"That leader doesn't care if you follow him, he's just looking out for himself, and the followers can receive some benefit by following."
Actually, I disagree. Mia is very conscientious as a lead mare. After a cold spell, when we get some warm sunlight, it is the geldings who lie down and relax. Mia stands guard. On a trail, she wants to be in the front, exposed to the greatest danger. And if there is something (coyote, javelina?) in the wash near our corral, the 2 geldings run behind her. She'll move close to the wash, on high alert, snorting and doing the floaty trot thing, moving back and forth and seeming to indicate that any trouble will have to get past HER before it can reach the geldings. But if I show up, she'll move back and look at me as if to say, "Every once in a while, the King has to DO something...
Another example is that no other horse can share her food...UNLESS they are all really hungry. Then she allows the other 2 to share her food, but only until I throw in a second flake of hay. And by the time the 3rd flake is in the corral, they'd best get their faces out of HER food. But when all 3 are really
hungry, she shares. And only
then. That tells me she is thinking of their welfare in a way we normally don't expect out of horses.
It goes along with the difference between a lead horse who is a bully and one who is fair. They will obey a bully if they cannot avoid the bully. They WANT the leader who is fair. Fair includes: signal intent first, be as consistent as possible, don't play favorites, and proportionate response.
My idea of natural horsemanship is to try to be to all 3 of them what Mia is to the 2 geldings. The problem is that she is much more aware of her surroundings, is very consistent...and in truth, she may have a better sense of right & wrong sometimes than I do.