Yesterday, my horse friend came over to help me trim Rose. She was cheerfully optimistic that good trimming will be able to correct Rose's dropped pasterns, aka coon-footedness.
It is always thought-provoking when my friend is here. As I have documented before, her approach to the horses is slightly different from mine.
We had Rose tied up at the fence inside the field. Bridget and George immediately left their piles of hay and came over to investigate what we were up to, trying to insert themselves in the middle of things.
My friend said that it was a dominance thing and that George was put out because we had taken "his" mare. I think George was saying the following:
a) this is where the action is, so I'd better be over here;
b) sometimes Rose lets me say hello when she has a halter and leadrope on - maybe she'll let me speak to her; and
c) but why do you have the halter on Rose anyway? You ought to put it on me - I'd like to draw your attention to some long grass over the fence there which looks like it might still be edible.
Bridget kept sneaking over and trying to interfere with Rose. When I wouldn't let her get into our bubble, she proceeded to charge around the field, looking very glamorous with her tail high. My friend said again it was a dominance thing and that Bridget was like a toddler having a tantrum. Whereas to my mind, she was just letting off steam because she got a little frustrated. After she'd had her fun, she walked over and stood quietly a couple of horse-lengths away.
When my friend wants a horse to get out of her space, she acts aggressive and drives them out. My approach is more to make contact with the horse and make my desires clear. My friend can make George and Bridget leave completely. For me, they will respect my desire to keep out of my bubble, but they'll keep hovering and looking at me, like "Are you sure? Can we talk about this some more maybe please?" My way is not as immediately effective a way of clearing the area, but it works for me, as I'm willing to wait for us all to learn and agree on behavioral etiquette - like waiting for George to cede the gate to allow the mares to enter.
When my friend spoke about George and Bridget, I found myself getting anxious, starting to feel that old emotion of fear, as if the horse were an adversary to be overcome. I had to remind myself: "No, this is Bridget - she is not trying to dominate me, I can trust her. And I don't need to dominate her either." Refusing to be a doormat is a very different thing from becoming a pair of boots.
And once again, I must remind everyone that my friend's horses are outgoing, confident, friendly, charming, and communicative. So what she is doing can't be bad. It works for her. I have to be willing to learn, but at the same time not be swayed from what experience tells me works for my horses and me.