A new horse in the herd gives insights into horse behavior
We have a new weanling here at the ranch (a young horse newly weaned away from its mother) and he is showing something interesting about horse behavior – how a new horse becomes one of the herd.
The weanling has been put out with a group of older horses each day for the last several weeks. One mature gelding in particular spends part of each day herding the weanling around. The weanling is now more likely to follow this gelding than any other horse on the ranch. By herding the weanling around, the mature gelding seems to have developed a behavioral bond in which the weanling follows him around, accepting his leadership. The two horses are becoming, friendly with each other, but the mature gelding is in charge. I can imagine how a group of horses in the wild would use this behavior to establish leadership within the group to maximize safety. We often use a round pen to start our horse training. I wonder if the round pen is such a great training tool because it sets us up to communicate using the natural language of horses. Maybe the round pen mimics this natural behavior, setting the horse up to be herded by us, and subsequently to bond with us, accept our leadership, and tune in. I think that it does something else as well – it is a place where the horse has the ability to possibly communicate with us. We set out to initiate a dialog with our horses, and end up creating attentive equine partners.