19 March 2011

First Night out...

Compa earns rewards based on how he behaves towards the herd.

If Compa shows improvement in his behavior patterns, he gets more time out with the herd. This is something he desperately desires - true equine companionship. Unfortunately for him, he has very little knowledge regarding integration into an established herd. Compa lacks the knowledge that leadership is earned via respect.

The interesting thing about all of this, is my horses are happy to integrate all the new horses who show up here. They even give leadership over to those who gain it properly, then welcome that new leadership and miss it when it's gone. In Compa's case, they are far from accepting his distorted set of rules and will go so far as to destroy him if they are given the opportunity. That's when I step in.

Two days ago Compa spent several hours alone with Carli and yesterday he spent the late afternoon with Ziggy and Cruiser. During both turnouts Compa displayed several changes to his thought processes. First, he approached with submission and remained thus throughout the interaction. This was a huge change, as previously he would come with friendly behavior and then viciously attack the horse just after they touched noses. He is lightening fast and highly convincing, and took my horses by surprise several times. Eventually, they decided to mirror his behavior back to him. And while he needed to be disciplined and taught by other horses, the mirroring behavior would have killed him. My job intensified, as I walked the fine line between allowing him to be trained by my herd or destroyed by them.

It's been a busy time, but I am reaping the benefits of staying on top of things. Compa is becoming more educated with each passing day. As I interact with him and teach him respect and responsibility, he takes that information into the herd. He is behaving more horse-like and my horses acknowledge this. However, until yesterday, they didn't believe his actions and refused to befriend him or allow him to get too close.

It was the little red horse, Ziggy who finally ventured up to him and taught him the proper way to introduce himself. Ziggy worked with Compa for over an hour to show him that touching noses was tantamount to taking the next introductory step. Repeatedly, Ziggy would walk up and touch noses and walk away. If Compa refused to behave, Ziggy would wheel around and kick the air somewhere near Compa's body. I could see Compa trying to comprehend this idea, but many times he would get so excited about being close to another horse that he would forget the lesson and try to grab Ziggy's jugular. At one point, Ziggy got so tired of teaching that he just nailed Compa in the ribs.

Well, that changed things. It's unfortunate, but some horses need to learn their lessons this way. Compa is one of those types. After the connected kick, Compa really concentrated and Ziggy was able to take the lesson further. He would touch his nose to Compa's and then lightly glide his nose down the groove in Compa's neck. Ziggy always chose Compa's left side to do this. Hummm, I thought! That's interesting. That's the side I had trouble with, too. I spent hours touching Compa from his left jawline down that groove to his shoulder and then down the front of his chest, trying to get him to accept my authority. The early responses to this maneuver caused Compa to strike and bite at me. Knowing this is a highly charged sexual area, I just ignored him and repeated the exercise. I don't have trouble with this any longer and now here Ziggy was doing exactly the same thing. Except it only took Ziggy a few tries!

Next, Ziggy worked his way up to Compa's withers. There he opened his mouth and took Compa in his teeth. It was gentle, but designed to show dominance. Compa didn't understand and he ran away. Ziggy doggedly followed and started the pattern again. After a few tries, Compa would remain still under Ziggy's teeth, at which point Ziggy closed his mouth and progressed down Compa's ribs to his flank. Poor Compa quivered but held his ground and didn't kick. He remained still and Ziggy reached under and smelled his genitals. It worked! Compa understood. They walked apart and then reunited to start the process again. This time, the movements were mirrored. Whatever Ziggy did to Compa, Compa did to Ziggy, all the way down to the privates.

Success! Finally, Compa understood the proper way to introduce himself to another horse.

Laughably, he marched right up to Cru and introduced himself to him. Cru just loved it and the three of them spent a quiet night in the pasture together. YAY!!!


  1. I love reading your posts! I have a mare that has been in her own pasture for several years. I would love to see how she interacts with a herd. She has several horses within eye shot, just not fence to fence where they could sniff. Prior to us, she had a friend she used to be turned out with so I'm sure she would remember the ropes quickly.

  2. What a nail biting time knowing when to intervene! You can sigh with relief .. onwards and upwards ...