Horses: Stalled VS Free Range/Roaming

What is actually realistic?

POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:03 am

Firstly. I am not sure if this is the best place for this.. since am really hoping for more of a discussion on what ideas people have concerning this. But yea, a peeve of mine for awhile now with horses in souls is the fact that the majority of them are stalled (or at least seem to be). I suppose this probably seems the most logical for people with little horse experience, or the fact that the majority of those with horse experience on here are like city/suburban dwellers who's main access to horses is through local stables, ect. However, it would save a lot of resources, both food and work, if the horses were left free roaming rather than stalled up all the time and would also be better for the horses' health. I'll break it down into a few a points as to why I feel this way about the subject.

The Shelter aspect: All a healthy horse really needs is a wind break. More often than not, a good stand of trees can provide this. I have a lovely barn and loafing shed for my horses and you will not believe that more often than not, they are standing in the rain/snow rather than getting out of the weather. All they care about is getting out of the wind.

Food: This is a huge one. The amount of hay/grain that would be needed to sustain horses that are constantly stalled would be HUGE. The food itself would require just as much, if not more storage space than the horses themselves. Let's not forget that luperci do not have any of the mechanized machinery that we use today for this either. The hay would all need to be cut by hand, gathered up (this could be done using the horses) and piled. There would be no bales. Square, round or otherwise. I want to headdesk every time I read someone giving their horses a flake of hay... Even if the luperci were to come across a barn filled with old bales, the strings would be rotted as would the majority of the hay. It would all look like one big pile with no semblance of bales left at all. It took less that 8 years for this to happen to a stack of hay in my parents barn after I stopped showing cattle. Also, the horses would not be interested in eatting it at all. At best, it could be used as bedding, so long as the luperci took the time to clean all the raccoon poop out of it, as it can cause horses to get rather sick in a hurry. As far as winter is concerned, horses will dig through the snow and continue to graze on what foliage that is buried under it. Bovine do not do this however, and would have to be hayed in the winter. The horses still likely need a supplement of some sort throughout the worst of the winter months. Especially in more barren areas.

Water: Packing water to horses would be a pain. It would be much easier to let the horses make their own way to water sources or at the very least, lead all the horses to water once or twice a day. Finding/Making water tight containers to pack water in and even holding water for the horses would also be quite chore. Most metal stock tanks would have rusted out since the fall of mankind and back in the time frame of the Apocalypse, plastic type tanks were not all too common as they are today. In the winter, save for really bad cold spells, horses can actually break through the ice at the edges of ponds without our help. Moving water, even easier so, as ice usually doesn't get as thick where the water is still moving. (Leading a herd of horses to water would be as simple as catching the one or two lead horses of the herd, the rest would follow, as is the nature of herd animals.)

Waste: Simply, why would anyone want to spend all day cleaning out the stalls for a herd of horses when they can simply be grazing and dropping road apples where they will actually do some good and fertilize their grazing grounds? Not to mention that all that would really pile up over time and what are Luperci going to do with all that? Sure it makes good garden fertilizer, but the horses are going to produce more than a pack can use.

Exercise/Hoof Maintenance: Horses get bored if left stalled with nothing to do. They develop bad habits, many of which can be really bad for their health, like cribbing. Plus it would take a lot of time to exercise all the stalled horses. Easier to let them blow of steam running around and playing with themselves and looking for food rather than creating all that work for their care takers. Not to mention that horses being left to naturally roam a territory as large as pack lands unencumbered by confinement the less maintenance their hooves are going to need, because they will keep their hooves warn down. Daily riding can also accomplish this.

Time: If a pack as very many horses at all, I'm just gonna go with 8 or more, with all I listed above that is going to be a lot more work than the 1 or 2 wolves that are typically going to be taking care of the horses could accomplish in day even if they did nothing but mess with the horses. Gathering food alone would take the effort of the whole pack for a couple months. If the horses are stalled, that is. Free roaming, you could just have 1 or 2 'herders' that keep an eye on the horses/livestock and keep them from roaming too far. But in all reality, it wouldn't take long for the horses to realize that the pack lands are a 'safe zone' for them. Not only are they safe from attack from the canines that care for them, but they would also come to realize that the extra food they are provided and don't have to seek out themselves would be worth sticking around for.

When does it make sense to stall a horse?
  • When they are sick or injured, obviously, and are going to be needing daily attention.
  • Any horse that is ridden daily for prolonged periods of time and otherwise would have time to graze for needed nourishment anyway
  • A horse that still be trained and therefore being handled daily.
  • Mare expected to foal soon, but even this one could be argued. I have always been told that a Mare is not likely to foal while being observed and have never witnessed it myself.
  • Newly acquired horse that has not been acclimated to the herd or pack yet
Last edited by Bishop Russo on Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Katie D.
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POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:14 am

Not a horse expert at all here, but I agree that free range horses make a lot more sense. It isn't like packs don't have room!

And as far as I know, the packs that keep livestock like sheep and goats, etc, keep them free range already, so why not horses too? I don't know which/whether packs do actually keep their horses corralled most of the time either though, haha.

...Tangentially related, keeping all these herd animals free range on packlands gives lots of nice opportunities for herding breed dogs and hybrids to revisit their roots, eh?
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POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:57 am

One of the issues with free-roaming horses, I think -- the horses are social creatures and do have to establish a pecking order. In the case where there are, within a pack, two very dominant stallions -- wouldn't they have to fight it out, resulting in one stallion being ousted in the end (perhaps with injury)? I don't know much about horses, honestly, so do feel free to correct me, but usually in cases like that, the dominant male is intolerant of all but the youngest/adolescent males? Packs would need to worry about that. A solution might be splitting horses into separate bands. Though, with the proliferation of stallions (there are a loooot, I think?) this could prove super difficult, and wind up with only stallion and mare pairs. >_>

But I think Inferni used to do a more free-roaming sort of model, might nudge back toward that. :3 Good idea/proposal here.
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POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:18 am

I think people should just chill out with the stallions, haha. <_< Introducing a lot more geldings into horse stocks would make sense and also make free ranging easier, since yeah, a bunch of stallions would probably be an issue.
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POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:24 am

I like this info, thanks for bringing this up! I agree about the maintenance aspect of keeping horses stalled -- so many characters quickly obtain a horse because they're popular and stick it in their pack's barn just to have it around, then never bother to take care of it once. Food during the winter was a concern of mine, since I don't know of any pack that harvests hay (or grains for that matter). And I had been wondering about hoof care, whether Luperci needed farriers or not.

My character Hati Catori is a stablehand for Cour des Miracles. :) In CDM at least, they have paddocks and turn their horses loose during the day, then muck the stables while they are grazing and only bring them in once night falls. Those horses ridden daily are usually left in their stalls longer so that they won't overexert themselves. In Casa di Cavalieri, I believe their horses are allowed to wander loose through their walled city during the daytime? Correct me if I'm wrong, I don't have a character there. ;)

In Vinátta we haven't gone into much detail with our horse care since we don't have a lot and they're mostly stallions, but it will probably echo that same sentiment -- contained roaming with fences to separate dominant stallions, mares in estrus, etc. Free roaming without any fence at all, such as with sheep and goats, seems risky to me given the prevalence of natural predators like cougars and bears, or even wolves not accustomed to livestock. With smaller livestock animals it seems easier to keep track of them and protect them -- a herd of 8+ stampeding horses would end up dangerous to the shepherd!
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POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:26 am

First of all, I do want to say how inexperienced I am with horses; my only hands-on experience with them is from riding lessons about a decade ago. I am very aware that every time I play Wayne, the resident "horse guy" of CdC, that I have no idea what I'm doing and so I fear that coming through in the character. I try to do a lot of research if there's something that I'm not sure about, but it seems that I miss some of the most obvious stuff sometimes! So I want really thank you for bringing this up. ^^

I suppose that since CdC built up their nice stables and whatnot that the horses started getting moved and kept there for longer periods of time, but I think that I tend to refer to them as free-roaming a lot unless I'm making reference to one of Wayne's horses in a stall ready to be brought out or something -- and I do know that he rides his a lot and gives them opportunity to graze. I'm going to be a bit more careful about the CdC situation and what I refer to, though; I can see them roaming extensively within the fort walls, and Wayne probably would be glad to bring them out into the main territory as long as he acts as a herder for them; Miyu pointed out natural predators, and while you have the scent markers, I think Wayne would err on the side of caution in that case to try to keep an eye on all of them, which makes it easier to restrict the bands to within the grazing areas and whatnot in the fort?

Stallions are an issue though, imo. <___< I know zip about horses but I at least know how much of a problem those can be, and I'm surprised that gelding a bad-tempered stallion hasn't become a popular plot point. That would be the other reason to restrict CdC's herds just because of the number of stallions there -- which I know is a problem in any pack where someone wants a "cool" horse. Why ride around on a mare or a gelding? I'm at least in the right with this one; most of my characters have mares, except for Shiloh (gelding!) and Lowry (who was young, until I researched at what age to geld stallions and realized he reaaally could have been gelded already, though I'm not sure what to do with him).

But yeah -- thanks for pointing all this stuff out! ^^ I do like this discussion.


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POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:11 am

Yea, all the stallions are an issue. But I kinda negated that point thinking it was one of the realisms we all just turn a blind eye to. The stallions would fight a lot. They would fight through a fence as well. So simply dividing them by a fence wouldn't work. They would even try to fight through a stall wall getting a good sniff of one another. So more distance than just a divider would need to be put between them. Not to mention that anytime anyone is out riding, and come across another luperci with a stallion, the two are going to try and fight. Even with their riders still on them, more than likely! So given that there are sooo many of them and the issues are rarely ever dealt with, I kinda just let it be that. There are exceptions to that rule, and some, but very few stallions are very well mannered and I have taken a lot of liberty with Rem on this. Actually there are a lot of things about Rem that I push the boundaries of realism with. So even I am guilty of that.

I have a gelding that wasn't cut until he was 4, just prior to me purchasing him. Up until that point he was used as a stud. Several years later I had him over at a friends house, as we were all trail riding. They had a stud horse, Studly was his name even. The horses has been around each other all day as we rode. After we were all done riding, the gal that had been riding Chaz (I was riding my young mare), lead him into the barn to get a brush and took him right beside the Studly (who was also getting brushed out) even though Chaz had been cut for several years, they two started fighting like neither of them had ever been cut. Studly broke his lead during all this. Luckily everyone acted fast and got them separated. I had also had Chaz pull out of his halter, while tried to the trailer at a rodeo overnight, because a mare a few trailers over was 'in'. Thankfully, like most men, stomach over rules all, so a rattle of the feed bucket and he came running right back. Basically my point is that even if a horse a cut, if they are left to mature fully intact, they are still going to carry those instincts. It is definitely something that is best done young and most individuals breeding horses would figure this out quickly.

Do note, that stallions are fighting for breeding rights, it is typically a mare that leads the herd! It is generally a mare (in wild herds, more often a gelding in my own personal herds) that choose where the horses graze, when they go to water, ect.

As far as pecking order, there would be a few squabbles when new horses are introduced, but the fights are generally not that brutal in my experience. Its a lot more posturing, although the horses are probably gonna come out with a few bite marks, perhaps a good knot or two from getting kicked in a more sever case, but serious injury would be rare.

As far as outside predators, the smaller livestock are definitely more vulnerable. In the natural world a lot of predators avoid pack areas, as they are often chased out or killed. There is plenty of footage of fox and coyotes being killed for infringing on wolf territory. A healthy horse IS NOT going to be an easy target, let alone a herd of them. So any predator in their right mind is going to look for an easier target. Remeber, most predators are always going to after the young, old or sick. The weakest and most vulnerable, something a healthy, mature horse is not. Check this out! It does state that the cat was shot and dead first, but a horse could still do a lot of damage to a cat if they got a hold of it. A well placed kick could crush a skull or break a shoulder.

I honestly know very little myself about the policies of other packs on how the horses are kept, except CdM and CdC, as Anann was in both. Just what I have seen in individual posts and that is not always up to standard policy anyway.

CdM has a pretty good system, honestly. Even though I think the stalls are a little over used, but that is more often by the individual horse owners rather than the care givers themselves. I know Alli has always made a point of mentioning the horses out paddocks a lot while playing both Heath and Alder (the both are/were the Marshall). Since they are using an old race track facility, it would have A LOT of paddock areas and more stalls than they could ever use, even if half of them were in disrepair. Not to mention the track itself could probably be turned into a large grazing area.

CdC. My idea there was that the horses would graze outside the fort during the day, and be brought in at night. But I ended up having to take a long Hiatus and dropped Anann before I was really able to get that widely established through the member base. I also never got the layouts for the barn and stables finished. My plans were for the stables to only have 3 regular sized stall and a larger stall for foaling or a Mare and Foal pair. I talked to Cait a lot about these ideas, so you were kinda out the loop Raze, as I think Wayne was npc'ed around that time?? So sorry bout that :x Besides I don't really have any say as to what goes on there now.

Actually Raze, you do a pretty good job with your posts, imo. Sure there are few little technicalities here and there. You make up for it with the mannerisms and antics of the horses, at least in the threads I have had with you <3. The only example I can think of (i think it was Lowry) was one of your characters leading a horse by the reins. I think it was mentioned in the post the horse was too young to ride and so I doubt it would have a bridle on, so it probably was more a halter and lead rope. I just took it as an oversight and nothing more. ;)

Most of the players that stick in my mind as being outlandish with their horse posts are people that I am pretty sure are no longer here. Funny enough I know one of them claimed to be a horse person. Which, I honestly can even imagine from her posts, lol.

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POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:19 am

Aw, thanks for the compliment. <3 I do know that I'm doing my best other than the little technicalities you mentioned (deerrpp logic'd on the reins) but yeah, I'm trying. ;__; I do often mention that in Wayne's little "band" of horses Gypsy is very much the dominant mare who leads everyone else around. x3

But yeah -- I was a bit out of the loop with everything just because Wayne as an NPC and I tended to leave the big-picture horse stuff up to Cait when she was playing Dixie-May at the time. @__@ I will take all of this stuff into consideration when I play in the future, though the plans for the barn were made without my input I think. Sending the horses out and bringing them back into the fort sounds good for me; I know when the horses were mentioned as free-roaming a lot of Wayne's job was riding around and watching all of them, haha. x3

This is definitely really good and interesting information, though. <3 Excited to see if other horsefolk have any input.

POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:29 am

I also made a small edit to my first post, adding "Newly acquired horse that has not been acclimated to the herd or pack yet" to the list of when a horse should be stalled.

I was super tired last night when I put that post up and knew I'd leave something out xD Probably some good details still missing too

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POSTED: Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:49 pm

I'd like to add my experiences as far as horses kept in pastures. :D I've been to two places with large herds: one a cattle ranch in New Mexico, and a kids' horse camp where I worked as a stablehand. Each had 40+ horses, so there were several herds of geldings, and one herd of mares. The ranch also had a stud barn where each horse could go inside or outside in its own little pen, except for an arabian who had his own big pen to strut his stuff. I don't know for sure why the mares were kept separate, but I imagine it was because they were really cranky while in heat (some of ours at the camp would actually go after the geldings given the chance), and also because, like Katie mentioned, sometimes geldings still go after them. I giggled at the feed bucket thing, by the way! xD
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