Job promotion to herd leader
Hi my young seven year old gelding has now taken up position as herd leader due to the departure of the dominant male a week ago. He is the only guy with a bunch of girls.
He is taking his new position very serious and so is being a real pain in the butt (being disrespectful and not wanting to do what he is told straight away.)
I have been doing groundwork with him, circles, backing up all the basic games. he is fine after the groundwork but next day he is back to I'm number one again.
Has any one got any advice or been through this one I would be really grateful.
When I first read the post, I was assuming that you were the one promoted to herd leader! This, I think, is what we need to work on.
First, we will describe the herd leader. Many people see horses assuming the lead rold as the strongest horse on a power trip. However, it is quite the opposite. A horse does not want to be herd leader, it is actually a very stressful position, but a horse will assume that role if there is not anyone more adept to leading and protecting the herd. An unstable herd leader will affect the energy and function of the whole herd. A good herd leader is not an aggressive horse, however, they are assertive, calm, adaptable, and alert. They do demand proper manners in the herd and will use force to sustain that.
Now, we will move on to your position in the herd. I see many people think that working the horse consists of acutally doing ground work or riding. When you are working with herd dynamics, your work begins when you enter the pasture. You become the herd leader.
Here is an example. A friend of mine had two horses, a mare and her daughter. The mare is a real pushover, as is my friend, the filly took the lead horse role. Very dangerous as the filly did not have the experience to be the lead horse (she is 3). She was never taught proper manners by her mother or my friend and was basically just a loose cannon, similar to how people have to move up to management, this filly just took the position with no prior experience. She became very invasive of space, nervous, anxious, pushy, and even trampled my friend several times. I could see it was becoming an issue, so I offered to let her come to my barn and sent one of my old lesson horses to be a companion for my friends mare. When the filly was introduced to my herd, the other horses could have cared less. However, when the filly was rude, pushy, and anxious, my herd came alive and taught her manners. Could I have done it? Sure, but I took the easy way out and let my herd do it for me. My friend was busy for a few weeks, and then came to see the filly. She couldn't believe it. The filly was quiet, polite, stood for grooming and rinsing, her hair had all grown back in her bald spots, her coat was nicer, she was affectionate and willing, all of the things that a horse should be. I had done minimal work with her. However, just by understanding boundaries and having the weight taken off her shoulders of being the one in charge, she became a happy filly. Her confidence improved and her buddy sour issues went away on their own, just by being in the right frame of mind.
I have a solid herd and an incredible lead horse (who is of course under me in the pecking order). Your horse has assumed the lead horse position without the necessary leadership skills, similar to the filly. You can easily become that lead horse, but it doesn't just mean doing groundwork. Just become one of the herd. The herd does not accept poor behavior. Everytime that you interact with that horse, you are training him in some way. Its not just when you take him aside to do groundwork, its all the time. Every time you lead him, feed him, stand in the pasture with him, you are either above him or below him in the pecking order. His behavior will improve as he finds stability in your leadership.
As mentioned with my friend being run over, this can escalate into a dangerous situation. So now, you take that job promotion to herd leader.
I agree with a lot of what FlitterBug said. The energy you emit and the feeling you have speaks a lot. A good leader is someone who is cool, calm and collected mentally and emotionally. They have a plan and an ultimate goal in mind, however the leader is also flexible and willing to change their plan to suit the horse's needs.
The thing I don't agree with is that horses don't want to be alpha. Some don't, but some do indeed want to be alpha. Our mustang is an excellent example of that. My personal horse, on the other hand, just wants to eat and be friends with every one, he has no interest in being herd leader. Too much work lol. Some horses just have that drive in them to be alpha, and a lot of times these horses can be challening to work with because that drive to be herd leader also translates into interracting with people. Dominance games happen every day in a herd.....horse-horse herd and horse-human herd.
What's worked for me to get a horse more respectful is the Parelli 7 Games. So that's what I would suggest.
I agree with much of what both Flitterbug and Spirithorse have said and will add that even though a horses is in the leadership position,It does not mean that he is a good leader.
His promotion may be something that would not ever happen in the wild.
Some leaders can be bad leaders just as in the life of humans and the style of leadership will vary from soft to hard.
In my opinion the best leaders (both human and horse) are quiet,have a plan,are patient,regroup quickly when plan A falls apart,and do anything to protect their herd.
Bullies are not leaders because they are scared or overwhelmed.
It takes time to develop a leader and some just don't have it.
Thank you for your comments. I think he likes to be the alpha horse within the group and i give him credit he is a great leader. He is forceful and very confident, he does not bite, kick the other members and is kind and caring to the yearling who he lets on this terms share his food. He just kind of struts around being number one. I have been trying the old parrelli type games and they are working. When I go into the pasture I can tell his frame of mind has changed since the old alpha horse went, hence the games.
I'm gonna continue with the games and a bit of round penning and cut down the grain.
Our games go well, I can back him up for ever just with my body language , he chews and submits and he does not run over me or invades my personal space.
Maybe he need to be worked, we are just comimg into spring. We went on a horsemanship course, he was shown as a horse who was very forward and athletic, he aint a wall flower.
The kind of thing that have changed is a week ago he was folowing me out of the pasture no head collar, since old alpha horse went I need to put on a head collar and lead him.
Sounds like you are on the right track with the games. I will say make sure you don't over do the games, that will just make them the 7 jobs and eventually the 7 tortures. Make sure that once he gets the concept, move on to something else or start to advance the skills.
LOL you made me laugh Spirithorse 7 tortures indeed, I'm sure there is a lot of horses that would agree with that. I did not do any work with him today, apart from making him wait a few meters away till I was ready for him to move to have his feed. He was good and stayed away till I moved. He seemed to be chilling out abit today, not struting around. Maybe things are settling down with the departure of the other guy.
I have not done any advanced skills, has any one got a link that is any good so I can check these out.
You can go on YouTube and check out Level 2 online skills. Like sideways WITHOUT a fence, change of direction and transitions on the circle, that kind of thing.
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