My apologies to the gentlemen who read this , and the owners of geldings . The premise is similar for male horses /and handlers.It is just best described with mares.There is no one better at the dynamics of herd management than a boss mare.
To Quote Dr Phil"If momma ain't happy,ain't nobody happy!"
So who is the boss in your herd?
Well hopefully YOU! but beyond that figuring out the "boss mare" in your herd is a matter of observation.Who she is NOT, is the silly one who rushes around stirring up crap and kicking at every little thing, nor is she the food obsessed filly who tries to steal from the submissive ones and must eat from every pile . She is not the one who goes into a pen or receives a new horse "guns a blazing" aggressively approaching all new comers . She is not necessarily the largest or the oldest ,or the fastest . But she is the wisest, and she is who you want to model .
This horse is often quite quiet in the herd until things get out of hand , she doesn't vie for position at feeding time , because she doesn't need to , she knows her status and is calm and sure in the knowledge . The horse is calm and confident.
When a new horse comes in to the herd , she will often observe , not approaching the new herd member , rather allowing the horse to approach her . This is where you need to really watch and take heed. This mare will not become hugely aggressive , but will display very clear behaviors specifically designed to assert her authority .
She becomes "larger than life" Body language is very important , she will seem to ,well just get taller and larger carrying herself in a manner that exudes confidence and authority. When to new horse approaches , she will acknowledge them ,and sniff in greeting , but if that new horse comes into her personal space too quickly , she will warn, a foot stomp, a squeal(and from Ritchie it will curl your hair to hear it , that is often all it takes )a nip, and if all else fails she will rear and strike or as a last resort turn to kick. Unless she is confronted with an other Alpha mare ,it likely wont get much past the squeal stage . Now the remainder of the herd will jockey for position to be higher in the pecking order than the new horse , depending on the nature and skill level of the new horse ,it will be interesting to see where the dust settles . At this point a really good boss mare ,can keep the excitement to a minimum, as all of the others will still respond to her as well. A well timed Whinney from Rich , and everyone stops!
So how do you get to be boss?
Well we have identified what not to do , which to recap is , do not rush, do not challenge ,
Do exude confidence
Do ,use appropriate body language to establish authority .
What is that body language?
Well you are not going to rear or strike, as such. But modeling that behavior, a foot stomp can be a hand clap(brisk clear assertive) a hand raised with a clearly stated WHOA! rearing and striking ? a raised hand , flat palm out and again a clearly stated command , (this is not where you sweet talk them , this is where you say NO, WHOA ,BACK, etc)
A nip? a lead rope or your flat palm, a quick sting essentially , a slap on the neck or shoulder . (you are not hurting them , you are seriously not strong enough to do damage with the flat of your hand ,or a snap/sting with the rope end of a lead.
Keep in mind you are not anywhere near as big as a horse ,( no matter how big your thanksgiving dinner felt! )So another trick in showing a horse especially one who is questioning your authority , is be Big in your mind , and be willing to move into them each time , but obliquely, angling your body so that if they do rush you , you can let yourself bounce off the shoulder , and move out of the way . SAFETY IS THE #1 priority
I am going to stop here , for now . I am hoping a few fellow bloggers will add thier input and post as well in this regard. I hope I have been clear in my explanation . and to close I want to remind you of a couple things.
1. I am not a trainer,nor do I claim to be . I have had and worked horses for a long time , but I am by no means advocating my way is the only way.
2. Something Crystal said reminded me of this .
Remember it is not personal! your horse is not hurting you or pushing boundaries , because they do or don't love you . Any more than your kids would . It is not a matter of love , it is a matter of SAFETY
Welcome to Fern Valley
Here in central Alberta prime farm country,my husband Martin and I work together raising beef cattle and Appaloosa horses. Fern valley appaloosas have long been known for their quality of temperament conformation and color.I have recently rediscovered a love of writing and have published 2 collections of poetry. "Telling Tails" and Tails Trails and Campfire stories" . I look forward to a future spreading my wings as an author and as a horse woman .