Every time I see Prince it strikes me how much he is growing up and filling out. He’s looking bigger by the day, and as he grows and changes, we have to constantly assess and reassess what his needs are.
Feather has been such a good first mentor for him, but we’re starting to observe that Prince is getting rougher and naughtier with Feather all the time. He’s taller than Feather now, and one of his favorite ways to play is to jump up on top of Feather’s back. Feather is an extremely tough little horse and it doesn’t seem to be hurting him physically — yet! But one of the really important things that we need Mr. Prince to learn is good horse social skills. We don’t want him to be a holy terror, either with us or with other horses. Because Feather’s so nice to him, he may not be learning appropriate horse behavior as well as we would like. So it looks like it’s time for “Prince Mentor 2.0.”
We’ve given it a lot of thought and tried to come up with a good mentor from the horses here at the Sanctuary, but for this reason or that reason, no one has worked out. So, I offered my horse, Buzz, to come and take over Feather’s duties. Buzz is a horse who has very good social skills with other horses. In fact, we recently used his good skills to help Apollo, another Sanctuary horse who was four years old when we got him, but was also an orphan foal who was never properly socialized with horses.
Basically, Buzz taught Apollo how to be a horse. Buzz is what I think of as a true alpha. He’s not a bully. He loves other horses, but he is almost always the boss in a herd. In every horse herd, there is always a boss, so we might as well have a good one. He’s dominant, but he’s really fair, especially now that he’s in his middle years. (He’s 16). Another plus with Buzz is that he has lived with Feather for a long time. They’re great friends, so he could easily come into the herd and live with Feather without any fuss or muss.
A final plus mark in Buzz’s favor: He can be free-fed hay without getting too fat (since he is a big horse and not what you’d call an “easy keeper”). As we’ve decreased Prince’s milk intake, we’ve increased his hay and he is now fed free choice grass hay 24/7. Many horses, especially little Feather, can get way too fat on that sort of diet and can have some serious health risks as a result — but not Buzz. He can pretty much eat that sort of hay as much as he wants and never get too chunky.
So we brought Buzz in and it was a pretty exciting first week or so. Prince was a little freaked out every time that big black horse came near. He would run and hide anytime Buzz even looked in his direction, or he would hide behind us and “foal chatter” at Buzz to let him know he was just a harmless baby. But little by little, he got more confident and still had Feather (or us) to run to when he got really worried. Change can be hard, but we have faith that he will get braver with time, and it’s so healthy for him to have his little horizons expanded once in awhile.