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Where Are You In The Pecking Order In Your Horses Herd?

Well, as we get more into spring and the snow starts to disappear, people tend to think about spending more time with their horses.

This, of course, can be both a good thing and maybe not such a good thing, depending on the interaction you are set up to have with your horse. If your horse has had the winter off, as so many horses tend to, how you fit into your world may have to be re-introduced to them. What I mean by this, is that for the last several months, your horse has been left alone to make most of his or her own decisions without much input from you. More often than not, your interaction with him has been to feed him and check on his well-being. Now with any relationship, be it horse or human, it comes under constant evaluation. Long story short, who is working for who?

If the only time the horse sees you and has any contact with you is when you are feeding him and looking after his needs, it would be fair for the horse to think that you are working for him and he is the dominant one in your herd relationship. And you must remember that every time you interact with your horse, you are teaching him something, both good or bad habits, depending on the message you are giving them.

Let’s explore what this could look like further. Something as simple as forking out some hay to a group of horses can be a really important lesson to you and your horse. When being fed, the hierarchy of the herd really is on full display, so watch carefully. The dominant members of the herd will take their place first, then the submissive members fall in line in their order of rank.

Now if you need to enter that herd dynamic for any reason, you need to be very aware of how these horses perceive you. Where do you fit in this herd? Are you at the top of the pecking order or maybe down somewhere closer to the bottom? Any animal at the bottom of the herd, yourself included, is going to be at a higher risk of getting hurt should an issue arise. This is one of the many reasons I preach to people to become the leader of their herds.

Say, for instance, when you are feeding, you notice that one horse's blanket needs to be adjusted, and so you step into the pen to fix the problem. As you are moving towards the horse, you intend to help you move the herd around and disrupt their feeding routine, and the dominant horses take offence to be moved off their feed. As that offended horse challenges the offender, you may be caught in the crossfire, kicked, ran over, or whatever because you were in the way.

Does this sound familiar? You put yourself in trouble in that herd may have happened intentionally or on accident. You may have just been in the line of fire when one horse was chastising another for getting in his spot. Because you had no status in that herd other than being the supplier of food and water, your place in that herd had little to no relevance. In order for you to be safe working with your horses, they need to understand that you are always the dominant member of the herd any time you interact with them. Getting this accomplished so that your horses respect your presence and operate out of respect and not fear takes some work and time.

This time and effort are well worth it, as it may save your life someday. The relationship that you build with your horse is key to keeping you safe, whether you are riding your horse or maybe just stepping into the pen only to adjust a blanket. We will talk more about this in the future and discuss methods you can use to develop a safe and rewarding relationship with your horses. Remember, respect cannot be demanded, and it must be earned.

In the Cowboy Campus Club, I have an entire mini-clinic on staying safe. It's one of the most important mini-clincs inside the club. The CCU Club is currently closed for enrollment but we are so excited to be getting near the launch of our improved Cowboy Campus Club. We’ve been working hard over the past six months to make the club 10X better than before, including moving it to a brand new platform.

The Cowboy Campus Club is my group coaching program, where you receive both content and coaching! Each month a new mini-clinic is dropped where I help you to master a new skill or problem-solve. Upon enrolling, you’ll receive instant access to my four-part Key Ranch College training program, over a dozen mini-clinics, plus fun bonuses like the Cowboy Book Club, History & Horsemanship episodes, and more!

But the part members love the most is the coaching element. Within the members-only Facebook group, you can ask me your horsemanship questions and even submit a video for him to watch and review. I’ll then answer your question via video, and it will appear in the Cowboy Campus Club Members' Questions section. And don’t worry, you can ask your questions anonymously if you choose.

Sign up for the Cowboy Campus Club waitlist here →

We'll see you inside the club!




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