When horses are developing in the wild and learning about behaviour, it is often the role of the alpha mare to discipline the youngsters and provide a guideline for behaviour.
By taking horses away from their natural environment, we sometimes deprive them of that mature role model. In the wild, their alpha mare would teach them about sociably acceptable behaviour, as well as helping them feel safe and secure. Maturity is not just measured in terms of age, but also in emotional and mental maturity. In a herd that has immature leaders, you will often get much more physical aggression and violence.
By providing mature leaders in our manufactured herds, we can help to mimic fundamental structures that can help our developing youngster to become the respectful, grounded and well balanced horses we would like them to be.
Horses learn very quickly from one another, whether good or bad behaviour, horses are like a sponge and we can help them to make better choices, by thinking about the influences around them.
As well as providing a mature horse as a positive role model, we ourselves must be mindful of the lessons we are teaching our horses when we are around them. Horses are masters of body language and without knowing it we can be allowing behavior that would not be deemed acceptable in the herd. By not noticing it and therefore not addressing it: or not realising it is an issue, behaviour can quickly spiral.
What can start out as a slight issue, can become dangerous to people and other horses in the future. Horses feel safer when they know that they have good leaders around them; either equine or human.
The balance in addressing behavior is not an easy one but is essential to helping our horses to be happy and for us to enjoy our relationship with them. By ensuring our horses have good influences in their lives we can help give them examples of behaviour we would like them to replicate.
I am lucky to have two very positive, mature mares as part of my herd. Both are calm and make good decisions when dealing with the less secure or less mature horses. Watching them I see the balance of strength and acceptance. Knowing where to draw the line and how much force to use or when to use it.
It helps me to understand about positive leadership and how I can be the best person I can be for the horses. Making good choices and knowing when something needs addressing and how to address it.
By understanding this and working with the horses in a manner and language they understand; I can help them to become nice 'people' who others want to be around and who derive as much pleasure from their lives as possible.
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