DOMINANT HORSE WON'T SHARE WINTER SHELTER
(also older horse eating his straw bedding in the shelter)
QUESTION: I am new to horse ownership, although I used to ride all the time years ago. We have a 10 month old filly that we got three weeks ago. We didn't want her to be lonely so we got her a friend. He is a very well behaved, well trained 22 year old gelding. He is obviously taking on the dominant horse role. He's not being too bad with our filly, the usual pinning back of the ears and/or nipping at her back end. My "concern" is that he keeps her out of their shelter pretty much all day. I think he lets her in late at night (12-1 am), but it's hard to tell. You can see that she badly wants to get into her shelter to lay down and get out of the weather since it's cold and lots of snow. Do you think he will eventually not mind her being in there or do you think this will always be a problem? I feel bad cause she always spent so much time in her shelter and also since she is young and it has been so cold/snowy, I am concerned for her. I guess I should mention that he is eating straw that we use for bedding- could this be why he is not letting her in? I know they have only lived together for a few days, but I feel bad for her and hope he will get over this. We also are unable to separate them in the shelter (it's a run in type). p.s. I understand the whole pecking order thing that they do and it's fine, other than this one issue... Thanks for any feedback you can give me.
ANSWER: It is not so much this particular older horse, but most older (older than the same age group) as this filly will indeed dominate her. That is simply "Mother Nature". One horse is always dominant whether two horses or 20+ horses. One is the Boss, then one will be next in line, etc. etc.
I doubt that he let's her in late at night either. Not going to happen unless he left the shelter for water or feed or something and she snuck in for a few minutes until he kicked her out again.
(1) First would be to erect or buy her, her own shelter, placed near the other shelter in the same paddock. As she needs shelter even worse than he does in the winter, and also in extreme summer heat, for shade. Or make do with a building you already have by carefully converting it into a SAFE shelter with enlarged entrance, reinforced floor and kick walls.
(2) If the shelter is big enough, find a way to divide it down the middle. They are still together in the same paddock but when he is in, on one side of the shelter, she can go into the other side.
The partition should be high enough (5 feet) that he can't reach away over top of it and harass her. It should not be of solid construction (solid wall) so they can share body heat and communicate with each other.
Now here is the problem: One horse requires a recommended space of minimum 12 X 12 feet in order to not push other horses out of their personal space. A horse also needs a recommended space of this size so if they lay down in the shelter, they do not get what we call "Cribbed" against a wall and not be able to get up.
(3) If he is eating straw there are a few reasons for it. First of course is, he is HUNGRY, just plain not getting enough to eat. Second is the straw is better quality than the feed being given him. Third is a long standing habit from his past life where he learned to eat straw from either lack of enough feed or out of sheer boredom (seen particularly in horses kept in Box Stalls 24/7 without getting out for enough exercise).