Sunday, January 18, 2015

Changing fields

In addition to grazing in motion, which we have discussed previously, our horses sometimes do something which I call changing fields. This means that they move, as a group and relatively quickly, from one place to another that is a significant distance away. In some cases this means actually leaving one field and going to another, which involves considerable effort. typically there is little, if any, grazing done during the move.

The research questions here are things like this;
1. How do they decide, as a group, to make this change?
2. How do they decide where to go?
3. Do they know where they are going when they start out?
4. Why do they go where they go?

In some cases this change involves a food change. For example, they may go from eating pasture grass to eating bushes along a fence, or weeds in a wetland. On the other hand, what amount to field changes often happen within a single field. It would take good data on the location of various food types, as well as the horses' behavior, to explore this food aspect of field changes.

There is no single horse that always leads a field change. However, good data might reveal that some horses lead more often than others. This may be due to the fact that our group appears to have no leader. For example, it appears that every horse in the herd can be pushed off of a hay pile by some other horse. I call this a circular pecking order because horse A can push horse B, while horse B can push horse C, but horse C can push horse A. Thus there is no top horse, one which cannot be pushed. This behavior in itself is worth studying, especially in the context of group decision making.

On the other hand this herd has had top horses in the past. Whether having a top horse in the herd changes who leads field changes is another interesting question.

The basic point is that changing fields is an easily recognizable behavior that raises specific questions about the decision making involved.

No comments:

Post a Comment