Round OneWhen things began, all 3 horses were in the dry lot together without a divider.
|I had to carefully sneak up on them to get this shot without them all walking away! At the time, I was so pleased they were all sharing.|
This worked okay until I got my hay feeder. When it arrived, I learned that Stan was [still] a holy dick about discrete food resources and wouldn't let Grif - and sometimes Q - eat. This wasn't a total surprise as this horse has been like this his whole life. He's not aggressive toward people about food, but when it comes to horse v. horse and discrete food sources (i.e., anything except pasture), he's a complete and total asshole.
I put out an extra hay bag (not a slow feeder) for awhile, but that only served as a bandaid to the dynamics within the closed space. Finally, after Griffin came in for his dinner one evening with a 8" gash (not serious or too deep at all) on his rump, I decided enough was enough.
Round TwoAnd so I split the dry lot into two sections and segregated the old man.
The difference in everyone's behavior once I did this was amazing. Stan was chill as could be, content with life because he had his own food that no one else had to share, and Grif and Q shared well. Everyone could eat and be happy!
Except, with time, this arrangement fizzled.
Q has really come out of her shell in her time at home under my sole care with only two herd members. As a result, her confidence has bloomed 10-fold. This has resulted in her bullying poor Grif so much more than ever before!
Round ThreeAfter watching her back up for 2/3s of the dry lot throwing kicks the whole way to keep Griffin in the far back corner, I threw my hands in the air and swapped Grif and Stan.
If I thought the different in behavior after the first switch was extreme, this was off the charts. Suddenly everyone could eat without issue and was so happy. Q had her favorite boyfriend and Stan had his girl. Grif was a little bit sulky at first, but adjusted quickly within 24 hours. He quickly became more in-my-pocket (totally normal for him) and decided to seek me out a bit more than he had prior. I think it helped that he wasn't having to watch over his shoulder for someone to come bully him!
The biggest indicator of this setup being better was the manure piles. When Q and Grif were together, it looked like a bunch of monkeys took over their section and threw poop around for awhile. Everything was so churned up and disgusting! It always took longer to muck as a result. UGH!
Once Grif was settled and could no longer be chased, neat piles of manure reigned throughout the dry lot. Mucking was So Much Easier. Clearly, everyone was more settled and happy in their environment.
|First dusting of snow in mid-late October. Grif on "his" side and Q and Stan on "their" side, each with a slow feeder|
And thus, this arrangement held through the rest of fall and into winter.
But then the weather turned.
Round FourI'd been dreading it purely because I wasn't sure what I would do about the water situation. I love my rain-fed trough system + trough heater, but it's only on one side of the dry lot and positioned such that Grif had no access. The entire time I'd had the dry lot segregated, I had a separate tub of water on Stan, then Grif's, side. Not wanting to invest more in a trough/heater when it wasn't really necessary, nor wanting to get a separate heated bucket (Griffin is too mouthy for that shit and would start a fire), I didn't know what I'd do once things started freezing over.
The need to provide Grif with un-frozen water necessitated a change, however. And so I crossed my fingers and re-arranged the hot tape in the dry lot to allow access to the water. By opening both ends of the now-not-hot tape, I hoped I could provide Grif with an easy exit if Stan decided to meander over. In a sense, I've turned the dry lot into a circle; the tape serves as a bit of a baffle down the middle so they must travel around the long way. This allows ample time for Grif to get out of Stan's way before he is bitten or kicked and also provides him with room to make his exit.
Q will push Grif around, too, but she's all bark and no bite the very large majority of the time. My main issue with her and Grif was mainly that she'd spend too much time backing him into a corner and not letting him eat. It's kind of amusing for me to watch, honestly. She's decided she has a very large bubble of space that Grif is not allowed to be in. If he enters it, she uses strong body language to tell him to back off, which usually results to him sulking in a corner. When she's sated on hay, she'll move herself to the corner to gaze off into the distance and then Grif can eat.
Fortunately, I had three feeding systems by the point I opened things up: the hay basket + net and both halves of the IBC tote in place, each with their own netted hay on one side while the hay basket + net is on the other side. Everyone has a place to stand and eat now!
The triple feeding system has greatly minimized the need for Q to push Griffin around. She's a smart mare and simply doesn't see the point to move from her original feeder to another one if she can help it! And fortunately, she's happy to share with Grif for limited periods, allowing the Stanimal to lose interest in the hay feeder he chased Grif or Q away from and travel to another.
Until Next Time...All in all, things with the dry lot are a perpetual work-in-progress. While I certainly wish I had all the time/money/resources to get things perfect right off the bat, I'm honestly having fun problem-solving approaches to improve dry lot dynamics.
With an increasing frequency of winter weather moving through, I'm already pondering and experimenting with yet another modification to help mitigate for the issues snow and ice create. I'm working through several thought exercises to figure out the best way to increase efficiency and streamline my barn chores through the winter months. Coming up with new horse-care hacks is quickly becoming a new favorite pastime! (As if horses didn't already consume enough of my life, HA!)