Sunday, November 25, 2007

Even More on Submission to Leadership in Arabian Horses

With the comments coming in on More on Submission to Leadership in Arabian Horses it is clear that I was on spot about Ruby. The added history by Ro in those comments confirms that the mare had very little training. I would think from her behavior that what training she did have did NOT deal with issues of complete submission.

Well, maybe I should correct that statement to include the word trust as mentioned by Marvel of Simply Marvelous The whole concept of submission with trust is the basis for what most would call natural horsemanship. Many trainers haven't got a clue how it all fits together and do nothing to instill it in the horse. If the horse walks, trots and canters both directions, it is broke to such trainers despite the fact it walks all over it's owners.

I remember my first seminar with John Lyons sitting there enthralled throughout his demonstration of Round Pen Reasoning. At the break I came across several well known principles from our local Arabian horse community who wrote it off as nothing more than a circus act. I remember shaking my head (internally, at the time) at their ignorance.

I went home after that evening session followed by a weekend seminar and a week of observing at his clinic with enough knowledge to fix a major issue on each horse I owned at that time. I also gave round pen reasoning a try of my own. It may have taken me four times as long to get my gelding, Mark, fixed on me than it did John Lyons but I did manage to get it done. I learned some important lessons in the process.

If a horse submits to you during a training session, it is only to you on this given day under this given set of circumstances. IF those circumstances should happen to be meet again and again, you just might get a trained horse out of it. A "trained horse" meaning one who submits to you under these circumstances. If you should manage to get another human involved who can duplicate your cues and timing etc, the horse will easily respond to that second individual as well having learned already that such behavior from a human constitutes leadership for that task.

If you manage to tie enough different sets of circumstances together AND, of course, get them all repeated often enough to convince the horse that it is "trained" on each issue, you might just end up with a totally submissive horse. After all, totally submission only comes if the horse truly believes that you ARE the one and only true leader. The more different issues you prove to your horse you are the one in charge, the more likely your horse is to buy that you really are a leader, even THE leader he listens to when his life is in jeopardy.

So, should some other person happen to come along using the same set of cues for the same set of requests, have the correct timing etc that the horse requires to see leadership, that person too will be above the horse in the pecking order. The horse's life experience with repeated exposure to leadership humans convinces the horse to submit to any and ALL people, or so it seems. I'm sure you've seen horses who are submissive even to small children as a perfect example of a totally submissive horse.

Pecking order comes into play as well in this whole scenario. For the horse it's not just about that top position but all of the positions in the herd. Each horse must hold a slot and that slot must be clear to all members of the herd. A horse who has recently moved up in status in the herd might also decide to try and move up on his human leader as well.

Also those positions in the herd can chance at the drop of a hat by adding or removing an individual from the herd. Sometimes a horse doesn't have to be removed for it's status to change. Health issues and affiliations with other herd members can change status as well.

For an example of changing status in a herd let's look at my mare. Heiress has always been low on the pecking order in my herd (until the addition of a new mare), but when the horse is pregnant or has a foal at her side, her ranking has changed. Because of her instinct to protect her baby at all cost, she stands up to mares she would normally submit to. And those mares also have their instinct telling them that foal is to be protected so they stand down from their usual dominant role. Once her foal is weaned, Heiress returns to her usual role in the herd.

It would also be important to know in this context that the new mare that I added to my herd was in foal at the time she came here. Because she was in foal to a horse outside our system, the mare was perceived as a threat by this herd. Their instincts told them to fight off the new mare.

In the wild a pregnant mare would only join a new herd if she was stolen by the herd sire or if the stallion from her herd was defeated. In that case all of the pregnant mares would be raped by the new stallion so they would abort. The experts believe that is Mother Nature's was of guaranteeing survival of the fittest. If the stallion who sired the foal couldn't hold the mare, he was a lessor horse and his progeny should also be lessor individuals. The sad but brutal truths of equine instincts.

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  1. "If the horse walks, trots and canters both directions, it is broke to such trainers despite the fact it walks all over it's owners."

    lol, that is how 90% of the trainers I know think!

    Since natural horsemanship has became the 'new way' to train, I am slowly seeing this method being chosen over the 'old way'.

    I am at the top of the pecking order in my herd of 2 (horse and donkey) once in a while, Scooter will try to get a bit pushy until I immediately put him in his place.

    Great post!

    John Lyons is GREAT! I hope to attend one of his seminars again one day.

  2. Fascinating information on herd behavior. I always learn many things from your great posts!