The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Speaking of Rapprochement ...

Look who was eating out of the same hay pile this morning -

An interesting little drama unfolded as I watched through the window, eating my breakfast. Every time George raised his head and then lowered it again, Rose turned her head and neck away before cautiously resuming her munching. From time to time, also, George stretched his nose out toward Rose, his ears flattening a little, whereupon Rose instantly responded by turning her head away (but leaving her feet planted). When George softened again, Rose once more relaxed into her eating. I think the distance between them here is the minimum presently allowed under George Law.

Rose got up to get a drink of water. She chose not to return to George's hay but instead joined Chloe at another pile.

Then the next tag-team member had a try. Bridget crept over toward George as far as she was able.

Seen through the window screen.
But George was looking at her, and she dared advance no further. The mares seem to be testing how far they can go with George. If they proceed too quickly, they risk entering the Danger Zone and inducing immediate reprisal. So they creep cautiously up to the edge and gently prod the perimeter, eliciting only mild reactions, which can be instantly appeased by an ever-so-slight retreat. If nothing happens, they can inch forward a little more.

It seems to me that the mares' behavior is similar to Bridget's dominant behavior toward Rose - a kind of determined pressure. The difference is that they fear George a lot, while Bridget fears Rose only a very little.

Rose's "rudeness" toward Bridget (and occasionally toward me) seems similar to George's reaction when the mares have gone too far - a defensive petulance, characteristic more of weakness than of high-ranking bravado.

Which jibes with my belief that a lot of George's behavior is not dominance related but the result of fear and self-protectiveness.

Which brings me back to a thought I had the other day - namely that I think everyone would be happier if Bridget took over. I think she's got a fair bit of growing to do still, both physically and mentally. Therefore, I have hope for the future. Go for it, Bridget!

Breaking news - reporting from the upstairs bathroom window:
Bridget has insinuated herself into George's hay pile, after one or two mini-retreats (involving head/neck movement but no foot movement), and Chloe is advancing also!


  1. Haha I love your behind the drapes-reports :D It will be interesting to see how it affects when Bridget gets older.

  2. Do you know that story of Mark Rashid's about his horse Buck? I can't remember it properly but he watched Buck advance on a water trough and neatly avoid attacks from the alpha horse, without retreating. I think the alpha horse retreated in the end. He was illustrating the concept of the passive leader. Maybe somewhere in your herd there is a passive leader?

  3. Yes, I do know that story. And there was another bossy horse, as I recall, who ended up following Buck around like a puppy.

    I think all horses have a bit of the leader in them, and all horses can be intimidated.Like how a normally low-ranking mare might pull out all the stops and scare away a much more dominant horse if she feels her foal is threatened.

    Bridget is often a passive leader, but even George can be like that when he wants to cosy up to one of the mares - he drops the aggressive leader pose and adopts more of passive leader approach to get what he wants in that case.