Alpha Mare Behavior? Starting with the wrong assumptions? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 10-08-2020, 02:26 PM Thread Starter
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Alpha Mare Behavior? Starting with the wrong assumptions?

I have three sources to read and watch respectively.

I would like to offer this reflection:

(1) The concept of the behavior of the mare being defined as 'alpha mare' might not be accurate. Studies and anecdotal observations have shown that this kind of behavior is more related to - as with humans - a state of 'psychological pain', unresolved 'trauma', meaning, she's simply not working well with the other horses, it's not that she's the leader. Horses follow confident and fair horses, not one's acting aggressively out of fear.

Read more here:
STUDY: BUSTING THE "LEAD MARE' MYTH https://equusmagazine.com/horse-worl...are-myth-25407
ANECDOTAL OBSERVATIONS & REFLECTIONS: https://horsesenseandcents.com/alpha...u-define-them/

(2) I had a big eye-opener when I found James French and this 'trust-technique'. You don't have to accept everything of his theoretical framework, but I think all of us have exeperienced the shift that happens when we patiently earn the trust of a horse, and two minds connect as one. I think that's what subconsciously brought me to become bosses with horses, once as a 7-year-old girl.

TRUST TECHNIQUE:

Different link:

Just watch this video, and yes, you do have to watch it to the end, and then, your curiosity might have been triggered enough to look deeper. Perhaps this mare simply needs some 'healing' to quiet her amygdala reacting out of fear, to be able to connect and become part of the herd in a better way? Sort of like 'collaboration issues' for a human? As Patrick Lencioni and many many others have shown, all collaboration starts with trust, and it seems like this horse is just not there.

(Of course, if someone challenged her, she'd signal to back-off, from a stance of confidence, this just seems over the top, not from a confident alpha mare. I think we're misreading the behavior.)
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post #2 of 20 Old 10-16-2020, 03:43 PM
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Well, I had a very interesting day yesterday.


I watched the above video and I am not going to lie, was very moved by it. Yesterday was a nice day and I had decided that I was going out to do something with Apple after I wasted some time on the horse forum. After watching the video I decided that, yes I was going out to spend time with Apple but rather than my usual, the idea to exert some kind of training or have some kind of goal that I wished to get to, I decided to just spend the time of day with her. Just to be with her as two companions relaxing in each others company.


As per normal she was very happy to see me. She is inclined to be very in my face, she likes to be so near as to be practically on top of me. Normally I start pushing her back - hey get off me, get out of my space! So in effect I get in HER face and literally end up on top of her. Instead, yesterday I just kept quietly moving out of her way until she stopped coming into me and I then sat down. This set off another bout of in my face inquisitiveness which I ignored but kept myself out of the way of large hooves. Eventually Apple became fixated with my gumboot which I took off and let her have. She played with my gumboot for a while, mouthing and pawing it and then came back and got the other one. She established very quickly that the second gumboot was not going to be more fun than the first one.


She then came and lay down beside me. This has never happened to me before. We stretched out on the ground together and she had a sleep. We lay that way for about an hour and then she decided that she was hungry got up and wandered off to graze some more.



I have to admit it was an incredible day, just to take the time to be with my horse as mutual companions. Not leader and subordinate or me being in charge with any kind of pressure at all. While I was lying down watching her sleep I had an epiphany. When we next go out into the world together she is not going to be wanting to get away from me. If she begins to get stressed or upset by unfamiliar settings and things, I understand that I can hold a safe space for her with me. She trusts me explicitly, she feels safe with me, safe enough to lie down and go to sleep. By taking away all expectations and demands of her she becomes calm and still.


Now I am pondering how to translate this to working together, how to keep that calm trusting space while still having expectations of action and performance. I guess I will just have to do the best I can.


Thank you for uploading that video. I truly appreciate it.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.D Adams

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post #3 of 20 Old 10-16-2020, 06:07 PM
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Oh I wish I had the time I used to, in a 'past life'(when I thought I had little spare time) to spend all that time just being with & observing horses.

But been spending some time with the newbies tho... Mare is friendly but foal is not, so I have been going out to spend time when I can. Usually it's only 15 min stints, sitting on a bucket, waiting for foal to come check me out. Got them Tuesday and yesterday the foal finally allowed me to touch her neck... & Learned that human fingers were very good for scratching/massaging! I anticipate this will now really start the ball rolling.

And likewise with the young scaredy we got on Sunday. While she is Darcy's project, so I want to 'interfere' minimally, we also need her well enough handled to pass on asap and I want to make some headway on her bad hoof asap. So been spending 10-15 with her whenever I can too. As she is still so scared, now she's in a paddock & can just leave, I've spent most of the time just following her, staying a few metres away but matching step for step, stopping when she stops. Not approaching her until she looks at me - and using food to reinforce that for now. Yesterday seemed to be the breakthrough for her too, to change it around and she didn't move away from me, but rather when she stayed close, I walked away and she followed. I'd stop & shed come right up. She also accepted me reaching out to touch her neck or cheek without flinching and learned yesterday that human fingers can give a really nice massage - actually ended the session with her following me and presenting her neck for me to scratch - yay! And food hasn't been a strong reinforcer because she was so scared, but I thinkthis will be a strong one!
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post #4 of 20 Old 10-16-2020, 08:20 PM
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Last time I lay down to take a nap in the pasture my horse came over and grazed all the way around my outline. It kind of tickled.
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post #5 of 20 Old 10-16-2020, 09:42 PM
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" and she didn't move away from me, but rather when she stayed close, I walked away and she followed."

Isn't that known as Join Up?
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post #6 of 20 Old 10-16-2020, 09:53 PM
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Isn't the original post ( I did not watch the video) about dominant aggessive mares actually being damaged in some way psychologically? I had a dominant mare for over 35 years. Mostly she lived alone aand was stoic about needing other horses. Once I got other horses I saw that she had in fact needed other horses company and that she was the dominant mare, even when living in a pasture with a stallion. No way was she damaged, it was her natural behavior. I remember bringing her to a stable where we could ride on the Point Reyes Natl. Seashore, the state park adjoining and all the public land between. A total of 28,000 acres. I had a 3 year old greenbroke saddlebred filly with her. The barn had 20 gelding stalls and 20 mare stalls. The 20 mares were let out in a paddock every day and she, at the age of late 20s, Tamar soon became the dominant mare. The way the old mare did this is she would make a mare face at another mare, and the filly would come shooting out backwards giving both barrels (kicking with both hind feet). No way was this mare damaged psychologically in some way.
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post #7 of 20 Old 10-16-2020, 10:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AragoASB View Post
" and she didn't move away from me, but rather when she stayed close, I walked away and she followed."

Isn't that known as Join Up?
My kind of 'join up'. I don't like the 'standard garden variety' of chasing a horse around in a round pen that they can't escape from, until they 'submit'.
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post #8 of 20 Old 10-16-2020, 10:14 PM
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No I am talking about real joinup. I spent a lot of time lying around her pasture and riding long day and night rides in 35 years of my life and hers. Even over mountains in storms at night. She was a dominant mare and her dam was also a dominant mare on the circle 7 ranch in the Rockies of Colorado.
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post #9 of 20 Old 10-16-2020, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by loosie View Post
Oh I wish I had the time I used to, in a 'past life'(when I thought I had little spare time) to spend all that time just being with & observing horses.

Ihe truth is loosie, I spent no more time with her than I would if I was going to saddle her up, groom her, either take her for a walk or get on her back for a short ride. The only difference was that I decided to have no expectations of her, I wanted nothing from her other than to be able to relax together.


The next time I have the time to dedicate to her I will be getting her in and putting some expectations on her - hopefully go for a short ride. I think she will enjoy that together time too.
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post #10 of 20 Old 10-16-2020, 10:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AragoASB View Post
Isn't the original post ( I did not watch the video) about dominant aggessive mares actually being damaged in some way psychologically? I had a dominant mare for over 35 years. Mostly she lived alone aand was stoic about needing other horses. Once I got other horses I saw that she had in fact needed other horses company
I too haven't watched the vids yet -data probs but do plan to watch - so I might have the wrong end of the stick on both levels, but I got the idea it wasn't necessarily about 'damaged' necessarily, except in so much as you can say a horse kept in solitary, or even an unstable herd, as in, for human's convenience, is likely to show more anxiety/insecurity related behaviours, such as being *overly* bossy. And on that 'level'(as said, could have wrong end of stick from your words) it sounds like your mare was indeed kept in solitary a lot, so that could constitute 'psychologically damaged', to a degree.

Quote:
she would make a mare face at another mare, and the filly would come shooting out backwards giving both barrels (kicking with both hind feet)
Not sure I understand what you're getting at here - your mare made a face at a filly & the filly 'retalliated' backwards double barrelling? And then what did your mare do to 'put her back in her box'? If she did it with 'quiet' behaviour & wasn't overly bossy - unless in situations like that, she felt the need to get 'big' because of the filly's 'insolence', then I wouldn't call that overly bossy/domineering, but just being a good leader.
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