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Laws of Attraction – Part two “The science of the language”

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Laws of Attraction – Part 2

Friends

 

 

Last blog, I told the story of how multiple strange horses sorted themselves out in little spin-off groups when I turned 6 minis out in a large safe field.

Horses are social animals.  Instinct tells them that they need to be in a herd in order to survive.  Humans tend to destroy that need.

 

I feel sorry for horses in boarding stable situations because unless you had a really self-confident horse…how would he handle a less-than-perfect neighbor when they can’t get away? Most boarding stables are an artificial environment.  Barns have solid wall stalls, with maybe a back window if they are lucky and the horses can’t see each other except if they face forward and see the guy across the aisle. And your horse becomes cranky from the solitary confinement.  These barns must feel like a prison

Three horses sharing the same hay pile

sentence.  After all, they are a herd animal.   Some of the newer barns have short runs attached to their in-and-out stalls and that’s a huge improvement to have freedom of movement, no matter how small the turnout is.  But what happens if you have a little pony Arab next to a great big mean-spirited warmblood with a neck that could snake out and bite your horse. If I was the Arab horse, I’d be terrified to step outside my bedroom!  Hopefully the people running the barn take notice of such things and move the offender….

 

I watch for compatibility between horses when I have similar temperaments in my barn. I always try to stable or paddock them side by side FIRST to watch for signs that a bond may form ‘across the fence’ before I would ever try them together in a paddock.  However…sometimes that’s no guarantee. Sometimes they only get along BECAUSE there is a fence between them…and sometimes the opposite is true.

Lyric meeting Ruby over the gate

 

Case in point:  My warmblood has been turned out with many different horses over the years.  Since he was 7 days old he’s been in the company of other horses.   I have found that he gets along best with horses that don’t challenge him. He tends to be the school-yard bully and he will ACT dominant just so they don’t test his authority. Strike first-(make an ugly face) and hope they say “Ok..you can be the boss- end of story” and everything is fine. I have seen him make the ugly face to every newcomer that occupies the stall next to his…even if the horse is a miniature that clearly is NO threat… but he still has to establish his dominance so there is never any question. This can carry on for an hour or up to a couple of days.  (Depends on the other horse’s reaction) 

Can you believe that Lyric (16 hands) could be threatened by 28 inch Big Mac?

Certainly a lot of the posturing happens at meal times if the other horse ‘looks’ at him when he’s eating. It’s kind of odd that my 16 hand 1200 lb horse thinks that a 200 lb mini is a threat.  I see my horse is a giant bunny rabbit.  Lyric is easily threatened and feels vulnerable.  His posturing is for show. When he LOOKS like he is saying “Stay away from me!  I am mean and tough!” he’s really saying “Please don’t question me or hurt me”.  He’s the uncomfortable one, yet he comes off as the total jerk.  I have seen him rush the fence when the only horse next to him was a 28 inch mini (who didn’t EVEN flinch at the 1200 lb monster making ugly snake faces at him!)

Pretty funny, but also a little sad if my horse has concerns and feels that vulnerable. 

 

Big Mac says hello to River

And then there’s the pest…the horse that will the instigator of trouble….the horse that is so confident in the company of other horses, he is in EVERYONE’S face and has a high play drive.  He needs someone that will want to play as hard as he does….

Big Mac and the ugly face of River..."Leave me alone!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put that horse in with a wall-flower and it becomes a high-stress situation when the extrovert is relentless.

  Meet 28 inch Big Mac….The proverbial pest.  Young enough (2 yr old) that the older horses will cut him a little slack for being a pain in the butt. “Play with me!  Play now!”  Always on the go…and when turned out with the established minis of my farm, interesting things happened.  Introvert Breaker could NOT handle the constant badgering of Big Mac and literally pleaded to removed from the same paddock.  He was forced to react and kick out at Big Mac because Mac wouldn’t take NO for an answer.  And when Big Mac was turned out with River, who wanted to have a nap…Mac was poking at him to get him to play.  The word “relentless’ comes to mind.  If the ugly face threats didn’t work, then he resorted to ignoring him completely in hopes that Mac would get bored and walk away.  River is a protector.  If forced…he would have gotten to his feet in resignation. 

Is River amused at being poked at?

 

Oddly enough, in group situations, SOMEONE has to be the boss.  It doesn’t have to be the most confident horse (Lyric) but it’s the one that is either willing or needs to assume the position for other reasons.  Lyric got along best with Hart (a Canadian Horse gelding) Hart was an introvert and didn’t WANT the job….he didn’t want the responsibility so if Lyric needed to be the boss- have at it!  Hart could and would take over if he had to and if Lyric was willing to step up to the plate he was more than willing to be subservient.

 

Hart and Lyric

 

And just to be clear, size has nothing to do with it.  I have had minis turned out with full sized horses.  It’s the personality that counts.

Stallion "Lad" and his BFF "River"

 

 

 

 

The body language is what talks….not the size.

The first meeting Ajax and Bobby

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I know to be true:

 *The first few seconds of meeting can be crucial. 

*The first horse that moves their feet or demures to the pressure to move is subservient  

*The more dominant personalities are usually Extroverted.

*Introverted horses can’t be bothered to fight- If they do, it’s going to be BIG, Explosive (usually with kicking) and over with as quickly as it started.  They won’t do anymore than they HAVE to do to get their point across.

 

Steinway and Flash

*Horses watch for eye contact and subtle moves in body language to read the approaching horse to get a clue whether they wish to make that first meeting.  Unconfident horses will often appear bigger/tougher than they are so they DON’T get challenged (Lyric)

*True harmony is when everyone knows their place and the status quo is rarely questioned.

Three buddies in a confined place in harmony

 

 

 

* I have seen geldings pick on mares (esp. if new to the herd) when she cycles.   Wait until after the heat cycle before putting them together whenever possible.

* Stallions are often really good babysitters of young weanlings.  Foals are cut slack by mature horses, and stallions aren’t threatened by their youth and take on a babysitter personae.  One of my minis “Max” was often pastured with his father for several hours each day to kick-start the weanling process.  Pip was amazing with his son.   

Stallion "Pip" babysitting his son "Max"

 

*Even if you remove a horse for a ride, or a show, there tends to be another meet-n’-greet when the horses get back together again, even if only separated for a few hours. 

 * Horses really want to be together and if given the chance (as illustrated by Part One of this blog, will sort themselves into compatible groups.

 

 

* Make sure places where a horse could get trapped are kept to a minimum for optimum safety….no open doorways to stalls, no tiny paddocks or corners , even thick trees…anywhere a really angry dominant horse could trap another- this is where 90% of the accidents happen when horses can’t get away.  Out in an open space, the Forrest Gump horse will run only far as the dominant horse WANTS to chase him.

* Natural horsemanship teaches you to read this equine language and THIS is what helps us teach our horses.  We learn to mimic the language of the creature we are trying to talk to.  Horses want effective leaders and that doesn’t mean just being the boss….think back to the principle of mutual grooming.  You scratch- I scratch.  So in other words: You promise to do your share to keep your horse safe and comfortable and THEN you  become one of the herd….even if its only you and your horse.  But that is the concept that makes horse-human relationships work. 

I’ve given you the tools.  The rest is up to you.    

Lyric and I. His herd of two

 


1 comment

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  1. I love the pix on this one, and I especially like all the detail you give about each one. It’s like your in each horse’s head…I LOVE IT! I truly hope there is a Part Three to this, Deb. After all, what you know about our equine friends would FILL A BOOK! xx

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