Learning To Lead: Part 1
July 3, 2020
When you enter the field where you horse is grazing there could be 10 or 100 horses in the herd. The moment you reach your horse you become a herd of two!
At that moment it is your job as your horses leader to move all the other horses away from you and your horse. If you allow your horse to do that for you, you’ve given up a critical opportunity to show your horse that you are the leader and forced them to take over that roll.
Your horse will undoubtedly have a few gregarious pasture mates that are just full of playfulness and want to greet you as well, however, when you enter the field where your horse is you have a responsibility and that is your horse’s leader. You’re not doing your horse, the other horses or yourself any favors by not showing up as a leader. That doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it. It just means you need to show up as a leader and move the other horses away from yourself and your horse. I know.. you may be thinking, “how am I supposed to do that? They’re enormous!” Its much easier than you realize.
Simply make yourself bigger to them. Not bigger than they are, but bigger than you were just a moment ago. All it takes is raising your arms and acting as though you’re swatting imaginary flies. That sudden movement will move them away. Since there’s always one clown in the bunch that isn’t buying the imaginary flies bit, that’s where your lead rope comes in handy. Make the end that doesn’t have the large metal clip on it a propeller and get that thing moving. A few steps toward the gregarious horse will get his feet moving. As you approach its all about the amount of energy you bring toward the encroaching horse. Be confident but by all means be smart about it. If you’re not to the point where you can confidently and comfortably pull this off take someone more experienced along with you as backup. Its all about the learning process.
It wasn’t until recently that Sonny was in the field with Belle and the other mares. Before that he was in the gelding field with the other guys, Believe me, they got into plenty of mischief together. A few of them were very forward and let it be known that they wanted attention too. I noticed right away that Sonny didn’t appreciate their encroachment into our space, so I would move them back away from us. I never go out into the field without my lead rope. Even if I’m just going out for a few minutes to visit with Sonny or Belle.
Young horses that haven’t yet gotten a full education in proper etiquette will see a human and will want to show off. That lead rope comes in real handy. Just start swinging that thing around like a propeller is enough to let them know to keep their distance. In most cases though its only enough to throw up your hands, making yourself bigger, to let them know their approach isn’t allowed. It didn’t take long before the other horses understood that when I came out to the field they would keep a respectable distance until they understood what I was there for. If I walked up to Sonny then they would leave us alone. They recognized me as a leader, but more importantly I was his and they respected that.
Any time Sonny is moved to a different field if he is in that field with different horses I go through this ritual to make sure they all understand that I am there for Sonny and I am his human and leader. They are not allowed to approach us when we’re together in the field or anywhere else, If they do they’re moved back regardless. When the terms are explained to them in language they understand they are quite respectful and don’t forget. They like order and it makes sense to them, so they’re more than willing to follow the rules.
If you’re thinking that this all sounds a bit rough, you should see what they call fun and games! I’ve tended to wounds that appear, at first glance, to be done with malice only to find out later that the horses were actually playing together and just got carried away. Its all fun and games till someone ends up with a gash on their rump or leg because they were just having too much fun with each other to realize things had gotten a bit rough. At the end of the day its all about learning to think like a horse and then being able to communicate with them like one of them.~Mark Weaver
If you're willing to learn there are many teachers. Not all of them are human!