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The Effects of Bullying

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

Sometimes no matter what we do, some horses aren't meant to be in a herd together...

It’s funny how different Sky and Zorro are, especially since Sky is Zorro’s mom.

In the mornings I halter them both and then go open the gate to go out into the yard. Then I ask them each to back through the gate. We walk to the other gate and I ask them to back to through that gate as well. I do this EVERY morning that they go out to graze.

Every morning Sky acts like she has NO idea what I’m asking her to do. She tries to barge through the gate and gets all antzy. She tosses her head and paws and roots her nose. When I turn her around to line her up for backing through the gate she moves her hiney back and forth and argues about lining up with the opening. EVERY MORNING.

Zorro stand quietly waiting for his turn to back, or if he goes first he will stand quietly on the other side of the gate while I convince Sky that she will be backing through there. When we approach the gate Zorro will wait until I ask him to line up, then he will basically line himself up and just back through the gate quietly. I barely have to lift the line as he knows, if he backs through the gate, he will go out to eat.

I think it’s so interesting that Sky just isn’t catching onto this! We have been doing it this way for 2 weeks, since Mikey left and every day is a new day for her. Zorro had the system down pat on day 2.

Does this mean that Zorro is smarter than Sky or simply that he is more trainable? And does more trainable mean smarter? We ask ourselves this with our dogs all the time as well! I really don’t know the answer. I just know that Sky will take many more repetitions  to understand something than Zorro will.

Something else I have noticed, Zorro is his old happy go lucky self since Mikey has been gone. I truly think he was being so bullied 24/7 that it was starting to effect him mentally.

He had started running when I went to catch him. As soon as he saw me he would take off and run and run and run. When I finally got him to stop he would pin his ears and keep them pinned while I harnessed him. Once harnessed he was reluctant to drive. I thought he was feeling burnt out so gave him some time off but his behavior got worse.

Then I took Mikey to his new home and in about 3 days Zorro was nickering and running to meet me at the gate. He was putting his halter on by himself and happy to go driving. He talks to me every time he sees me outside. So does Sky. They are both brighter and overall happier than when Mikey was here.

This got me thinking about what happens when bullying occurs. In people, bullying not only effects them physically but also mentally. When my youngest, Logan, was getting bullied in public school he became so unconfident in every area of his life that he started having night mares and was sleeping in our bed every night instead of his own. When we pulled our kids out of public school and started homeschooling he started sleeping in his own bed again. Within about a week of knowing he didn’t have to go back to public school. He too had been sullen and would cry at the drop of a hat. He didn’t like to go anywhere or see anyone from school. But when we started homeschooling, he liked having his friends over and became his happy, bright self again.

It’s so strange to think that horses would go through this as well, but it’s very clear to me now that Mikey was causing so much disruption in Zorro’s life that Zorro was choosing to just shut down. I think this is probably a far more common problem than people think. Horses are herd animals so they should always be together right? I’m thinking that some just can’t be with others for whatever reason and should be kept separate.

Poor Zorro. I am so sad to think I put him through that for a whole year! It took a person that doesn’t see my ponies every day to point out just how weird Mikey’s behavior was. And of course the day that Mikey grabbed Zorro by his neck and shook him like a rag doll was the day I separated them for good. But even having him here was putting a lot of pressure on Zorro.

I am amazed at the changes in my little herd of two. I think we will just stay with this number for awhile!

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