One of the things I really love about having my horses at home is being close to their private lives and I’ve learned a lot from just watching them. So when Ben came three weeks ago, I was interested to see how they would get on, because the last time Ben was here he was the only gelding with three mares – and life was easy. Now, Arrow is here and that was bound to change the dynamic. Over the past three weeks I have spent a lot of time out in the field, watching the horses as they grouped and re-grouped as a herd. It has been fascinating.
Ben chased Arrow off as soon as he saw him, and aggressively proclaimed his territory and his willingness to defend it. He wanted Arrow out of his sight and Arrow ended up on his own in the next field. Not for long though.
The first thing I noticed about Arrow when he came here was that he was very pushy. I put it down to bad manners due to never having been handled properly. After all, a horse can’t learn any social skills if he was kept on his own and tied to a stake since he was weaned. I have done quite a bit of ground work with him since, and Arrow is very clever and he learns quickly, but you have to be on top of him all the time; give him an inch and he will take the proverbial mile and more. Perhaps pushy is not the right word, but Arrow certainly doesn’t take “no” for an answer just because you say so.
Anyway, Arrow was on his own, and he probably thought that it was best to give Ben some time to forget about him and since the prospect of spending the night on his own didn’t daunt him he stayed out of sight. The next morning, he was back. Ben went for him the moment he noticed him, so Arrow beat a hasty retreat, but he didn’t go far. After a few more lunges, he had figured out the edge of Ben’s tolerance and that is where he stayed. Close enough that Ben kept throwing him dirty looks, but too far away for Ben to actually feel the need to chase him off. Gradually, with an almost professional use of the concept of “approach and retreat” and the least amount of effort he could get away with, Arrow began to move back into the herd. Ben found that no matter what he did, he couldn’t get rid of this irritating little interloper, so he decided to ignore him. For a few days they all grazed together in a group, with equal distances between them.
Then they began to pair off, with Ben and Minnie on one side of the field and Arrow on the other side with Cassie. I would have loved to see how that happened, but I imagine Ben decided to drive Minnie away, but he can’t drive Cassie and so Arrow ended up with a mare by default.
Ben went home this evening. It will be interesting to see if this experience has changed how they interact with each other now Ben is gone. Arrow has shown that size doesn’t matter; he may be small, but he is full of attitude. And he learned that it really pays to be persistent!