A balanced herd
Equine dynamics, in a balanced socio-cognitive context, are mostly moments of calm understanding. The fact that we sometimes see fights when horses are put together for the first time shows their social abilities have been affected by humans and that the process of integration often fails to respect their needs.
Yesterday, a change was made in my neighbor’s paddock. A Friesian foal, his mother and a Shetland mare found themselves alongside our mare group, with whom they have been neighbors for a while. On the other side were our four males—the bachelor band. For the males, this was a moment of strong interest. The four of them stood next to each other, observing and taking everything in.
For the females, this was a new situation where they could exchange information. In a balanced socio-cognitive context it is not about hierarchy and dominance, understanding who has which rank—they are not an army. Instead, getting to know each other is about working to understand information, taking it one step at the time and learning to take each other into account. Creating an image of each other, and of the relationship dynamics as well, starts beyond a fence.
This means, for example, that in one moment, the Shetland mare showed a bit of an exaggerated, reactive behavior toward the foal (with a rear kick), while our male Falò actually expressed a soft, calming nickering.
The usual interpretation would have been that the Shetland mare claimed dominance toward the foal. But the Shetland mare in that situation is actually in need of a more slow understanding of the dynamics around her, of new experiences in which she finds she can actually trust and rely upon the horses around her being able to read dynamics and herself.
A balanced herd searches for a calm life together and preserves each other’s inner state.— Francesco De Giorgio and JosŽ De Giorgio-Schoorl