We’re often told that horses are mimics and will copy whatever their “leader” does. I’ve seen trainers run along in a trotting motion when they want a horse to trot alongside them. Even better, when they want the horse to canter, I’ve seen trainers skip along pretending to canter, thinking that the horse will copy them.
My brother-in-law Steve Byrne had a couple of family horses – Nugget and The General – for more than twenty-five years. The horses were kept in a paddock and fed twice a day. One day Nugget wasn’t eating and Steve went down to investigate. He found ducks in Nugget’s bin, eating the feed. Each time Nugget tried to eat, the ducks pecked his nose and chased him away. Nugget ran backwards away from the ducks, then stood and waited patiently for his turn to eat.
And do you think Nugget tried to please the ducks and do whatever they wanted? Do you think he followed them around the paddock? Do you think he copied the ducks and started waddling? Perhaps he ran along, flapped his limbs and tried to fly, just like the ducks.
This sounds absolutely ridiculous. But it’s no more ridiculous than thinking a horse will follow you or copy your movements because he thinks you’re his “leader”.
Nugget didn’t think that the ducks were his leader or higher in the pecking order. The simple fact is Nugget didn’t want to be pecked on the nose, so he waited until he could eat his feed in peace.
The horse world is full of old wives tales that suit the human way of thinking. Some humans like to think that they’re at the top of the pecking order. They want to show the world how tough they are. They think that chasing horses to the point of exhaustion and using fear and force will help them to be the “boss”. They believe that every horse should “submit” to them and “respect” them.
Horses however, just want to make life as easy as possible for themselves. They don’t want to be pecked on the nose by ducks and they don’t want to be chased and harassed by humans for reasons they don't understand.
Read more on this subject here: www.fearfreehorsetraining.com/blog/horse-herds-and-pecking-orders