Thursday, January 7, 2010

An interesting lesson in equine behavior.

I was able to witness one of the more interesting displays of equine behavior that I've personally seen last night.

A fellow boarder is now leasing Lim's "boyfriend", Nick. She already has a Thoroughbred mare, Lady, at the barn. She was there the same time as me last night and asked if I wanted to put Lim in the indoor arena with Lady.

Why not? The mares aren't best friends but they're friendly enough with each other. So into the arena they went.

After a while, Lady's owner asked me if I wanted to leave Limerick in the arena so she could take Lady out and put Nick in.

"Why not put them all in together?" I said. I didn't think it would be an issue; all three seem to get along fine and Limerick isn't the jealous type. Little did I know that there would be jealousy, but in an unexpected way.

Lady's owner retrieved Nick from his stall. Limerick was beyond excited to see him and he responded in kind; we could barely get his blanket off him!

Finally all three were loose in the arena together, sans blankets. Nick and Limerick began trotting and cantering around in unison, with Lady following. It wasn't long before it was apparent there was some kind of conflict between Nick and Lady. Lady bucked and kicked at Nick and he did the same back, while Lim stayed on the other side of Nick, away from the flying hooves.

Lady's owner and I looked at each other. Should we interfere? But before we could discuss it, the horses seemed to settle down somewhat.

"Lady's jealous," her owner said.

"But of Limerick or Nick?" I said. We weren't sure. Since Lady was a somewhat girlfriend of Nick before Limerick and I arrived at Gladstone, I thought she was jealous of Limerick.

But...Lady seemed to want to be near Lim, not Nick. I was expecting pinned ears and threatening gestures from Lady when she was near Limerick but if anything, she was the opposite.

The horses settled down a bit more and it became clear that Lady was trying to protect Lim from Nick! I was flabbergasted. She kept her body in between Lim and Nick and if he moved, she moved accordingly. If Lim walked one way, Lady mirrored her, carefully keeping her body in between Lim and Nick.

Lim seemed equally flabbergasted. Why was her friend keeping her away from her boyfriend? At one point the mares got close, arched their necks and touched noses, as if to discuss the situation as Nick looked on.

It was pretty funny to see. It made me think of women trying to discourage their girlfriends from dating 'bad news' guys, you know the guy with the motorcycle and cocky attitude and taste for walking on the wrong side of the law.

If Nick was a human, he'd be exactly that.

Then the kicker. Limerick pooped in the arena and immediately, Lady walked over to it. I assumed she was going to give it a casual sniff. But no! She began pawing at it in an attempt to scatter it and cover it up! I was laughing out loud, I had never seen such a thing. It's like she thought Limerick--who is a few years her senior--was her foal! never stop learning from them.

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