Changing Herd Dynamics

June 9, 2006

This month our small bachelor herd of mustangs increased to four with the addition of Mike's new horse. All of our horses were born wild and spent time as part of free roaming bachelor bands. Griton was two on his capture date, Corazon and Llego were three year olds and little Valeroso about four. They each had time to develop unique personalities and behaviors within a male group before learning how to live in the human world.


Llego, Valeroso, Griton, Corazon

Corazon is what I call a benevolent alpha and what Mark Rashid refers to as a passive leader. These are horses who never fight to become leaders; it's more like they are elected. They are calm and quiet and avoid conflict unless given no other option. If there happens to be a bully in the group, the benevolent one will just avoid him and gradually the rest of the group will be found around his quiet influence.


Griton & Corazon

Corazon and Griton have been together the longest, a little over a year, and have a well established friendship. Griton on his own could easily become a bully, and tries to at times. When he does get aggressive with the others though, Corazon simply walks away or avoids him and Griton must stop his activities to stay with his friend. I've used Corazon's example many times to discourage undesirable behavior in the herd…I either walk away or turn my attention to another horse. When the trouble maker discovers he has been left on the outside, he learns to keep his manners in line.


Corazon, Griton & Valeroso behind

Valeroso joined our group about six months ago. He spent the longest time in the wild and has had the least amount of work with humans. At not much over thirteen hands, he is tiny compared to the others but his spirit is huge. Valeroso comes from an area of New Mexico where there isn't much forage or water and his small band was harassed by people on ATVs. With his very crooked front legs, we think his naturally aggressive behavior is what helped him to survive. He and Griton went from being play buddies when he first arrived, to an uneasy tolerance as the two butted heads for position.


Griton & Valeroso

Llego joined our herd just a week ago after only eight months in captivity. He is calm by nature and I think may turn out to be another benevolent alpha like Corazon, though he is much more willing to respond to a challenge than Corazon is. Initially Valeroso was completely infatuated with him and followed him as close as a shadow. Griton challenged Llego but when Corazon avoided the conflicts, he quickly has settled down. At this point there are only small skirmishes between Griton and Llego. For the most part, I am seeing them calmly standing together swishing flies with Corazon sandwiched between Griton and Llego and getting the benefit of both their tails.


Llego & Valeroso

Valeroso has sadly caused himself to be left on the outside as the others increasingly follow Corazon's lead by avoiding the trouble makers. Just a couple of days after Llego arrived, Valeroso began challenging everyone but Corazon for their food. They seem to recognize he is not a threat, but when he charges them with penned ears, bared teeth and kicking, they respond by chasing him away. It is sad to see Valeroso standing by himself; but the others are teaching him what is acceptable behavior within the group. The same thing happened during the first couple of months after Valeroso joined the group and I expect this is a process that will resolve itself by the end of summer as the group becomes adjusted to its new member. If he approaches calmly, they already allow him back into their circle, even sharing piles of hay with him.




One Response to “Changing Herd Dynamics”

  1. I have so enjoyed reading about your fabulous horses and their rehabilitaiotn stories…how lucky they are to have you! I love the look of Griton’s bitless bridle and wondered wyhere you got it from. I live in Scotland where Bitless is just beginning to catch on. I had to design my own “Scawbrig” when I wanted to go Bitless at first 6 years ago. This is now showing signs of wear and it would now cost more than I can afford to have a new leather one made. The action of Griton’s navy blue one looks very similar.
    Wishing you and your beautiful horses all the best from Sctland!! Ali

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