Thursday, February 21, 2013

Herd dynamics

Maybe someone who knows more about herd dynamics can explain to me what I saw earlier when I put pony back.

I have always known pony to be the lead mare. If she pins her ears, other horses walk away. She will start to back up on horses, but she rarely has to go further than that before she gets her way.

However, there is a new big bay in her paddock. I haven't found any bite marks or signs of her being picked on, or even played with. I've never seen the big bay do anything at all, really.

So this is what happened. I went to put pony back in her paddock today, and they had JUST been fed. The big bay was near the gate, so I took her halter off, closed the gate and watched. She walked to the pile of hay the bay was at, the bay raised her head and pinned her ears at pony.

However, Pony kept her ears pricked forward took the next two steps or so, put down her head and started eating. After the bay pinned her ears, she put her head back down and continued eating as well. None of them moved a single hoof, there was no communication other than the pinning of the ears.

So who is more in charge? Pony or the bay? What I saw seemed like it was Pony. She acted so confident, kind of like 'Bitch Puh-leaze'. But at the same time, it was the cutest most innocent 'well I'm hungry so....' Like she didn't even notice that there were ears pinned.

I just thought it was interesting how calm and copacetic the situation was! And also how the bay was just okay with having another horse join her hay pile.

Pony and the bay sharing the hay pile


  1. The bay may have been testing Pony or just trying to figure out where he stands in the herd. When a new horse is introduced sometimes the herd shifts. It seems that Pony was not concerned about the bay and just kept doing what she normally would do. . .eat.

    1. I told my trainer about it today and she said the same thing, that the bay may have been guarding her space but when she realized that Pony didn't care and wasn't going to make her move, she decided it was whatever.

  2. Thanks for the encouraging comment on my blog! It is very much appreciated. ^.^

    I love how observant you are--you'll go far in the horse world if you stay that way. :)
    My favorite book on herd dynamics is "Horses Never Lie" by Mark Rashid. He has a very clear way at viewing how horses think. I've learned so much by reading it! I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
    I actually would say that technically, maybe pony is under the bay when it comes to pecking order now. BUT she chose not to be confrontational, and in the end, I've known horses who's behavior like that won them the respect of the entire herd--including the jerk.
    Haha, I hate to say it, but Mark Rashid addresses this in depth in one of the chapters of his book. Never would have said what I just did before I read it.

    Love your blog! Welcome to the horse family! ^.^

    1. Thats so interesting! I will definitely have to check out that book! Thanks!

  3. I can share with you what I learned when I brought Gamble, the TWH home.
    At the time I had Danny, Revlon, and Sassy. Revlon was top horse then. Danny didn't care cuz he was surrounded by mares. Insert Gambler, a clearly dominant horse with Revlon, another dominant horse. There was never a fight, never anything more than an ear pin. It was Gambler 1 and Revlon 2 and that was it. The rest of the herd had to figure things out and there was lots of fighting going on, but never between those 2 because there was a mutual respect there. Although I will say that one time when Gambler was trying to kill Danny, through a fence, Revlon intervened. She kicked the crap out of Gambler and made him back off. So although she saw him as the leader, she was not afraid to stand up to him if needed.

    Herd dynamics are one of the most interesting things I have ever experienced. My favorite was Trax and Brickster. He said, "do you wanna be boss?" She said, "nope, do you?" He said, "Nope, this is good, we can hang out." And they did.

    My guess is that Pony and the bay had an instant respect for each other. Sometimes it goes that way.

    1. Horses are so funny. I love the way they interact with eachother, especially when they 'play' by running and bucking and rearing and biting. My trainer had the same idea that they seemed to respect eachother, and that the bay was defending her space, but when pony said 'hey you can keep eating, i dont care' the bay was like 'oh okay cool' and let it be. Herd dynamics are so cool, I love watching the mustangs on youtube. Especially when they nibble on the neck and the butt!


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