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The Social Structure of the Horse

Over the years I have heard people say that the “Equine Social Structure” places certain horses above others through the use of force. In other words the strongest ones is the one that is in charge. I was taught to relate to the horse herd structure in that manner, but as my knowledge of as to how the herd was structured, who the real leaders were, how the horse communicated and what was the actual method of communication has developed a different picture of the horse and the relationship created within the herd. As I progressed and studied the horse and its relationship within the herd I discovered that actions of individual horses and the results of those actions had a definite result on the entire herd. The biggest step forward came when I discovered that it was not always the lead horse at the front of the herd. Next I realized that the position that the horse in charge had, did not come from fear or dominance of the other members of the herd, but from respect.


The respect that the lead horse was given came from the confidence that was placed on that particular member of the herd through various tests that had been placed on them. These tests came from other members of the herd and from situations and forces outside of the herd. Respect was granted when the member of the herd, that was being tested, reacted to the situations in a manner that was beneficial to the entire herd. This showed me that there was no fear or dominance factor, but a respect that was earned and cherished, then and only then was the position earned by that herd member and was retained until it was no longer possible for that herd member to accomplish tasks that would relate to and be required of the position that had been granted.


The entire process of positioning within the herd was done in a fashion that showed consistency that did not deviate and it was accomplished in a manner that did not allow for the cutting of corners. There was a traditional structured method for a member of the herd to obtain a specific position within the herd and all of the steps had to be accomplished in their specific order. If the order of accomplishment of the tasks were not consistent or accomplished in the required sequence, the position would not be granted. The position would only be granted when the requirements were met in their proper sequence and the required pattern followed, without deviation, as set down in the social structure of the herd.


I realized that this was the pattern that had to be followed in order to be able to work with the horse and obtain the greatest results. Horses are no different today than they were many decades ago. They need that same structure and guidance within their lives, they long for the structured lifestyle that the herd places upon them; in fact they require it. Most horses are followers, not leaders. It is very rare that you will find a horse that is a leader because in the real world of the horse there are many more followers than there are leaders. Horses do not think like or respond as horses unless they have this required structure within their lives. Our task is to learn how to place that structure within their lives and earn the respect that can be granted to us; For once that we have earned the respect that allows us to be the chosen one, the trusted one, within the mind of the horse, we have begun to reach a point on the road of communication that will lead to a life-long friendship.

Any questions or input?......

Until next time, “Ride for the Brand”.




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