It seems that I may have been fabricating a friendship between Lunar and Spirit when in actuality Spirit is pretty mean to Lunar. Since I hadn’t witnessed it firsthand, I was naively attributing kinship when I’d watch them walking around the corral together. But because of his food aggression issues, he lashes out at her.
I finally witnessed his attitude on Monday after Deb put him inside the back corral to separate the two horses. She wanted them apart earlier than usual to avoid conflict. Apparently, he’s getting worse. At this point, they were separated by the thick wood that divides the front area where Athena stays at night and the back of the barn. There is a door in the low wall that allows people and animals to pass through. Unfortunately though, horses have long necks that can reach far over this wall. As I went about my preparations, Spirit became more anxious about getting food. Whenever Lunar got too close, he’d lunge at her and bite her, sometime successful, sometimes not. My experience with correcting animals comes from doing it to dogs, using the guttural growl to dominate them. I’m not sure what the proper correction is for a horse, but this strategy worked on him.
I put him in his pen with no problem and fed him first. Then I made a mistake. Instead of bringing Lunar around the barn, I just opened the door in the low wall to let her through. From that entrance, I can access each of the pens through side doors. Putting Lunar in her pen is an easy task unless an angry horse thinks his food – that’s behind a thick barrier – needs protecting. Spirit started kicking at her through his walls and tried to bite her, neighing loudly. Lunar panicked and began to fling herself around. The space, though bigger than either of their pens, is still awkwardly small when an animal as large is in a frenzy. She was facing away from me, i.e. easier to kick me with if so inclined. Getting past my nerves, I calmly turned her around while Spirit continued to act out and successfully got Lunar into her pen.
I feel terrible that someone in Spirit’s past turned him like this, and that even though his new(ish) surroundings are idyllic, he can’t let this angst go. Someone used food as a way to control him or punish him (possibly withholding it in response to behavior or simply not feeding him with regularity or some other messed up reason) and his brain is forever connected to that insecurity. As long as there is food in his life, which obviously is going to be forever, he’s going to respond with difficulty. And I also feel sorry for Lunar. After being with a moody but calm blind horse, I can only imagine the feelings of confusion that Spirit stirs in her.
Here are some cheery pics from the day.
May I introduce the Welcome Wagon from the big barn that often greets me?
Claudius AND a rabbit buddy! I get really excited when I see a rabbit. This one’s even got a carrot!
In the Cat House…