Recently on a FB question asked about herd dynamics, I got to thinking about some of the answers given. While doing stalls a few days ago I got chatting to
Myself , a usual occurrence, I may add. The topic came up of this question and I began to answer it myself, taking in all perspectives and came up with ,
“Hmm? Can you re-naturalize a horse?” In turn I posted that question to the FB community and was asked to give my version of what Re-naturalize meant.
So here it goes as it pertains to mainly the Herd Dynamic thought.
Sable View , has been termed by many a sanctuary! Horses and riders come to me, Sable View , misunderstood, missing puzzle pieces to the ”Fun” part of being with horses and riding, and horses forgetting how to be a horse. Honestly I can not tell you what it is but with out a doubt horses here change regardless of weather they are assigned to work with me or not. There is a great energy here, calm , quiet, and safe. I try as much as possible to keep the horses here as natural as possible , integrate the herds, full turn out 24/7 unless bad bad weather. All this makes a difference right off the bat. The quiet nature of what I do and how I do it permiates and as much as they can with hands off so to speak, they settle. Some horses by request of owners are mutually worked with. By this I mean owner/ horse time is spent with me. This is more for the relationship and safety parts of the puzzle, but still can relate to the herd dynamic as well. Acknowledging, and reading body language with respect.
I have had horses come in very boldened to humans and so clueless to equine signals its mind boggling. All I can do is refer back to the Movie “Buck” . No, my experiences were not as extreme, Thank God, but the basic premise of human error , or lack of herd socialization as a youngster jumps to the fore front as reasons.
Why?? Money, production, the prize, OR maybe a mare dies, or rejected the foal, lots of reason why humans step in but I beleive the error is we raise them as our “Babies” and not as a by nature a wild herd animal. Those instincts are still there . All of a sudden the baby is big and has no manners. Bad news!
I hear all the time, ” I don’t want to hurt him/her”. Or “I don’t want him/ her to not like me”, OMG people, REALLY! Think, in a herd if they don’t get it by the third signal they get a swift double barrel , a snaking charge, and or a chunk taken from them.
Think do we take lip from our kids? I will answer for me, NO! I can tell you , I’m a tough mom, and my kids and I still laugh and kid around together all the time. They still love me! There is a respect that is understood. Boundaries! In herd or house gotta have them!
So, in horse body language and communication, how would the mare correct her foal? You all can think through this and Im sure can see in your imagination at least the answers , as there are many. And , for as many as there are there are degrees of severity too.
When I have a horse come in with an owner who is fearful, It’s usually the “Oh my Baby ” thing. Fixable once owner gains ground in confidence as the alpha of their herd of 2. When it stems to the herd, and not being able to mingle and find a place without endangering others , whether it be dominance or submission or shear confusion, (I have seen it to where it would be banishment in the wild, my alpha knows its not quite right and will not allow it in , entering horse just doesn’t get the idea to keep his place. and ask permission to enter closer, sound familiar!). I begin to think something is missing from its “Natural” development, social skills.
Enter “Re – Naturalizing” as I put it. To try to get a horse to be accepted into herd and be aware of the natural cues after missing the memo is not an easy task. I am very fortunate to have for the most part two herds with inter-changable members. So if full integration is not a doable thing, a herd is still an option with less pressure . 2 herds , 2 different energies. With inter-chageable members I can slowly allow my more dominant members, mare or gelding, to meet and greet, supervised of course. This is a slow process.
For sure over the fence happens first, and one on one time in a private paddock area. I learn a lot from the over the fence time I carefully watch, as to how far I can take the next step and who I can make it with.
In the one on one time I personally am hands off as I see the behaviors are not ”Bullying” but clear and consistent with “Natural selection of a pecking order”.
I will and do make my presence known in the intro process. I feel it is important to let my place in the order of things be very clear. In the end , the buck stops with me. Among themselves , they have their own order, enter human, owner, me , whomever, a shift should be made to give acknowledgement and respect with a feeling of comfort and ease.
In a nut shell this is my interpretation of what i call Re-Naturalizing” a horse. It can be taken deeper in many aspect , but for this post my point was to just give an overview. I look forward to more posts on this topic. Its unfortunate they are needed.