I read an interesting article (don't remember where) that said bullies are actually betas trying to be an alpha, true alphas don't have to bully. This fits in with what I've observed through the years, the alpha everyone respects (including the bully) usually doesn't have to do more than threaten with ears/feet, they only go more extreme with those that are slow learners.
This is exactly the dynamic in the little herd of mares I was describing, and my friend (owner of the mares... will explain more below) has noted the exact same thing. The Alpha is a petite bay mare who is very even-tempered. Merely laying back an ear sends the others scooting. The "bully" is actually my friends ride, and is a real character (fun horse to be around, but needs a strong rider - which my friend is). She definitely feels the need for bravado, and has to always be proving herself.
So, I figured there would be no "black and white" answers here... My boarding situation is unique and requires a little explanation. I was trying to keep it short but that didn't happen so obviously feel free to skip this long post, but for anyone who cares, here's the back story:
I'm able to be on this grand adventure at my age because of my friend (met her about 5 years ago). She invited me to ride with her on a wonderful bombproof, push button, responsive, patient, you-name-it mare and the rest is history. I was completely bitten by the bug that I had managed to swat aside all my life. I love that horse, but she became permanently lame last fall. So - I was out of a horse to ride. I looked all over for some place to take lessons that was "middle-age-adult friendly" in order to fill the void, but really had no luck - finally stumbled onto a great small boarding facility with a young woman willing to give me beginner lessons... this was a year ago in December. It was a tad awkward for both of us at first since she was less than half my age lol!
Then my friend and I hatched the mad idea that the only real solution was for me to get my own horse and board it at her place (that's the group of mares... so it's not a barn and there isn't a BO per say). This is why I'm trying so very hard to head off any problems - I'd feel terrible if I cause undue work for her and unrest in her herd... I know there are no guarantees, but I'm attempting to hedge my bets.
We actually bought me a mare last March (other threads detail that adventure!). We tried to do everything right (older horse, great temperament, etc...) but for various reasons I won't go into here she wasn't a good fit for me. I stopped riding her last July (my friend continued to ride her quite a bit, and I enjoyed grooming and just being around her). I've become a little more competent as a rider, so my friend's neighbor was generous enough to let me start riding his fantastic QH (how I wish she were for sale... I love that horse! I used to long to ride her but even though she is really a dream to ride, she's a little intimidating... so it feels good to have advanced some in confidence and ability). Anyway, I wish my horse had worked out, but I learned so much from her! There's nothing like having your own, and I already miss it terribly.
To sell my mare I moved her to the barn where I had taken lessons, and consigned her with the girl I had learned from. She found her a great new home/better fit. It took 6 weeks though, and during that time I enjoyed working with my mare in their indoor arena - and in that controlled environment I worked up my confidence to ride her. The BO is fantastic and accommodating, fine with short term boarding - so after this experience, I've already decided that my new horse will spend a couple of months at this facility so I can work in a controlled setting prior to moving back to my friend's property, and I may consider wintering there in the future. At the barn, gender would be a non-issue as they have multiple paddocks with typically only 2 or 3 horses in each. They take great care to make sure pasture-mates are compatible. At my friend's place we have about 70 acres of pasture and woods to ride on, and it's great fun.
My friend just wants me to get a horse that's a good fit for me, and I in-turn want this horse to be a pleasure for her to add to her herd (my previous mare was a good fit with the group, but we both agreed she wasn't the best fit for me).
So, as I said, my situation is unique. I'm very fortunate to have these resources available, and I want to do everything I can to minimize drama. Thanks for reading if you actually made it through!