I feel grateful to have the privilege of watching and learning from horses. Through my observation of horses that live together, I am thoroughly convinced that horses are masters of community living. We can learn much from their example. Within the hierarchy created by horses, there is of course an alpha horse. Ensuring the safety, security, and survival of the herd are among the most important responsibilities of the alpha.
Sampson is my alpha horse. Despite being dominant and aggressive, he is normally low-keyed, calm and unassuming. I used to think that he was not very smart and I often wondered how he became the alpha. As my observational skills improved, I gradually learned why. The most powerful position we can assume when interacting with a horse is at the rear. Naturally, this is the position taken by an alpha horse. An alpha is not the same as a lead horse . In Carolyn Resnick's book "Naked Liberty" she talks about the differences between alpha and lead horses and discusses their respective roles. In Carolyn's method (The Seven Waterhole Rituals), the ritual of "leading from behind" is thoroughly examined. It is a ritual used by horses in a herd to influence one another and is a critical component of their silent language.
Leading a horse from behind is a delicate process. If you choose to lead from behind, you must ensure that your horse does not feel pursued, yet he must feel a proper amount of influence by your efforts. This important ritual can yield a great many treasures. Leading from behind stands out among the seven rituals because it helps you to establish yourself in the pecking order. It can decrease behavior problems in an aggressive horse, instill more confidence in a shy horse, and can generate a willingness and improvement of your horse's work ethic. My horse Sampson can move lower ranking horses with a mere flick of his ear, even from more than half a pasture away. He holds an enormous amount of influence over my herd.
Regardless of their position in the hierarchy, each and every horse plays a critical role in the overall well-being of the herd. With a seemingly effortless flow, a herd of horses never fails to work together for the common good. It fills me with joy to witness the cohesiveness that results from their natural instinct to work in harmony without the need for manipulation or force. As I have said before, we humans can learn a lot from our animal friends. As we learn to slow down to watch and listen, it becomes all the more obvious that our hoofed companions have much to say! Let the horse lead us from behind to a better way of community living.
Have a great rest of the week!