Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Herd of Two – Herd Bonding

When we first became involved with horses we knew very little about them.  We did know that horses were herd animals but we had no idea how important this is to them.

By the time we decided to bring Bob home from the boarding stable we knew that we needed a buddy horse for him and so we got Wyatt.  Bobby was a sociable, but dominant horse.  Wyatt on the other hand didn`t much like people but he had little interest in being the herd leader. 

Wyatt was my horse.  I did know that he had run his former owner out of the paddock; that he would bite at the first opportunity; that if you put a saddle on him and rode there was a good chance he would lie down and roll to get you off his back.  There is a saying, that before you can be a horse person you have to be bitten, kicked and thrown.  Wyatt had those things covered for me in the first 6 months.

We also learned very quickly that Bob and Wyatt did not like to be separated even for a short time.  We became familiar with the term herd bound.  We also started to learn a lot about how to deal with this issue.  It took us over 3 years to find the real key.  We had to become a herd of two with our horse.

To do this we had to learn to communicate in a natural way with our horses.  That is using methods that are natural for the horse.  With this fundamental tool we work on the four pillars of trust, confidence, respect and leadership.  It took me 3 years to get what I call a herd bond with my horse.  There is no doubt that an experienced and knowledgeable horseman could have achieved this in a much shorter time.

The herd bond is not the same as “hooking on”.  It is more like the “true unity” that Tom Dorrance talked about.  It is having the horse accept you as a member of their herd.  The horse recognizes you and comes to you in the paddock.  They show respect.  They understand you. They respond willingly to the most subtle cues.  When they see you, and you are not in the paddock, they will knicker or whinny.  It is a vocal invitation  to come to them.  When you are with them they are not looking for the other herd members because you are their herd of two and they see you as the leader.  For both of the horses I have had as partners the vocal response was the last thing that developed.

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