The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Friday, November 5, 2010

George is Worried About Food

Colder weather has arrived, and George can't think about anything except where his next meal is coming from. Even while his current meal is in front of him.

He is not cold; he is not thin. But he is apparently very anxious about starving to death.

The other horses are acting normal - that is, they get enthusiastic when food appears, but they can still can spare as many brain circuits as before to devote to other topics.

George has started trying to stake a claim to all the food buckets when they arrive. He doesn't succeed, but whereas he used to get his nose into his own bucket and stay there, he now runs over to Bridget's as soon as it hits the ground (hers is second in the chain), which causes Bridget to go over to his bucket, and then it's musical buckets for the rest of feeding time.

He looked very cross at me today when I patted his neck while he was eating hay. If you go in to talk to him, he has only one question: "Did you bring me something to eat?" And if the answer is no, he walks away.

Last winter (our first winter with George), we didn't face this issue, as we were in Mississippi, where the weather stays mild most of the time. Although I think maybe we put a rug on him, as this was before I started hearing about how much better it is for horses to regulate their own temperature. Perhaps he'd feel safer if he had a rug.

I think this is all psychological. He is clearly getting enough calories. Cold weather must bring on a fear of hunger for him.

I don't know whether to give him more food. Sometimes, he'll even be worried while there's hay on the ground (still edible, as the horses are eating it). Today I took some treats in, and the mares didn't even bother coming over to hover in the background. They were like "Nuh uh, that George, he crazy, we aren't going near him when there's food around."

We're dealing with some some issues here, that's for sure.


  1. Bucket dances are often about dominance. I feed Minnie and Cassie their buckets in their stables to give Minnie a chance to eat in peace. When I was giving their buckets out in the field, I had to stand in between them and protect Minnie from Cassie. Otherwise Cassie would chase Minnie away. The same thing happens in the field shelter. I put out several piles of hay, but Cassie won't let Minnie in to eat. So Cassie stands in the shelter to eat, blocking most of the hay and Minnie stands outside, snatching at the pile that is still within her reach. They sort themselves out though. Cassie will leave the shelter when she's had enough and then Minnie will go in and eat. In the end, Minnie actually eats more hay than Cassie.

    I wonder if it's possible that George was starved during wintertime before you got him. That rescue horse I used to have was very badly starved and they never forget it.

  2. Yes, George is the dominant one, and he can push any of the others; Bridget can push Rose and Chloe; and Rose can push Chloe. But until a few days ago, they all stood placidly at their own buckets, which I put down in order of dominance.

    I think George must have been starved in the wintertime when he was a youngster. My friend met him in the winter, and he charged at her, teeth bared, when she stood in his pile of hay. By that point in his life, he was well fed enough again (I think - I'll have to check with my friend), but that person had bought him at age 1 1/2, so I assume whatever happened had happened before that age.

  3. If George was starved, then that explains a lot. I think it is fewer hours of daylight that brings on the need for more food, it is lack of light that signals the onset of winter and that makes their winter coats grow. Poor George, he must have been so young when he was starved. It ties in with your dream though, doesn't it? A little foal that comes to you for protection..

  4. The days are really drawing in now - it must have triggered something for him.

    It's funny - in the dream, the horse had a shaggy coat, but George doesn't grow much of a coat. When you put your hand next to him, but not touching, you can feel the heat from an inch or two away. I wonder if I should break down and give him a blanket.