Equine societal norms…


(Paladin and Genna)

Sometimes it’s hard not to think badly of horses.

I remember years ago, we had a beautiful horse named Paladin. I purchased him when he was 3 years old and he spent all of his life being (for the most part) the benevolently dominant horse in any group he was involved with.

But as in all things, time begins to take its toll and around the time Paladin turned 25 his condition began to deteriorate and with that deterioration came a loss of dominance in the herd. I tried really hard not to anthropomorphize the situation but I did wonder if he missed his glory days when he was king of all he surveyed.

At any rate, one day a rather aggressive mare decided to show Paladin his place and she did it when she found him in the shed in the big field (We closed it in and put stalls in shortly after this event.)

She turned abruptly to threaten Paladin and he tried to move away. But he was blocked by the wall of the shed and her massive form and so he could only turn his back to her and stand still. To the aggressive mare, this seemed to be a show of defiance and she kicked out at him.

Despite his best intentions, poor Paladin had no where to go but his perseverance in holding his ground seemed to drive this mare insane with rage and she just started pounding on him. Luckily we heard the commotion and were able to rescue him by chasing her away but Paladin, who by that time was almost sitting down while her blows rained down on him, was cut up and bruised quite badly.

Paladin had always been a great favourite of mine and so it took all I had not to be really angry with this dominant mare. I had to stop and realize that in her mind, Paladin had displayed some sort of plucky resistance by standing his ground and it was beyond the scope of her understanding to realize that he couldn’t escape even though he desperately wanted to.

It was a fascinating display of behaviour that is hard wired in horses. She had threatened Paladin, and he should have moved away. Had he done that it would have been over but because his location made him ‘stand his ground’ she had gone all in on proving her dominance.

I was reminded of this on Monday when we tried to put the new horse, Bella, into the big field.

Ash has decided that she is going to be like ‘mean girls’ when it comes to letting the newcomer join her in the field.

Bella doesn’t appear to be aggressive at all and yet Ash seems to have taken a particular dislike to her. The weird thing is, probably at the end of all this, the two of them will be fast friends. That is often how it works out, strangely enough.

But right now she had decided it is her job to drive Bella away from the rest of the herd and Bella’s job is to run away as directed. When the proper amount of time has passed, (and Ash seems to be the one that will determine this) Bella will be allowed to meekly edge closer and request membership in the herd.

We tried to introduce Bella on Monday but unfortunately because of the poor design of the paddocks, nature was not allowed to take it’s course.

Bella got cornered near the door way and Ash, enraged that Bella wasn’t playing the game properly by running away, turned to kick her. I had flashbacks of poor Paladin but luckily we were all closer to the action this time and were able to rescue Bella before Ash landed a kick.

There is a reason that there should never be a corner in any paddock and Ash reminded us of the reason on Monday.

We will rope everything off for our next attempt so that Bella can play the game the way Ash expects her to play.

Horses.

Sigh.

One thought on “Equine societal norms…”

  1. I too remember Paladin – a very elegant gentleman that didn’t suffer fools easily. Taught many a rider a lot about real horsemanship

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