Who leads who?

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The herd at Back of Beyond continues to grow. The latest additions are Bo, a striking paint gelding and Annie a gentle Trakhener mare. They have joined Star and Pinball as part of the lawnmower brigade and spend their days chilling in the arena grooming each other or grazing. All four of them together do a very good job of trimming the grass, except for the weeds of course.

Newly inseparable friends at Back of Beyond

Annie and Bo; Newly inseparable friends at Back of Beyond

It is interesting to watch how the 2 new horses integrated into the existing herd, even though they do not share the same paddock space exactly. All the geldings were particularly fascinated with Bo; perhaps because of his markings and blue eyes but also maybe because he was the new male horse on the property. They were very anxious at first to show him how athletic they were, how fast they could run and even how much they could move each other around. Bo took it all in stride. He was able to hold his space without becoming aggressive and casually moved around doing what horses do best – eating. Over the last few weeks, the other geldings have been able to make an assessment of his leadership abilities and intentions and have stopped feeling so threatened.

Annie and Bo escaping the heat together

Annie and Bo escaping the heat together

When Annie first came to Back of Beyond, she kept to herself (as she is a very submissive horse).

However, each day she moved closer and closer to Bo until one hot afternoon she found herself alone with him in the arena. They discovered they both love to be groomed and now; often they can be found standing nose to tail, scratching each other.

In a horse herd there is usually a very clear hierarchy. With the number one horse able to move all the other horses, number 2 horse moving all but number one and so on. Which horse is number one seems to be based on a number of factors. This is the horse that is deemed to be the most benevolent leader (although occasionally a bully leader emerges by default), according to the rest of the horses. The number one horse is worthy of the trust and respect of all the other horses. The lead horse is always able to move the rest of the herd with the least amount of energy, is very consistent in their behavior, is highly aware of everything in the environment and knows how to react appropriately to any changes around him or her.  The other horses follow the leader because they feel that is the safest place to be. This is not all that different from a good human leader. In fact, horses are incredible teachers of leadership skills. When a human takes the benevolent leadership role with a horse, the horse will also follow the human; since a good leader (whether horse or human) is always the safest place to be. It takes time, focus and patience to develop the ability to understand the horse’s body language, use your own body to communicate with them and develop a leadership role based on trust, respect and compassion. However, the results are well worth it. In the end, you have a horse that wants to be with you, not because it is being forced into submitting to your will but because it chooses to follow you as a good leader. This is true connection.

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