Could my horse’s turnout situation and herd dynamics be playing a role in his ulcer development and digestive issues? Maybe this is why he has a dull coat and is thinner than I’ve seen him before? Or maybe he is his normal weight, but just seems off in his demeanor.

herd dynamics Horse herd dynamics - Pecking Order

Understanding Herd Dynamics

Lets think of a basic turnout situation. Most turn out groups I would say would vary between 2 to 4 horses. Somewhere in that group your horse has a “spot”…a place in the pecking order that he fits into. He would have in the first few weeks of finding his place in the turnout group have battled for some dominance over the lesser individuals, and also gotten bullied by the ones higher ranking. This in itself is stressful, one major cause equine ulcers.

Unrest amongst the herd can cause a  horse stress

During this time of “unrest” in the herd, food will have been pushed away, and given the run about of the pasture by the upper ranking individuals…basically anything other than his normal routine, which horses thrive on. Going without food for long periods of time and being bullied (or bullying) are prime times of stress and ulcer forming periods for a horse. His digestive system was built for long periods of eating small amounts…not being chased and run about the pasture and bullied. With an empty stomach and stressful conditions, he is prime for developing ulcers.

Who's the Boss?

After those few weeks are over and now the dust settles and everyone had their new “spot”, maybe he is at the bottom of the pecking order and now is being denied access to the hay or good parts of the pasture. And he is being picked on by his herd mates. Or maybe he is the “boss” and spends a lot of time worrying over keeping the others in line, or away from his food. These are all prime situations of equine ulcers and could be attributing to his ulcer development.