Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gwen is protesting

Gwen's been more anxious than usual for the past week. She was being extra crazy in her stall, pacing and screaming when any horse was taken out of the barn- not just her brother. I was having to hose her off every day because she was working herself into a sweaty mess. I was at a complete loss trying to figure out what was upsetting her. I finally got a clue when I turned them out Saturday night and noticed Gwen was pacing the fenceline before I had even gotten back into my car. Not wanting to leave her out where she could hurt herself on the fence, I just grabbed them and put them back in the barn for the night.

Sunday night I tried to put them out for a few hours since they didn't stay out Saturday. Only this time I hung out in the pasture for a while to see what would happen. I noticed a couple of things, 1) the weed to grass ratio was 100:1 and 2) Gwen would walk around and try to find something to eat, grab something up, chew a bit, spit it out and go back to pacing. She did this multiple times. Lightbulb!

Here's the lesson: Rotating pastures are a good idea to ensure that your horses will have grass to eat for most of the year, but it only works if you mow it and keep the weeds from killing all of the grass.

Gwen was trying to tell me that there wasn't anything left in that pasture to eat and she was ticked off that I'd put her in there to starve. When I put her out, she'd pace the fence with her head in the air, pumping adrenaline through her system all night long which would carry over into the day. It seems totally obvious now what her issue was.

But this leaves me in a tough position, I can't put them in the other pasture until Wednesday night and I can't turn them out in the pasture they're slated for right now or Gwen will freak. So now my horses have been stuck in the barn for a few days. I'm not happy. The best I can do right now is hand graze them on the lawn for an hour every night. It's not nearly enough but it will have to do.

When I get my own pasture I'm going to be a mowing fiend!


  1. Smart Gwen for communicating and thank goodness you noticed! You are a good mom! Poor girl....can't blame her for being cranky if she was hungry. Coriander wasn't upset?

  2. She's a much pickier eater than he is, he actually made an effort to choke down some of the weeds. I knew it was really bad though when I grabbed their halters 10 minutes after I put them out and he came up to be haltered immmediately. Poor ponies!

  3. I have seen that behavior before in several horses before. Bodhi starts chewing on inedibles more often when he is demanding more fiber. Gwen is lucky you picked up on her needs :)

  4. I just wish I'd realized sooner! She's been more relaxed in the past day or two even without any real turnout since I haven't put them back in that pasture.

    The quarters are smart enough to tell me they need something, I've just gotta be smart enough to figure out what that is.

  5. Glad you figured it out! What else is she getting to eat - sometimes feeds, particularly the high-carb ones, can lead to excess energy or fretfulness.

  6. Hi Kate, she doesn't get very much grain at all mostly she eats a lot of grass hay. I've tried her on three different types of grain and she's exactly the same on each one, whether it's pellets or sweet feed. I've also got her on a vitamin B supplement and she's got one of those fancy salt licks with all the minerals in it to complement the vitamin B.

  7. We had the same problem when we boarded. They would only mow the pastures twice a year! We finally hired some guys to mow our pastures.

    How about putting a bale of hay out there for them to eat until they can be switched to another pasture? It might work. We sometimes hang full hay nets secured to the fence for them to pick at. Give it a try it might calm her down if she's busy eating hay out of the nets.

  8. Hi GHM, if I could do that I would! I got in trouble for throwing a few flakes of hay in the pasture with them over the winter. The reasoning was that the horses don't eat it and it just gets wasted. That doesn't make a lick of sense to me but it's not my barn so I don't get to make the rules.

    If only I had a target date for moving them I'd be doing a count down right now...