Herd dynamics change with terrain

The horses’ new pasture is a stark contrast to their flat and fertile plot in Iowa. Here, it’s up and down and thick with juniper and scrub oak. Interestingly, their herd behavior has changed with the territory.

As sight lines have diminished, they’re sticking closer together. They form a tighter herd, especially at night.

In Iowa, when I tossed hay at Last Call (anywhere from 7 to 10 pm), I could hear them gallop towards me. Now, they pick their way tentatively up the hill.

Even with their deliberate pace, they’re pockmarked with scabs from being stuck with twigs as they navigate around their new quarters. Poor Shea, the big PMU girl (half-Belgian, half-quarter horse) is making the biggest adjustment, paying dearly for her relative clumsiness, and learning to step more nimbly.

I’m happy to report that Jolene, heretofore a follower and firmly rooted at the bottom of the pecking order, has excelled and become a leader of sorts. She’s agile, sure-footed, and seems to relish the terrain as well as this new leadership role. The others let her pick routes through the rocks and secondary growth and they follow thankfully.

Or so it seems.

jo

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