Angus: It takes a Village
I am really pleased with how things are going with Angus. The photos above show him finding a softer more correct posture at Liberty in only one short month! He is getting into his body and connecting more physically and emotionally. Yay!
Angus recently got added to a small herd of geldings I thought he would be well suited for based on my observations of all three of the horses. Anyone who runs a horse farm knows of the woes of matching horses up to make harmonious groups. Since we have Clients horses, my personal horses and horses that stay only temporarily for training, we have several small groups. the largest having 5 horses of mixed sexes.
It takes a village to raise a colt and it takes a village to help rehab a horse at Ohana. I already wrote about Angus’ initial character but to really know a horse, I need to see him go through all four seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) and I need to see them in a herd of their peers. And just so we’re clear, a horses position in a herd is only their position in that particular herd. It can change as soon as one horse is added or taken away or the horse is moved to a completely new herd. I have entrusted Maestro with Mercury and Uncle Jordan to help me raise him and teach him manners and about life and I am entrusting Blackjack and Minty to help Angus learn about fitting in at the farm and with them and that this is a good place where he will be understood and well looked after. I know they will offer him much needed friendship, companionship and socialization. Once again, I don’t want to undermine the complexities of equine relationships, they are much richer then this and this is just a starting point.
Since I have had Mercury, The herd he is in now is the only herd he has been top rank in. I used to have a Warmblood mare that I delivered from her mother so I knew her really well. She was absolutely mild mannered and very docile. I had her until she was 9 and raised and trained her. I had her boarded at a multitude of farms and many different herds (that period of my life I was quite mobile) She was always mid to bottom of her herd. I eventually sold her to a student at which point she was transferred to a new farm where she was added to a 14 horse mixed sex herd. Two weeks later, I got a message that they were thinking of taking her out of the herd because she was being so dominant that they were worried she was going to injure the other horses! I couldn’t believe they were talking about the same horse! In the two weeks she was at the new farm, she had clawed and kicked her way to top of a 14 horse herd!? I was dumbfounded. It was my first lesson in how a horse can literally change completely in any new herd from bottom to top or vice versa. I have seen this many times at Ohana with horses coming and going here.
I had predicted and hoped Angus’ new Percheron friend Blackjack would be top and I assumed, wrongly that his new Quarter horse friend Minty would be 3rd. Angus has wound up being 3rd because Minty, a normally mild mannered easy going guy was not having it! Anyway, here’s what I observed that the other horses helped me with and what information that helped me know more of his true nature.
- First, Angus calmed down A LOT once he was with his new friends. He is noticeably happier and less anxious including during his training sessions.
- I have been able to observe how he interacts with other horses and how he responds to their communication which is KEY information to me as his trainer. It helps me peel the onion as to what is his true nature versus what is human induced behavior.
- I noticed that he is easily moved by the other horses without much resistance. He moves quickly and does not pin his ears or show much resentment. He is not, however passive or timid.
- In another interesting turn, he is spending a lot of time Aligning (Aligning is an exercise I teach as well) himself with Blackjack the draft horse. I have seen this tactic used by my ponies, Aligning themselves with the top horse. He is also using the pony tactic of hanging very close to him while he is eating without trying to take his food which lead to (in a short time) getting to take small bites off Blackjack’s hay net even when he had access to another one he could have had all to himself. He is clearly working some politics here with Blackjack which is quite amusing to watch.
- He is definitely initiating play at times and they with him and seems to play a little bit with both horses. So as I had intuited, This appears to be a harmonious herd in the making.
Last week he got a badly needed hoof trim to start fixing the contraction of his hooves and This week I offered Angus some essential oils which he Self Selected strongly. It was one more piece of his Holistic remedies. I try to add something each week so I know what is helping rather then bombarding him with all kinds of nutrition changes, remedies and therapies all at once. This is a big mistake I see a lot of people make who want so badly to help their horses. It is nearly impossible to know what is working and what isn’t.
So at our one month mark. I am seeing a calmer more confident horse. His Liberty work has helped me start to re-pattern some very clear emotional and bio-mechanical issues and mostly importantly, Angus and I are becoming friends.