Juliane Dykiel's Horsemanship Blog

Archive for the tag “horse”

Rocío’s Quiet Transformation From Subordinate to Alpha Mare

First of all, I’d like your input on turnout preferences. I’d love to see how the horse community feels about this issue.

While most things we have introduced Rocío to since her arrival have been new to her, turning her out with another horse was not. She had spent 5 years in a holding pen full of other mustangs, and, for this reason, we were sure that turning her out with another horse at Windflower would be a smooth process.

We chose Tica, Ainslie’s calmest mare, to be the first horse to turn Rocío out with.

“Patriotica,” Ainslie’s Andalusian mare.

We waited until the two had been properly introduced through the fence before introducing them. Additionally, the two had bonded from going out on trail walks together, where Ainslie would lead Tica and Rocío and I would follow.

One of Tica and Rocío’s first interactions.

One of Tica and Rocío’s first interactions, courtesy of Sheridan Studio.

However, it turned out that Rocío’s interaction with Tica was one of the most fascinating bits of herd dynamics I have ever observed.

When we were picking up Rocío from Orange on April 10th, we noticed that she was at the bottom of the pecking order. The other mares pushed her around. As a result, Rocío had gotten used to eating old, muddy scraps of hay because she usually couldn’t reach the good hay. We theorized that this was one of the reasons she had been so skinny when she arrived.

To observe this for yourself, you can take a peek at the pick-up video here. If you skip ahead to 0:27, you’ll see how shy she is compared to the other mares.

This is why we wanted her to be out with Tica specifically. Ainslie’s mare is very aloof in a herd and has “adopted” several of Ainslie’s young horses throughout the seventeen years Ainslie has owned her. She usually dominates but is not aggressive.

Tica establishing her role as herd leader early on. Photo by Sheridan Studio.

Tica establishing her role as herd leader early on. Photo by Sheridan Studio.

As soon as we were out together, the mares behaved just as we had predicted. Tica, the flashy Andalusian, pranced around the paddock, shooting warning faces at Rocío while Rocío tried to follow her around. In these first few minutes, Rocío accepted her place as subordinate mare very quickly.


Tica bossing Rocío around. Photo by Waxler Imagery.

Then, Tica settled down and ate some hay, while Rocío circled her for a few minutes. Tica wasn’t letting her approach the hay, and Rocío’s behavior was odd. She seemed to be approaching and retreating Tica from different angles.

All of a sudden, minutes later, Rocío backed up into Tica and kicked her! With a squeal, Tica backed off from the hay, and before we knew it, Rocío was chasing her around!

Rocío changing her place in the herd rather suddenly. Photo by Sheridan Studio.

Rocío changing her place in the herd rather suddenly. Photo by Sheridan Studio.

We were shocked at this quick transformation, and Rocío’s methodical, quiet, relatively drama-free way of switching the dynamic. I’ve seen horses fight for dominance before, and sometimes those fights escalate. Usually, a complete switch from subordinate to alpha mare could be very explosive, but Rocío proved to be extremely calculated.

Both mares were at peace very quickly. Photo by Sheridan Studio.

Both mares were at peace very quickly. Photo by Sheridan Studio.

The fact that she had been out with her herd in Orange, MA for days and stayed at the bottom of the pecking order told me that she has gained a lot of confidence at Windflower since she has arrived. She became the bold lead mare within twenty minutes or less.

Both girls trotting around in harmony. Photo by Waxler Imagery.

Both girls trotting around in harmony. Photo by Waxler Imagery.

This made me feel very happy for her, as well as reinforcing my opinion of how intelligent and sensible this little mare is.

Photo by Anne Dykiel.

Photo by Anne Dykiel.

If you like these updates, and haven’t already, please consider donating to our cause so that we can give this mare the best care possible.

Make sure you like our Facebook page!

As usual, I’d like to thank Sheridan Studio and Waxler Imagery for capturing all of these important moments. These photographers are truly gifted.


Blogging Contest Winner: Lauren and Devon’s Story

Here at AHS, we believe that our experiences with horses formulate our knowledge. We think that it’s just as important to convey the stories along with the knowledge.

However, because of this, we end up publishing a lot of stories about ourselves. Therefore, I decided to reach out to the horse community and invite people to share their own stories about themselves and their horses. I hosted a blogging contest in early 2013, and the winner of the contest was the story of Lauren and her horse Devon. I love this story because it shows us how horses can keep a person together, and help a person on the road to recovery.


Lauren and Devon.

Here is what Lauren has to say about herself and Devon.

“Devon and I: our relationship started out perfect because he was a surprise birthday present. My dream had come true. Patiently, I waited for 8 years to finally have a pony to call my own. He was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. Instantly I was in love…but he may have needed some convincing.

The first year I owned Devon we took weekly lessons and attended many dressage and jumping clinics, and he began so show me his talent. With the help of Ainslie, a trainer at the barn where he used to live, and the Dykiel family, his old owners, I began to understand Devon more. They showed me a whole new way to become an even better horse owner: by continuing to use Natural horsemanship techniques with Devon. The results are addictive and I began to use these methods with all the horses I handled and still do today. Devon and I began to trust each other more and more. We participated in some local schooling 3 phases and jumper shows and he really began to shine. I took him to his first 3 phase, pre-elementary and he got 3rd! I also took him Elementary where he also finished 3rd, both times on his dressage score. Through the winter we attend jumper shows where he went clean and WON classes up to 3’3.


Lauren and Devon jumping.

The following year, we attended more clinics and some schooling shows, and of course continued lessons. People everywhere fell in love with him. I’m always getting comments on his good looks and talent. We were able to begin fine tuning his skills; he was better than I had ever dreamed he could be. We even were able to participate in a local AA rated Hunter/Jumper show where I entered him in both rings and he kept right up with the best of them. He is always making momma proud.


In the dressage ring.

In 2009, my boyfriend of almost a year, Drew, was in an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Between going to work and visiting Drew while he was in rehab, I only had time to ride a few times a week. Devon was a great horse to have at this time because he didn’t become “hot” and was still great to ride. This gave us time to get a lot of trail miles under our belts and lots of flat work. In the end I think it was a good time for him to relax for a little while with no jumping.



2010 was a turnaround year for us. We began schooling much more and he became a vital role in Drew’s recovery. Drew could come into Devon’s paddock and drive around and Devon would just follow him around and nuzzle him and his wheelchair. Brushing Devon became a form of exercise for Drew, and a form of therapy. Bringing Devon back into real work didn’t take long, he was always very smart, smarter than I am, and it was mainly stamina that we needed to get back. By the end of the year we were able to go to a jumper show and we went clear in all of our rounds and to a 2 phase where we did Novice and got 4th!

The following year we were able to start taking lesson again at Scarlett Hill Farm and we set a goal to go Beginner Novice in the spring, and we did. His gaits became very clear and transitions smooth, his canter became more balanced then it had ever been before. We started schooling more cross country fences like water, ditches, and drops. He took to it all with an open mind and a brave heart. He has never been one to be scared of fences, or anything for that matter.

When spring came I took him elementary for the first time out and he finished 2nd, so then I decided he was fine to jump right into Beginner Novice. A month later came our first BN event. He is always very calm at a show but you can tell he loves to show off. Our dressage was the best test we had ever had, we had a clear round stadium, and a clear round cross country, the wonder pony finished in first place. I had never been more proud of him then I was in that moment, I was not expecting that. Next year we hope to move up to Novice which will be very exciting!


Blue ribbon boy!

We continue to grow as a team and together we can conquer anything. He has taught me how to be a strong and brave leader, he gave me something I didn’t know I was missing, and he helped pave the paths I took in my life. I admire the strength and beauty he provides me with every day and I couldn’t imagine my life without him.”


Handsome Devon.

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