The Benevolent Leader

June 14, 2006

I wish every herd group could have the benefit of a benevolent leader; but how would you plan for something like that? They aren't obvious horses, especially in the beginning. And if you have a standard bully in the group, it takes even longer to spot one. I seem to be unconsciously drawn to them, with Corazon being the fifth who has come into my life. One of the five was a mare and one her son so I believe he learned the role from her.


The band of boys – Valeroso, Llego, Corazon & Griton

When Cuervo was with us, he was a more typical kind of band leader. He could be both pushy and aggressive at times, especially about food. Sometimes when I wanted to work with one of the other horses, I would have to either work in a pen or put Cuervo in one because he would chase the others away to get all of the attention. When we brought Corazon home in February of 2004, Cuervo dominated him and then quickly began to ignore him. I suspect it was because Corazon simply stayed out of his way.


Cuervo Humoso

The week before Cuervo died, Mike and I both observed unusual behavior in Cuervo and at the time we thought he had just finally decided Corazon was worthy of being his friend. The first thing we noticed was Cuervo stood back and allowed Corazon to drink first at the trough. This was highly unusual as Cuervo frequently made the other horses wait as much as half an hour to drink while he played and drenched himself with water. The next thing we saw was Cuervo seeking Corazon out and offering grooming. There were other small things that only people who know their group well would have noticed. In hindsight, we feel Cuervo somehow sensed his coming death and was passing leadership to Corazon.


Cuervo behind, Griton in front

Cuervo was the second horse to be buried here, and both of them were band leaders. Each time we have allowed the others to smell the dead one and watch the burial process. And each time the remaining horses have shown a profound period of grieving. The only spot on our land with sand deep enough for a horse grave is at the bottom of the orchard and it is not a place where the horses habitually spend time. Yet after each death the others have spent a period of about a week standing or lying on the grave, being quiet with each other and showing courtesy to even the lowest in the group.


Griton & Corazon

Since he was captured as a two year old, Griton spent the least amount of time with a wild group. He would very much like to be a bully and without Corazon's quiet influence, he undoubtedly would be. There are a lot of 'ifs' in this equation…if Griton had been in the band before Corazon, if Griton were older than Corazon, if Corazon were less likable, Griton might have actually become that bully. As it is, Griton is continually moderated by his desire to stay in Corazon's favor.


Griton & Corazon

Mike's new horse, Llego, has only been here twelve days and already peace has been restored to the group. Corazon has befriended him and exchanges grooming. Griton tries to ignore him, especially when Corazon is interacting with Llego. And Valeroso, well, his little nose is still a bit bent out of shape but he is accepting that his only way to be part of the group is by minding his manners. I think the most telling sign of the integrated group was seeing Llego, Corazon and Griton all drinking from the water trough at the same time this afternoon. I have no doubt Valeroso would have been in there too if the trough were just a bit larger. 


Llego, Corazon & Griton


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