Friday, August 26, 2011

Take the Time To Observe: Part One

Not everyone has this luxury, but if you find yourself in a situation to do so, I highly recommend this:

Observe horses in a herd situation.

Trust me when I say a horse's worst nightmare can be someone in their own herd. Throw 30 horses together in a pasture or corral you will observe them treat each other in ways that will want you to call the Humane Society. On the horses.

It is the most thought-provoking and insightful experience regarding horse behavior. Just sit and watch them. Who hangs out with who? Who is territorial? Who is cranky and kicks and reaches out to bite everyone? Who strays from everyone and finds a quiet corner on their own? Who seems to be loved by everyone? Who is buddying up or "cheating" on their former favorite buddy? Horses are quite selective in who they chose to have in their space and interact with. Which I find fascinating~ we choose them. Yet in their own species, they choose who to get along win their herd. Interesting.

More interesting is how they establish dominance. I never understood which horses became "boss" over others. It is not always the biggest horse, let me tell you. This little pony ruled the roost and chased a lot of the bigger ones around (neither of these horses are at the ranch anymore.)

One of the most amazing things I have witnessed in the herd is how one of the geldings has taken on a partnership and protectiveness of the Appy gelding with a blind eye. These two arrived at the ranch within days of each other and buddied up before being turned out with the rest of the herd. But what I found most profound is how for months the gelding would stay near and guide the Appy around the pasture or pens, and also fend off anyone who came near him with a vicious lunge and squealing.

In movie Buck, there was a story about a 3 year old orphan stud colt that was quite dangerous and vicious. (If you have not seen BUCK yet, I highly recommend it!) This horse's dam died during birth and the colt was oxygen-deprived and raised by hand (and in it's owner's home) then allowed to run with a herd of other stud colts. I won't give anything from the movie away but I will say that not having a dam to teach him respectful manners, nor a human to do so, created quite a monster.

To be continued......

Ranch Girl


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Great post and I agree. I get to see herd dynamics through the horse rescue I volunteer for and I'm always fascinated, just like you.


fernvalley01 said...

herd dynamics are very interesting and telling if you take the time to listen and watch. Also if you can learn from them it can be a very helpful tool in handling your horses and keeping "your place " in the hierarchy(should be the top spot BTW)

Reddunappy said...

My mares all respect me as alpha. They are so funny to watch them interact with each other!

I seen Buck!! Very good, I agree!

Sares said...

I'm sure they all have their different personalities. It's probably fun to watch them. BTW~WHAT are you doing there wearing my necklace!

Crystal said...

I love watching the herd interact, some are so obvious of thier position, but others just quietly let the other horses know they are the top horse.

I would like to see Buck too, glad you never gave it away.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Yea, basically what fernvalley said.

I can tell a lot about a horse before I ever start working with them by watching them in a herd situation. It's not a cut and dried science, but knowing who is 'the boss', who's crabby, who's timid and who just tries to get along usually shows up during training.

baystatebrumby said...

Yes, yes yes! i saw the movie and thought even if the horse had not been deprived of oxygen, he so needed a horse nanny to show him how to be a horse! He never learned all those nuanaces, never learned those important herd dynamics, how to be a good little doobie in the herd. I felt so bad for that colt. I wish i could see my own mare in her hed more. She so sweet and mellow to me, but Bill keeps telling me what a bitchy mare she is in the pasture, and everytime some other horse turns up with a big ole bite mark on her, everyone says that it must have been Lilly! SO HARD TO BELIEVE based only on the human snuggle factor!!!!!!!!