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My horse chases cows

From: Kelli

Thank you for all your wonderful insights into the world of horses. I have been researching your archives to learn as much as I can about every possible topic. Everything I have learned from you has been the most helpful in making sure that my horse is well taken of.

I have a question about the mixing of one Quarter Horse with approximately 7 head of cows. Background: During the summer months, the cows are relocated to another field. This summer, we were forced to bring two of the calves back to our pasture to help with weaning. The horse, who we recently purchased in May, has been with the two calves since June. For the most part the three animals share a 7 acre pasture and seem to leave each other alone. Occasionally, the horse will chase/round up the two calves. I understand that this is normal behavior for a Quarter Horse, however, the cows are the main source of what the land is used for so getting rid of them is not the option. Other than dividing the pasture, do you have any suggestions on preventing these animals from hurting each other? If we were to put a second horse for companionship to the first, could it possible have any effect on the running of the cows? I just fear that the animals will one day run into the wire fencing. At the end of this month the remaining cows and newborn calves will be returning to our pasture. I plan on segregating the horse for the winter months. Best case scenario will be that there will be no cows for next spring/summer months and the horse shall have the entire pasture to himself. However, I would to have some advise should we run into the same weaning issues where we must bring some calves back. I would like to safely protect both types animals. Thank you for your time and suggestions.

Hi Kelli! Thanks for the kind words.

You may want to experiment by putting another horse out with the group, in the hope that the horses will stay and play together and leave the cattle alone. But watch them carefully, and if the first horse DOESN'T leave the cattle alone, or if the second horse joins in the "fun", I'm sorry to say that you will need to separate the cattle and the horse.

Being "cowy" is a good thing in the eyes of many horsemen, but it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Some horses - and this happens with other horses too, by the way - it's not limited to Quarter Horses - seem to take naturally to running with, and chasing, cattle. It's an attitude you want to see if you're training horses to work cattle, but even the very best cutting horses, roping horses, and working cowhorses are only allowed to chase cattle when they're under saddle and the rider ASKS them to do it. It's their "day job", and they aren't encouraged or allowed to run cattle in the pasture during their time off.

In cattle country, the horses are there as partners for the ranch hands, and their function is to work the cattle. Being "cowy" is an asset during working hours, but after hours, a horse that pesters and chases cattle will have to be kept in a separate enclosure. Just as ranchers wouldn't want wild predators or stray dogs chasing their cattle, they also don't want horses chasing them. You've already identified one possible danger - the cattle could be run into the fence and injured. But even if the fences are safe and/or the cattle always manage to turn when they reach the fence, there are other risks. A horse obviously isn't going to catch, kill, and eat the cattle as a mountain lion might, but it can cause a lot of damage to cattle just by keeping them on the run all the time and causing them to lose weight when they're meant to be gaining it. A cattle-chasing horse can also cause severe damage to young calves - again, not by attacking them, but because the horse's enthusiasm for the game may encourge them to keep the calves on the move all day long. This can be fatal. Calves can die from exhaustion - and very young, unweaned calves can die from dehydration (and even starvation) if they are kept away from their mothers for too long.

So, long story short, you'd better have a "Plan B" in mind for next time, whenever that is. Depending on how much land you have to work with - and what kind of a budget - you could either create another enclosure (pasture or drylot) for the horse, or you could put a temporary fence down the middle of the pasture to keep the cattle and the horse(s) apart. Good luck!


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