My lovely wife Amy can tell you that I’ve been earning the title of “wrangler” more and more lately, though I have a very long way to go before I could be considered an experienced pro at it when it comes to doing it for real.
But I feel like I’m getting there, slowly.
At a family friend’s property near our home, where Amy’s been boarding two horses of ours for a few years now and has lately been working on “trick training” so she can teach others to do the same thing, we recently brought a third Morgan mare for Amy to care for and train — the Morgan belonging to someone else — into the mix of two high-strung Arabian mares who already had their “pecking order” figured out long ago.
Bringing that third mare into the mix has been pretty fascinating. What was once a “done deal” in the battle to compete for the alpha mare position has been thrown pretty much up for grabs, and it’s still anyone’s guess a couple of weeks later as to how it will turn out.
When it was just two Arabian mares of our own, the younger Cheyenne became the alpha mare over the older Gypsy. Then along came the new mare, Baby, the smallest of the three. When they were first introduced to each other about two weeks ago, you could see the competition begin as soon as the three of them were put into the same arena together, with no fences separating them.
At first, it went as expected: Cheyenne maintained her dominance, putting her rump to her competitors’ rumps, squealing, kicking at them violently, and Gypsy soon decided she’d seen enough and seemed content to be the bottom mare on the ladder. It came down to Cheyenne and Baby, each of them pinning their ears back, putting their rumps in position to kick at each other. They went at it, and Cheyenne got in the best shot to one of Baby’s legs, sending Baby running off on three legs to a safer area before she put her hurt leg back down and favored it for a while.
She had given in. Cheyenne was the top mare. We put Baby back in an enclosed area all to herself so we could keep an eye on her leg for a while. She’d sustained quite a shot to it. I spent some time looking in her eyes, and she looked at me in a way that said, “I don’t like that horse! Help me, please! Please, help me!” She was all Baby.
Since that time, with the three of them together again with no fences separating them, that pecking order hasn’t always stayed that way. At times, Baby has been the dominant mare. But this morning, when Amy and I went out to treat some “battle scars” on Cheyenne and Baby, Cheyenne and Gypsy combined to pin Baby in two different corners on two separate occasions within a minute or two of each occurence.
Yes, there was kicking involved, just like the first day. Baby tried to escape, but she was caught in a corner (funny thing, wasn’t there a line in the movie “Dirty Dancing” along those lines … “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”), the last time somehow breaking through a gate to more safety with Gypsy following her, intimidating her with a look and her attitude. Amy and I managed to separate them so Gypsy couldn’t cause any more trouble for a while, but even while separated — from a distance — you could plainly see who was the one doing the intimidating and who was the one being intimidated.
The merry-go-round continues. Maybe someday the crazy ride will finally stop. By that time, maybe I’ll be closer to being a real “horse whisperer.” I could really get into this. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
It’s my lovely wife’s fault.