Can you have a safe leadership role with a horse without dominance ? - Page 3

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Can you have a safe leadership role with a horse without dominance ?

This is a discussion on Can you have a safe leadership role with a horse without dominance ? within the Natural Horsemanship forums, part of the Training Horses category

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    04-09-2013, 03:06 AM
Have you ever seen a weanling act as a lead mare? I met one. She certainly could not bite/kick or otherwise physically dominate another horse. She was a PMU foal from Canada. Their very dominate gelding took one look at her and tried to kill her. They ended up sending him home with me.

With him gone, she took his place. Rather funny to see a weanling run a herd, but she did. She was utterly confident. The other PMU foal she was with was one of the weakest and she protected him. As soon as she went out with the other horses, she just took over. She did not need to physically take over the herd. She did so just by personality, and confidence. I can only imagine that her mother must have been alpha in a large herd.

I had to give one of their geldings medication once, and he was being really bad about it. She walked over and physically blocked me from getting near him. Amazing considering she was hardly handled by people previously (if at all).

Horses are very happy to follow a confident/fearless leader. I think horses that have to constantly physically reinforce their position in the herd, are not confident of their ability to hold that position. I know I remember something about a study on wild horses where the lead mare rarely needed to use force, whereas lower ranking horses did.
Corporal likes this.
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    04-09-2013, 12:24 PM
Originally Posted by smrobs    
I think the biggest problem with the confusion regarding dominance when handling horses is that too many people confuse "dominance" with "domination". IMHO, those are 2 different things when it comes to handling horses. Yes, they may have the same root definition according to the dictionary, but in action, they are not the same.

I can show dominance over a horse with a firm word or a dirty look. Dominance just means that you are the alpha over them. Depending on the individual horse, you can achieve that with steady leadership and a kind word...or you may be required to punish or physically dominate them to maintain the level of respect needed.

IMHO, to actually dominate a horse means that you use a level of force beyond that which is really needed to "break" the horse instead of "teaching" the horse.
In my mind, I don't or haven't, differentiated the 2 words that much. When I say I dominate Honey every chance I get, I mean I show dominance, not that I'm trying to dominate or break her will. For me, that kind of domination would take all the fun out of figuring her out and it would change her personality and I LOVE her kind of gruff/grumpy/boss mare/testing/exploring options kind of thinking. That indicates a very intelligent horse, to me.

If she's invades my space I send her out. No anger, no meanness, just, "Nope, you can't come in here, out you go" and move on. If she ups the ante by giving me the 'mare look' and/or crowding more then I get a little stronger but if she backs away and licks and chews, then we're good and it's over.

When her foal was first born, she snaked her neck at me and then went a few feet away and hiked her heels at me. I sent her around the yard until she put her eyes on me and 'asked' to come in and kept her look pleasant. Like I said before, I don't beat on her or nit pick her, I just make sure she understands where the lines are and what happens when she crosses them.

I've gotten the feeling that she wasn't handled/loved on much, just groomed, exercised, shown, bred and back to her stall; not much human interaction. She's a big mare, and has a very strong personality and I think she got away with bluffing her previous owner (s) because her "mare ears", "blue eyed death stare" is more of a habit than actual threat. You come toward her, she puts those ears back and looks unpleasant, but walk up and give her a pat or scritch and she tolerates it and doesn't act out. We're working on changing that habit by having a handful of grain every few times we approach her, she can't have the grain unless she gives us 'pretty ears' and looks right at us with a pleasant expression. She's starting to anticipate the reward by looking at us with a nice expression a little more often than she makes the mean look. She's started to nicker a little when she sees me and she'll now approach and stop and wait for an invitation, sometimes but not all the time yet, so she's getting it.

Right now she's one of those all business horses but she's learning to like people and to look forward to what we might do with her or bring her. Her colt is very friendly and enjoys his scritches and will come up to see what you're doing just because he likes people. We're hoping she'll come around to that point of view more as she lives here longer.
    04-11-2013, 03:45 AM
Interesting discussion. I think the term dominance, when it comes to horses, has to be put into context to have any meaning. But to me unless a "leader" has something to say and can clearly communicate it, dominance is probably the wrong word - "feared" might be more applicable. Sure, a horse might "fear" some sort of reprimand if they misbehave, but what keeps their attention and going forward w their lesson or activity for the day, hopefully, isn't fear - it is clear, safe and purposeful direction - and the understanding that any "reprimand" will be fair when and if it is called for. Of course, there are those that are a bit more "willfull" and will test your leadership skills and may require a bit more "contact", but same, same...if the human doesn't win the contest while maintianing some reasonable level of self-control, they either lost or are feared. I have been one of those humans that lost w certain horses. They required and deserved a more courageous and talented leader - but not fear.
    04-11-2013, 04:00 PM
An excellent book --and entertaining too-- dealing with this: Horses Never Lie by Mark Rashid.
thesilverspear likes this.
    04-13-2013, 10:01 AM
Originally Posted by Beling    
An excellent book --and entertaining too-- dealing with this: Horses Never Lie by Mark Rashid.
okay I have found the book on Ebay. Im glad its not 60 $ . Hopefully things that I see, and are involved in around horses will come together, hopefully I will gather more of an understanding of the horse, I need to understand what the horse seeks and needs in more depth I hope this will tell me that.
    04-13-2013, 10:03 AM
But I also think that through my own experience and emotional development I will find the answers or should I put it "understandings", it will take time... years decades.
Beling likes this.
    04-16-2013, 10:12 PM
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I have not read other responses; I will just give you my opinion.

I want horses to think of me as dominant and a good, trustworthy leader to obey. I want them to accept any and all decisions I make. I do not ask or want their opinion. I do not want any horses making the decisions only I should make. I want my decision accepted without an argument and without me having to use force.

On the other hand, I am not a bully and I try to be 100% consistent and 100% fair, BUT, I AM THE CAPTAIN OF THIS SHIP. I put up with NO insubordination. No good leader lets the inmates or the workers run the institution or business.

I think of it like a good boss that runs a tight ship and a very successful company. A good boss is not a tyrant or a bully -- BUT HE IS THE BOSS. If he treats his subordinates fairly and compensates them well, they will work their hearts out for him. These are the bosses that have the same workers stay with them to retirement. A good horse boss is just the same. The horses do not fear them and do not resent them and are perfectly happy to do everything asked of them the first time they are asked. They always know exactly where they stand and they know they will be compensated with a complete release of pressure when they do the right thing. They will literally jump through hoops and never resent it for one minute. They will absolutely trust their handler / rider even when that person asks something of them that they have never done before.

The one thing no horse can tolerate is inconsistency. The rules have to be the same every single day and every single time a response is needed. Everything must be the same.
smrobs likes this.
    04-18-2013, 03:53 PM
In contrast to Cherie: (This is not to criticize you at all! I've read many of your comments, and I have HUGE respect for you. But I'm not a professional, and I want/do different things with my horses.)

That said: I do not want my horse to obey everything I ask/demand! I want them to know they can refuse, or adjust their answers, and in fact, make some decisions on their own, because I KNOW I make mistakes.

Example: the footing where I ride is pretty bad, and my horse is very sure-footed. I no longer worry so much about asking too much when the footing is bad, because my horse knows she can adjust things to keep safe. She'll take shorter steps than I want, say, or not canter on that spot, or avoid certain slick spots, etc. When we're in an arena, she's perfectly straight, and will throw herself into extensions if I ask; so I know what I've been allowing hasn't been BAD. I think it's actually helped her to trust me.

Now for disagreements: there aren't too many, because I try hard to set up for success. But she does balk at times, and yes, there are times when I have to be The Boss; usually when not riding. I also use pressure, something I can maintain "forever" if need be. I think it's more fatigue on her part---she gets tired of resisting---than true Obedience.

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