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Juliane Dykiel's Horsemanship Blog

Archive for the tag “mustang”

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.

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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.

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

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