Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What to do?

I mentioned that I bought more firewood over the weekend, the pile seemed to be disappearing at an alarming rate so I decided to take advantage of the frozen solid ground and get some more.  The only way to get a truck near my woodshed is for the truck to drive across the pasture, which can only happen when the ground is dry or frozen.  In order for the truck to get into the pasture, it has to get through the fence.  I usually just push the wire down to the ground and drive over it.  Simple, easy.

The firewood guy brought two loads and the second load arrived early Sunday morning while I was still asleep.  No problem, the guy just pushed the fence down, did his thing and left.  Later, when I went out, I checked to make sure the fence was up, it looked OK.  However, I failed to notice that a little farther down the fence-line, the wire had been cut.  I have no idea why.  Perhaps firewood guy was afraid he would get zapped.

I did not notice that the fence was down, but several hours later, when I had gone into the house for a breif break, the donkeys did.  Normally, it would be no problem, they were just out in the pasture after all.  Out in the pasture with Gabe though, that was the problem.  I glanced out the window to see Gabe chasing Ramsey, Emma franctically and futilely trying to intervene and Tessa just plain confussed. 

I ran out to rescue Ramsey and, eventually, I did just that.  He is unhurt and is OK.  However, I didn't make it there before Gabe had knocked Ramsey right off his feet and was pawing at him.  It was Tessa who saved the day by getting between them long enough for Ramsey to get up.  When Gabe tried to chase him again, Ramsey ran through the fence to escape.  (Here is one of the benefits of poly fencing, the fence got knocked down, but Ramsey was unscathed by running through it.) 

I rescued Ramsey and Emma, captured Gabe, fixed the fence, the chaos stopped and everyone is OK.  But what the hell do I do about this?  This is the second time something like this has happened and I think it is a miracle that Ramsey is unhurt.  I am very careful to keep Gabe separated from the donkeys, but obviously, not careful enough.  The reality is that, no matter how careful I am, stuff happens.  Fences break, gates get left open, animals panic.  Stuff happens.

I have to say that Gabe did not do any of this out of meanness or with the intent to harm.  He sees donkey chasing as a fun and wonderful game.  He grew up with several other rough and rowdy geldings who used to play hard and often.  He signals Ramsey out because he is the only other boy to play with.  Yes, some of it is a dominance issue, Gabe could be a bully if allowed.  Mostly it is fun, fun, fun.

Most horses and donkeys do play well together, Emma and Tessa are a perfect example of this.  Gabe just can't understand that body-slamming someone who weighs 1000 pounds less than he does is not acceptable.  I have no idea how to change this behavior, especially as it is normal horse behavior for a young gelding.     

Gabe is a good horse.  He is a solid and reliable trail horse who will go anywhere and through anything.  He is 100% traffic safe, even around motorcycles and atvs.  He is steady in parades, he'll happily jump on any trailer you point him at.  He is athletic, sound and has a charming and sweet personality.  He loves everybody.  He is that rare horse that everyone seems to be looking for and can't find.....and if he hurts one of my donkeys, I will never forgive him or myself. 

I like to think that they will both grow out of this.  That Ramsey will get bigger and tougher.  That Gabe will mature and be gentler, but I don't see it happening.  Yes, Ramsey will grow, a lot, but not enough to hold his own with Gabe, Emma certainly can't.  Gabe will mature, but I don't see him losing the desire to dominate and roughhouse.  It is not his nature.

What to do?


  1. Hi, I have a few questions for you. Are your donkeys miniatures? Where did you find halters that fit them and what size are they? Did you shave a spot behind the ears where the strap lies? Thanks.

    1. My donkeys are small standard size, Emma is 44 inches tall, Ramsey is about 38 inches tall at the moment.

      I get halters for them at www.handcraftedjewls.com they have donkey sizes or will custom make any size you want.

      Ramsey has a partially shaved mane from one of the medical procedures he had at Cornell, I don't normally shave them. It does make fastening the hatler easier though:)

  2. Oh dear, what a dilemma.
    From what you say, I don't think Gabe will grow out of it. If I was you, I'd probably have a belt + braces paddock system, where there's at least two fences separating them.
    Could you get advice from a natural horsemanship trainer - I'm just wondering if you did stuff like walk them out in hand together and work them together (when Ramsay is older and fully recovered, of course) would Gabe learn to moderate his behaviour? I've never done anything like that myself, it's just a thought.

  3. SUCH a darling photo! What a handful these guys are!

  4. I don't know what to do, Kris, but I'll bet someone has a good idea!!! It might even be you after you've eased out of the trauma. You must have been frantic.

  5. Tough situation. I would think there is some training that could help, but if it's in their nature - probably not foolproof. Then again, not much is. Poor Gabe, he is just being a horse and sounds like such a great guy. Tessa sure is a smart one and saved the day, or in this case the Ramsey. I would ask a trusted vet & trainer for advice, and of course continue separating them as securely as you can. Wishing you the best of luck. Hope you find a solution that is in the best interest for all.

  6. Tough situation. I would think there is some training that could help, but if it's in their nature - probably not foolproof. Then again, not much is. Poor Gabe, he is just being a horse and sounds like such a great guy. Tessa sure is a smart one and saved the day, or in this case the Ramsey. I would ask a trusted vet & trainer for advice, and of course continue separating them as securely as you can. Wishing you the best of luck. Hope you find a solution that is in the best interest for all.

  7. Oh boy, what a scary mess that was. Good thing everyone is ok.
    So how do you get a dominant horse to back down in a pasture setting? I wish I knew. Of course in a herd of horses of similar size they generally just work it out. But your situation is obviously quite different. I have been trying to figure out how to keep Killian from beating up on Danny, since Danny is crippled and cannot fight back or out run. If I let them out together when I am there, I can usually chase Killian off, but the minute I'm out of sight, all bets are off. I have asked my trainer if there is something I can do, he says probably not. I too am still searching for an answer. So I will be anxious to see what others post, and to hear if you come up with anything.

    If I was in your shoes, I would start with fixing what I know. You know that the fence being cut is absolutely unacceptable, so I would add a gate for the firewood guy to get through. A good strong gate. Then I would make sure the firewood guy knew how important it is for the gate to stay locked. This is, of course, providing that adding a gate is even feasible.

  8. Golly, that all sounds pretty scarey!

    I wouldn't give up hope that Gabe & Ramsey will learn to play together, as Dougie (all 10 hands of him!) stands on the banking at the side of the field drain so that he can initiate rough games with Flynn, who stands at 17.3

    Like Gabe, Flynn is a perfect gent in all that he is asked, but has no real perception of his size. My heart is in my mouth when he takes hold of Dougie by the neck & lifts him, but so far, all it's cost is a few neck covers from outdoor rugs.

    Since Ramsey is so recently gelded, he will still be throwing loads of testosterone odours & that will be encouraging Gabe to play rough. As the hormone levels drop, you'll hopefully find that Gabe calms a little. As he grows, Ramsey will also be better able to hold his own & they can work out their own game rules.

    In the meantime, why not try letting Ramsey run free, but put Gabe in a bridle & lunge line, so that you can control the play sessions? If that fails, or is just too scarey, you might need to think about some permanent fencing for Gabe's paddock, just to keep your mind at ease.

    I hope it goes well :)

  9. I just love everyone who follows you, Kris! Dougie Donk's idea about the testosterone sounds promising! And Cindy D's gate idea seems good too. Double fencing? Can't wait to read the rest!

  10. Hi from Australia. I too am a donkey owner and an infrequent blogger. I just love getting your daily blog and have worn my heart on my sleeve during Ramsay's recent health issues. Your photos are awesome.

    With regard to this issue, I tend to agree with Dougie Donk, you need to de-sensitise Gabe from Ramsay. Also the hormone thing will be playing a large part but will subside. Why not try to pop Gabe on a lead rope, go for a walk and let Ramsay just hang out. You might want to tie him to a fence first, for your safety but if he knows that a halter or bridle means work time then he should be OK. I have been successful with this kind of behaviour with other animals, it just takes time.

    Good luck!


  11. I just don't even know what to suggest... and I would have been scared to death! You are always so brave!

  12. Ouch! I had the same problem. First with lambs. They were getting pretty big before I let them out with the horse, but he still had it in for them. He'd grab with his teeth and try to shake and even drew blood once. I started carrying a buggy whip and would give him a big NO and point the whip at him. He's back off. With the llama I kept one or the other on a lead and let Robert know that he couldn't chase her or try to bit her. I carried a stock stick for that. I never had to touch him with the whip or the stick. Eventually the sheep have learned to back away and after a couple of games of llama chasing he gave that up too. Horse, sheep, and llama all share the hay and every one gets on very well. Robert adores the llama now and gets upset if she goes off with out him. So, I'm thinking that keeping Gabe on lead with R. near by and that as Ramsey grows they'll "play" better. Give Gabe all the attention at first--grooming or whatever and gradually start giving Ramsey a scratch or two. And keep them separated when you aren't in control. There is probably a better solution, but it's what worked for me.
    And, I agree about the gate. If you aren't sure about who is cutting the fence, maybe try putting up a game camera.

  13. My concern would be that this behavior would continue, regardless of your interventions. And the potential for harm is high if Gabe could get to Ramsey. It is always difficult to have potentially harmful situations weighing heavy. I think you have worried and thought about this for awhile. If you can work with Gabe and he can be trained to change his behavior then great. If not, might there be someone close who covets Gabe and would provide another perfect home for him? I hope you can have your wonderful family remain intact and have all get along without problem. But that isn't always the case. I wish you good luck and think you will do what is right for your furry family. And you have a wonderful furry family, all of them.

  14. Boy, I'm just not sure what to do. Thinking the "new" will wear off eventually, but...

  15. I tend to agree with Dougie Donk. There will eventually be peace in your pasture, but will take some time. Let Ramsey get some size on him, and that "male thing" make its final disappearance. Then do some sessions with the two of them together, (IF YOU FEEL SAFE), and see what happens. I think that eventually Gabe will get bored with the whole thing, and everyone can then live happy.