Persistence pays

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!

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4 thoughts on “Persistence pays

  1. Arrow is a character for sure. It sounds like the same herd dynamics that we had with Sami when he first came. He was a rescue and was stuck in his stall for the first five years of his life (as a stallion). When we got him he was actually afraid to be outside but after he was gelded he got over that within a month. Sami is 14.2 hh Arabian and is the smallest in the herd. This didn’t deter him in the least, he decided to challenge O’Grady who is an Irish Sport Horse and 18hh. Commence “Thunderdome” where they would rear and nip each other constantly. This eventually stopped. Sami has now attached himself to Mellon who is the herd leader and follows him around hoping to one day take his place. For now he’s his little toadie and under his protection.

    It’s amazing how they work things out for themselves. I think it’s better than watching television most days. It will be interesting to see how Arrow progresses now that Ben is gone.

    • Yes, watching them is better than television. What struck me was how Arrow managed to get his way without being agressive in the least and avoided provoking Ben. He is only three, so he hasn’t matured yet, but he already possesses self-confidence in abundance. I think he is a real asset to my little herd.

  2. Arrow is very handsome. You can tell that he has the glint. 🙂 I think it’s great that he has attitude and is smart. Gem and my terrors/terriers share the same personality traits and that’s what I love about them. 🙂 Interesting that Cassie stuck with Arrow and wasn’t tempted to go with Ben. How lucky you are to be able to watch all of this stuff. I am so envious!

    • I used to have my horses in livery and it was only after we bought this land and build our house that I could bring them home. When they were at a livery yard you always have an agenda when you see them. You want to ride, or the farrier is coming, there is no time just to sit and watch. It is wonderful to have them around all the time.

      I wasn’t surprised that Cassie didn’t go with Ben. Ben has a strong driving need, but he was never the leader in my little herd and he has never been able to drive Cassie, who usually just goes her own way. Minnie doesn’t like any form of pressure at all, so she is easy to drive, but it makes her very anxious.

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