Can we influence herd dynamics?

Jessey

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#1
I'm feeling bad for Dan at the moment, when it was just him and Hank they played and groomed each other and were buds, but since I put them in with Jess its been rocky for him.

Jess is pretty indifferent to any of it, as long as they boys are vaguely in sight. Hank is all protective of Jess and picks on Dan something terrible. Dan is the bottom of the pile and often off alone now (to start with he tried to get involved). He kind of hangs out on the periphery, won't eat with the other 2 together (will eat tentatively with either 1 alone) from the hay box or the post (in the middle of the field) with nets on or on a new strip of grass (50m long strip). I do always have hay in multiple places so he can get his share. I wonder if his escaping is a bit to do with this too.

Is there something I can do to influence this? I currently feed Jess then Hank then Dan as that's their pecking order, would changing it up show the bossy 2 he is important to me? would taking him out for walks change their 'value' of him?

Dan is a completely different character to the other 2, they are bold and unfazed, I can walk up and slap/pat them and they don't care, if I shove them out the way they saunter off if they really have to. Dan scoots out of the way if you walk vaguely in his direction, the world melts if he's patted or you move too fast around him. I think this has got worse since they have all been together. Is he just the wrong fit for such a small bold group?
 

Trewsers

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#2
Aw poor Dan. Hmm. I am not sure what I would do. I keep Chloe separate because she got bullied and hassled. Storm is in her own paddock too when not on box rest. I don't think feeding in any particular order would have influence, it doesn't on mine. It is just whoever is nearest in whatever stable. So some days Chloe gets her chop first - others last. May be different for you as yours are out in their paddock? So more visible in who gets what and when?
 
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Trewsers

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#3
I see where you are coming from taking him out - for walks - again though for me, I do this and the other two don't really seem to bother either way. Ours will all groom each other over fences - but I just gave up trying to keep them in together. But Dan needs to be able to get along with Hank doesn't he ? For when you hack Jes out.
 
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Jessey

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#4
I see where you are coming from taking him out - for walks - again though for me, I do this and the other two don't really seem to bother either way. Ours will all groom each other over fences - but I just gave up trying to keep them in together. But Dan needs to be able to get along with Hank doesn't he ? For when you hack Jes out.
Yeah the whole point of getting Dan was to keep Hank company and to stop him pestering Jess, so separating him off really defeats the object of it. Plus I don't want him to have an unhappy existence on his lonesome. I might have to consider separating the boys from Jess, she is the least bothered by the others so would be the better one to be on her own, but that feels a bit....I don't know, like having either of the boys is pointless (only from the perspective that they were to be Jess' companions).
 
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Jessey

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#5
I don't think feeding in any particular order would have influence, it doesn't on mine. It is just whoever is nearest in whatever stable. So some days Chloe gets her chop first - others last. May be different for you as yours are out in their paddock? So more visible in who gets what and when?
Jess would have a temper tantrum (I am 99% certain of this) which given the chance would be aimed at whoever I was feeding as they are all loose together when I feed. This would call for me to step in between them, which she may or may not take as me giving him a higher status than her, if not I get flattened. She actually isn't so horrid to Dan, no more so that she is to Hank, perhaps I just need to focus on those two. If I fed Dan before Hank he would probably have a pop at Dan, but at least I am very unlikely to get injured getting between those two :)
 
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carthorse

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#7
I don't think there's much you can do in this situation, well not unless you're prepared to move into the field so that you're boss & he gets status by being your choice of company! I suppose you could try keeping Hank away for a few days to see if Jess & Dan pal up & she then stands up for him against Hank, but there's no guarantee this will work.

I'd be very wary of altering feeding order, it may create even more problems by annoying them. It sounds like he's got a nature that will always put him quite low in a herd, but maybe he's actually happy there?
 

orbvalley

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#8
I agréé with @carthorse in that i dont thinking you can change thé hierarchy unless you moved in with them and became one of thé herd.
We've for 3 horses, 1 dominant top of histoire herd, 1 always dominated bottom of thé herd, 1 middle of thé hierarchy. They all live in seperate herds. But thé interesting point is regardless of which herd theyre in they always rendez-vous up in thé same position within thé hierarchy.
Obviously really difficult for you as you cant move them into other more suitable herds. I feel for you but i dont think you can change thé dynamics.
 
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Jessey

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#10
I don't think there's much you can do in this situation, well not unless you're prepared to move into the field so that you're boss & he gets status by being your choice of company! I suppose you could try keeping Hank away for a few days to see if Jess & Dan pal up & she then stands up for him against Hank, but there's no guarantee this will work.

I'd be very wary of altering feeding order, it may create even more problems by annoying them. It sounds like he's got a nature that will always put him quite low in a herd, but maybe he's actually happy there?
I don't think Jess would stand up for him (or Hank) unless there was some serious argy bargy going on, she normally just stands and watches. I do think he will always be low in the pecking order, I just wish he wasn't low on his own :( He may be as happy as he gets, my frame of reference is limited with him. I would still say he is Eeyore like most of the time, occasionally he's more cheerful.
 
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Jessey

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#11
Normally/recently I feed Jess-Hank-Dan and Hank will give Dan a telling off if he tries to get in first so they all line up in order at their normal feed spots mostly.
On Wednesday I fed Jess-Dan-Hank, Hank wasn't overly impressed but took it.
Yesterday as I walked in the field Hank was right there so I gave him a scratch, then went to Dan and fussed him and eventually Jess came over to follow me for food and shoo'd Dan away with an ear flick, Hank then proceeded to bite and chase Dan clear across the field before also following for food but when I came out with buckets they all lined up but Hank had put himself in last place, and patiently stood there while Dame came forward to his bucket before him with no argy bargy.
I know the general consensus was that adjusting feed order won't change how they interact with one another but I'm going to keep going and monitor and also make a point of spending more time with Dan and not letting Hank interfere (he normally can't be left out of anything), it's not going to hurt :)
 

Jessey

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#12
So I have continued to feed Jess-Dan-Hank, and it's quite interesting, Hank will now automatically line up in last place and doesn't grump at Dan about it, probably just a learned habit. The interesting bit is that Dan is much more confident, he is scooting out of the way of me and Jess/Hank far less now, even to the point of not moving when I am walking with purpose to somewhere beyond him, and he doesn't scoot from Jess unless she flicks an ear. Hank he is still less keen to wait for him to get close, but I haven't seen Hank picking on him in maybe a week now. This morning and yesterday it was Hank stood off on his own and Jess and Dan at the hay box noshing. Also of note, the middle fence has been out of action since Thursday and he's not ducked under. It might just be a fluke, or they might have settled anyway, but intriguing none the less :)