The alpha horse, getting it 'wrong'

newforest

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A glad that wasn't me moment.
I decided to just chill with the herd and watch them graze. Looking at my views you get the idea.

I took the three photos, it just happened to be the before, the during and the response.
The 'lead horse' I have put in quotes because he is the one who appears to move the herd out the way of himself. Horses yield to him.

First photo. I watched him walk towards mine who was just standing doing nothing.
Second photo. He was in the process of getting mine to move her front end. He had obviously attempted some non contact body language before he got physical with her. She was beginning to move.
Third photo. She spun and booted him one while standing on one leg!

It just made me think of the times in my nh lessons when I have been told to get the horse to move out of your way. Walk through them, make yourself big, make yourself the alpha. Get them to submit, own the space.
Had I been doing that at that moment I would be in a&e. The horse is fine btw.

I am interested in horse behaviour as are others. But I don't view the horse as always being good at it. :)
 
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Trewsers

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On an island
I love watching them - atm I am spying on mine at every opportunity. It's been fascinating watching Storm moving everyone to where she wants them. Things are getting settled now but there have been moments I've been glad to be on the other side of the fence!
Look forward to seeing the pics btw, in your diary?
 

KP nut

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Well done Tilly! I don;t like 'act like the alpha' approaches for lots of reasons. A very good one being that sometimes a horse won't tolerate it and will boot you! No thanks.

And I agree I think alpha horses are pretty unskilled really. They waste a lot of energy chasing other horses around for no good reason and generally throw their weight around in a way that is pretty unnecessary and doesn't achieve much!
 
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newforest

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To quote something Mark R. said that I liked. He said something about the horse chooses it's leader. There is always one who throws it's weight around. But you want to be the who your horse would choose to be with.
Mine does want to be with me but she also wants to be with the herd. She is a horse after all.

I see us as a partnership. She cannot be told to do something. She is nudged, encouraged to.
Longreining out in an exposed twenty acre field, when I turn for home I need her to stick around!
 
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MrC

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Mine is herd leader, he takes his fair share of kicks but the one kicking him usually ends up on the wrong end of him seconds after and he either whirls and boots or gets a grip with the teeth and chases.

We introduced him and andother mare back into the herd last week. The other gelding in the field had taken over as herd leader, Kia went in, the usual circus ensued Kia played red injun running round the outside of the herd with the lead mare peeing all over the place and the other gelding trying to keep him away.

Kia went for a drink at the trough lead mare approached and picked a fight, he sorted her out and sent he packing in about ten seconds, then the gelding came barrelling in, Kia charged back and went up, other gelding fell backwards over he tree roots and winded himself, Kia went for him whilst he was down. I stepped in at this point as other gelding wasn't up. Took gelding in for a look at him. Brought him back out and he was sumbsissive as soon as he reached the herd and Kia postured, he gave way, Kia moved him away from the herd and kept him there for s few days.

The herd is now back to normal and anything coming into season is Kia's, he's quite adept at hopping on :rolleyes:, watching herd politics can be interesting but being honest all the approaches and rationalising that is done by humans to try and understand bores me as really the interpretation is open to anyone watching interaction.
 

KP nut

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To quote something Mark R. said that I liked. He said something about the horse chooses it's leader. There is always one who throws it's weight around. But you want to be the who your horse would choose to be with.
Mine does want to be with me but she also wants to be with the herd. She is a horse after all.

I see us as a partnership. She cannot be told to do something. She is nudged, encouraged to.
Longreining out in an exposed twenty acre field, when I turn for home I need her to stick around!

Yep he said horses fear, dislike and avoid the alpha horses. On the other hand they choose to be with predictable, dependable, non confrontational horses and usually a stable herd will choose that type of horse as leader and choose to follow her. I don;t think horses ever think we are in their herd but if they like that approach, then that is the approach to try and replicate - not the 'yield to me, get out of my way' alpha approach.
 

carthorse

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I'm not a horse, and given the differences in size & reaction speed I'd have to be mad to try & handle horses as if I was. Read and understand their body language and interactions, yes, but not try to copy them in my dealings with them.

From years of watching them I'd say there are very few real "lead" horses and that's why you get situations described by newforest in her original post - the horse wasn't of sufficient rank that the other one wasn't prepared to tell him to go away. It's the sort of situation Little Un gets in, he wants to be boss & will try to chivvy the others but they get fed up & then there are squabbles. Jim was a genuine boss, he could look at a horse from half a field away and it would decide it would rather be somewhere else, anywhere else in fact! It was rare that he ever resorted to teeth, almost never feet. And yet if there was a perceived threat he'd be at the front dealing with it & any herd he was in tended to be settled & squabble free because everyone knew their place & didn't want to disturb him.
 
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newforest

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The photos are now in the diary. For something her build she can certainly bend herself where necessary.
She keeps herself to herself. Possibly why she was miffed at being told to move.

The point that @MrC said "the interpretation is open to anyone watching interaction" This is true. Anyone else who had stood next to me would have seen what I did differently. Just because I know the herd doesn't mean I know what just happened.
Those looking at the photos might interpret them differently.

At a demo you will see what the person next to you did or didn't see.
I find the subject interesting but I don't want to get so deep into it that I can't swim.
 
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Jessey

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Isn't horse society Matriarchal? so the gelding isn't the alpha, he might be a higher ranking male but won't really be the alpha. I'm not sure Tilly answering back is nec him getting it wrong, perhaps there is a little play for more rank on one side or the other, that's just natural evolution, a dialogue.
A mare is normally the leader, literally, they lead the herd to the best resources. The ranking stallion is the enforcer, they fight for the herd and keep the peace and when the mare leads he will drive the rear of the herd to do as they have been told.
 

carthorse

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I think we mess with herds and so wild herd behaviour is no longer that relevant in many ways. We keep them in confined areas, many herds are single sex & often without youngsters or a stallion, we don't let them drive out members & we add to the herd at our convenience, we take them out to ride & often to stable so they're together less - I could go on but I'm sure you get the idea! And in the wild there are bachelor herds so society can't be purely matriarchal.

As for Jim, we'd long suspected he was riggy and he was mistaken for a stallion numerous times, often by people who were experienced stallion handlers/producers. He probably wasn't a good example to bring up in this thread, though his response to a human getting it wrong was such that no one in their right mind would try to mimic horse behaviour to handle him.
 
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Jessey

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I think we mess with herds and so wild herd behaviour is no longer that relevant in many ways. We keep them in confined areas, many herds are single sex & often without youngsters or a stallion, we don't let them drive out members & we add to the herd at our convenience, we take them out to ride & often to stable so they're together less - I could go on but I'm sure you get the idea! And in the wild there are bachelor herds so society can't be purely matriarchal.
I totally agree, we mess with it too much for it to follow natural parameters but the existence of bachelor groups is because its matriarchal, the young males are driven out. If it were patriarchal it would be the females pushed out to a new herd, like with humans :)
 

carthorse

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Not sure about that one Jessey, my understanding is that it's the stallion who drives them out because he doesn't want competition for his mares.
 

Jessey

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That was my understanding too, but looking at the definition of matriarchal and patriarchal it seems to be about who leaves, its all a bit above my head but intriguing :)
ETA, thinking on that point, the mares want the young males gone too, to prevent in breeding, so they will also drive out the young males eventually, is the stallion doing it in his role as enforcer as well as for his own gain perhaps.
 
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MrC

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Hmmmmm I don't think our ways of keeping horses really allows for the traditional matriarchal situation you are describing Jessey. Watching our herd you can clearly see a lead gelding and a lead mare, Kia acts exactly like a stallion/rig only he's been tested so I know it's just him, chances are he was serving before gelding but I got him at 10 so I have no idea really. The lead mare bosses the other mares about but she leaves Kia well alone, was the same with the other lead mare before she was PTS. However I do agree that we muck about with herds, I hate it getting done as having the boss horse as an owner you are waiting on the whole 'your horse attacked mine' speech every time something changes. It's the one thing I don't like about my yard is that the YM mucks about with the herds to suit her horses.

I don't handle my horses like a horse, I handle my horses like a human wanting good behaviour. Toe over the line it knows all about it one way or another, how far that goes is completely up to the horse, I've yet to own a bolshy rude animal, Stella was the closest to rude I've ever worked with however she knew the score in my presence, I just hadn't gotten round to perfecting how she reacted with people who weren't me before she was sold. She is well loved by her new owners so I must have done something right lol ;)

It's all well and good watching herds and noticing things but we cannot handle a 1/2-3/4 tonne animal like we are that size. The amount of rude Apparently NH trained horses I've come across is shocking for methods that are supposedly based on the equine behaviours. You couldn't give me something NH trained even as a gift they are generally confused creatures from what I have seen.
 

newforest

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I think what wild horses do and what domestic horses do has to be in some way different. The are no geldings in the wild.

The cat can't behave completely like the lion because no one would have one in the house!

We have a mixed herd. The elderly chap was driven out and bullied. He got removed. Youngest 9 oldest 15. Most born here.
But some horses come and go to be worked, some not. That changes the herd dynamics surely for those few hours?

I put that the alpha got it wrong in brackets because it's all about interpretation, wrong can be changed to ......... Insert your own word.
 
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