And so it begins, naturally!

Meet and greet

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.






2 thoughts on “Re-naturalizing….

  1. I was dissapointed to see Pat Parelli endorse “imprint training” in his article on horses pulling back. I feel that imprinting is a huge de-naturalizer and can create a lot of confusion for a horse.
    I think we can strive to be as “natural” as possible, but we never reproduce a natural situation when horses are confined, have distributed food resourses and lack choice. It is good to think about, though. Always thinking what might be best for the horse, but work for us humans, too.
    Thinking about the complexity of social interactions whether it be human or horse. Then to put the two together. It is amazing that we are able to get along.
    I agree that some of the most difficult horses can be the ones raised as “baby” with no limits and little explanation/teaching of correct behavior. Unfortunatley, they frequently get blamed for bad behavior, until someone like you can step in and teach instead of punish.

    1. Marcy, Thanks for a very insightful reply. Generally speaking not to take a side but my opinion on “Imprinting” . If its done with ” This is my baby” in mind, it has a better chance of being a disaster. I believe its the ones who are excelerated for performance purposes or because of bad “Natural” luck and necessity throws the young one into human hands to be brought up , that suffer most. “Imprinting” as I have done it with a
      “Boundaries with love” to acclimate to the ” Human realm of natural” seems to be, so far so good. Most important as far as I can see is to let the young ones be with Mom learn from her and as integrated to herd learn from the bigger picture. Often times as I bring a horse in who is not so socially deficient in , I let my herd do the work for me and then I step in and look like the good guy! Wonderful how it works. Still always remembering to keep my dynamics, and requirements the same as the herd if not higher at times, not any less, or begins the downward spiral to potential dominance, and or lack of respect , of the human or humans.

      I have horses here that are not handled enough, and my impression is have never been, minds left to get bored. Anyway, they are here for a temporary respite due to Hurricane Irene. Not under my charge to work with but to house till spring for a fresh start. There is no regard to human presence . Idol minds is worse in many cases than idol feet . Not pleasant to be around, and often unsafe. Sad and maddening at the same time.

      I guess unless we have a ranch with hundreds or thousand of acres , ( Don’t I wish), to really let things grow up “Naturally” before we step in to integrate them to our world, then as humans we need to take our place and take it with a huge sense of responsibility to not screw up.
      If we are to raise horses to become a part of our world we should raise them to be respectful members of both societies. No small task, but if we let nature take its course and allow the Mare, and the herd, play its part, as they are the best teachers!
      My opinion is the out come is more positive for all.

      My experience is, more often than not, it’s not the horse who needs the fixing, it’s the humans who needs it, and the horse will follow along happily once communication is clear and straight forward.

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