One of those moments where you wonder how much they know.
   

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One of those moments where you wonder how much they know.

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    08-06-2012, 12:17 PM
  #1
Yearling
One of those moments where you wonder how much they know.

So yesterday I'm riding my mare in the round pen while driving my other 4 horses loose as a team-building exercise. Just getting them to move together as a group while being driven forward and do it with some class so that someday we'd all be able to ride together without any herd politics coming into it. I do have one mare and gelding who love to hate each other so much that they'll actually seek one another out just to continue their long-running argument. I've even seen them mutually grooming with angry expressions on their faces which really made me scratch my head. My attitude is that they can hate all they want on their time but that during work hours I need a little more cooperation. So, every time one would go to chase the other or make serpent-faces and act disagreeable we (Ginger and I) would jump right in the middle of it and interrupt. Just acting as mediators and backing off as soon as peace returned. It worked out pretty well and by the end of the session everyone was moving together and respecting each other while getting the job done.

Afterward, I had unsaddled Ginger and turned her loose in the corral with the others while I put away my gear and got ready to throw out feed. As I sat there changing my boots I witnessed something that is now really causing me to think about how deep a horse's capacity for learning really goes. As I watched, I could see that those same two were posturing at each other and thinking about getting into another tiff. I could see that Reba (the mare) was about two seconds away from walking over there and doing some assbiting, and I was wondering whether I should just remove her from the situation entirely since I was no longer in there to mediate. Then Ginger, on her own accord, mediated for me. She moved between them and gently pushed Reba away, lifting a hind foot in warning as she passed through the crossfire but didn't actually kick. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it looked deliberate. She appeared to know exactly what she was doing and why, and it worked. I could see the moment where both horses' minds changed about fighting and they settled down. Without acting aggressive herself she defused their aggression and peace returned without a single shot fired.

Almost like she knows what her job is.
     
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    08-06-2012, 01:03 PM
  #2
Super Moderator
What a nice thing of Ginger to do!

Just observing a herd gives the opportunity to witness lots of such reasoning. For example, in our herd there is a couple of geldings we have nicknamed "The Twins". They are not actually related, but act as very close friends and go everywhere together. One of the geldings is quite old and has developed narcolepsy over the years. But he doesn't have to worry about dozing off and falling over, because his buddy is always awake when the old man is napping, and, if he looks like falling over, his friend nuzzles him gently and helps to wake up. And it started after the old man fell over at one occasion and scratched his hind legs badly. Since then, his buddy is always taking care for him.
     
    08-06-2012, 01:06 PM
  #3
Green Broke
I love stories like these. ***sigh**
It really is important that horses get a chance to socialize with each other. I think we ALL have stories like this, but I won't steal either of your "thunder(s)".
     
    08-06-2012, 01:12 PM
  #4
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corporal    
I love stories like these. ***sigh**
It really is important that horses get a chance to socialize with each other. I think we ALL have stories like this, but I won't steal either of your "thunder(s)".
Not at all. Feel free to contribute if you've got a good one!
     
    08-06-2012, 01:13 PM
  #5
Super Moderator
Yes, it would be really interesting and also educational if everyone posted some stories like this. Our horses are much smarter than people sometimes think, it would be lovely to share the awareness! :)
     
    08-06-2012, 01:20 PM
  #6
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saranda    
What a nice thing of Ginger to do!

Just observing a herd gives the opportunity to witness lots of such reasoning. For example, in our herd there is a couple of geldings we have nicknamed "The Twins". They are not actually related, but act as very close friends and go everywhere together. One of the geldings is quite old and has developed narcolepsy over the years. But he doesn't have to worry about dozing off and falling over, because his buddy is always awake when the old man is napping, and, if he looks like falling over, his friend nuzzles him gently and helps to wake up. And it started after the old man fell over at one occasion and scratched his hind legs badly. Since then, his buddy is always taking care for him.
That's a good one too. I actually knew of another instance of this between an elderly thoroughbred who was apt to fall and his companion donkey who would help him stay on his feet when he dozed off.
     
    08-06-2012, 01:28 PM
  #7
Green Broke
Ok. I've owned very few mares, and only 2 that I really liked, including my 14yo mare, "Warren's Cindy" (KMHSA.) She loves on you when she goes into heat and is very disappointed that my 2 geldings won't give her baby #5--the previous owner bred her 4 times.
Anyway, I train my horses to think for themselves. My KMH gelding knows how to push my 8 ft. Gates open, and we ride him out of my small training area by asking him to open the gate, so we don't have to dismount. My 6yo QH has had some fear of opening a gate, so I've worked him in the arena, closed but NOT secured the gate and figured that he would figure out how to open it by himself. Recently, I left him in there, and he called to the others, ran the fence and fretted. My mare walked calmly over to the gate and showed him how to open it from the other side and stayed there until he was out. Even though she is 3/3 in the herd pecking order, both geldings depend upon her for confidence.
Ian McDonald likes this.
     
    08-06-2012, 03:39 PM
  #8
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corporal    
Even though she is 3/3 in the herd pecking order, both geldings depend upon her for confidence.
I've noticed this same thing at work in one of my mares. She's the lowest in the dominance hierarchy but in certain ways wields the most influence in the cavvy. If I want to bring them all down off the hill I can just catch her and they'll all follow right away. Any of the others they might still follow but they'll take their time about it. I think that Mark Rashid talked about it in one of his books, describing the difference between the most dominant horse and the most trusted horse in a herd.
Corporal likes this.
     
    08-06-2012, 04:34 PM
  #9
Super Moderator
I had a mare who was a passive leader. Always last to the feeds when in the field, she would look after any underdog and would have all foals hanging around her if turned out with the brood mares.
If you watched and knew a bit about herd dynamics you would say that she was omega - last of the herd. However, whilst she stood at a feed bowl always allowing the foals and/or a bullied youngster to eat, nothing dared to ever go near her.

I owned this mare for over 20 years and never saw her kick or bite another horse - she only had to look and whatever bowed to her wishes!
I do not know what had happened but one day when I went out to feed them, they all came charging down, settling to a feed bin in their pecking order, the old mare standing until all had settled and content to go to the last feeder except on this occasion when she walked determinedly to the bossiest mare and drove her away from the feed bin and would not let her settle to eat at all. No nastiness just a pure look was enough to keep the bossy mare moving.

The most unusual thing this mare did was in the loose shed. A 2 year old TB filly was messing around and somehow slipped and ended upside down in the hay manger - three railway sleepers high set into RSJs running the length of the barn.
Of course she had to go down with an RSJ level with her belly. The filly was naturally struggling. I was on my own and to get her out I had to lift the sleepers out of the slots. The top two were easy as I could do them from one end but the others needed to be lifted straight and sleepers are heavy! It was a dangerous situation as feet were flailing. I thought I would have to hog tie the filly but the mare walked over and stood by her head looking down at the frightened filly. Immediately she stopped thrashing and laid perfectly still. I was able to get the sleepers clear safely and only when they were did the old mare give a different look as if to say "OK, you can get up now."
The filly pushed off the wall, scrambled to her feet and walked away with barely a mark on her.
I swear that mare knew exactly what was going on and she knew that I needed help as did the filly.

They never cease to astound me.
     
    08-06-2012, 04:38 PM
  #10
Green Broke
These GREAT mares are worth their weight in gold.
     

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