitations may be.

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She was not at all happy with his probing, and let him know in several ways, without ever moving a step. While I was standing with them, I noticed she was yawning frequently and then trying to get bites of snow from the mostly icy ground cover. I considered her usual behavior, which is to get a drink immediately after eating and decided I would offer her a bucket of water in case she was so uncomfortable she didn’t want to walk to the waterer.

That made her happy. She guzzled away at my offering.

Not knowing what else I could do for her, I decided to spend some time cleaning out the waterer while watching to see if her behavior would change. Somehow, while I was focused for a minute on scrubbing green scum away, she stealthily made her way over to the raised circle and was munching emphatically on hay.

It was shocking, because it seemed like I had looked away for a second, and somehow she just “beamed” from one spot to another.

A short time later, I watched her walk up the hill to the hay boxes under the overhang. My analysis was, she was definitely uncomfortable for some reason, but she wasn’t incapacitated by whatever the problem was.

Her behavior wavered better and worse over the weekend, so Cyndie asked the vet to stop by yesterday afternoon. After talking things through with him, our general consensus was likely bruising of the sensitive pads of her feet on the rough, icy terrain of late. This led to inflammation and resulted in her evident pain.

Cyndie had some anti-inflammatory pain-killer to give Cayenne and we are going to monitor for a change in her symptoms. The vet offered some alternative possibilities and decided to take a blood sample to check the function of her thyroid.

Here’s hoping she feels better soon and bruising is the only problem she has to face in this case. It’s tough seeing our most tender-hearted horse be so tender-footed.

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Written by johnwhays

February 22, 2017 at 7:00 am

Horses Down

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One really great thing about the proximity of our chicken coop to the pastures is that we are able to observe the herd while we work. The middle of the day has been a time when it is not surprising to look out and find them settled in for a group nap.

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That is always such a captivating sight, having them all lay down for a rest at the same time.

I would assume that they feel much more comfortable conking out to that level of unconscious when they have enough light to safely survey the surroundings.

The funny thing for me is, the way they look here mirrors the way I tend to feel around those same hours while at the day-job lately. Trying to simultaneously design and build a chicken coop has me burning my candle at both ends. A long night’s sleep has been one of the things I’ve sacrificed.

Oh how I’d love to join the horses for a mid-morning power nap.

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Written by johnwhays

October 12, 2016 at 6:00 am

Teaching Manners

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This weekend I was blessed to witness a brief moment of unmistakable horse-communication between three members of our herd, and Hunter had me laughing out loud. If ever there was an occasion to read human intent on animal behavior, this seemed spot-on.

We have a pile of manure in the paddock, leftover from winter, that is a few feet from the fence. Even though it creates a constricted space, the horses rarely let that interfere in their direction of travel. When I turned my attention to the horses, Hunter was intently straining to reach grass under the fence as far as his contorted neck would allow.

DSCN4725eSuddenly, Legacy decided to pull rank and move in on that same spot. Hunter obediently walked away on command, but as I watched, he circled around the pile of manure and paused to review the situation. It seemed as though he made a decision to press on the boundaries of herd leadership, …or maybe he just really wanted back on that grass under the fence. Hunter walked around Legacy and began grazing just uphill from him, about a foot away from the spot which moments ago had been his.

Legacy didn’t get ruffled by this apparent challenge. He simply made a clear gesture that he was claiming the whole area, and Hunter needed to go, again. The youngster’s reaction seemed pretty obvious to me. Hunter obliged and stepped away, but this time he lifted his tail and let loose with a perfectly orchestrated reverberating fart toward Legacy while leaving.

Even though I laughed at how perfectly it seemed to communicate how he probably felt about the situation, I assumed it could have been a coincidental occurrence, until I saw what Cayenne did in response.

She immediately came from the far side, stepping between that pile and Legacy so she could get on Hunter’s flank, using her energy to push him away, and not just a little bit. She stayed on him for an extended time, keeping him moving well beyond where he would have chosen to stop. I was struck by her persistence. In fact, Hunter finally had to lift his leg in a gesture of preparing to kick, in order to get her to finally back off.

It was all quite a show for me. Cyndie said it is the mares who teach foals and geldings manners and appropriate behavior. I got the impression she was saving Hunter from unknowingly picking a fight with the leader over something that wasn’t worthy. It was as if she saw the pointed flatulence as so disrespectful that she needed to convey he wouldn’t want to receive what the gesture might invite.

Each individual act I witnessed was interesting, but in concert, it was fascinating and thoroughly entertaining display of the equine educational system in action.

And who knew they could use their flatulence with such obvious intent?

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Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2016 at 6:00 am