Horse Psychology Tutorial: Part 3 Horses Are Gregarious

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Horse Psychology Tutorial - Part 3 Horses Are Gregarious

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Herd Instinct (Horses Are Gregarious!)
Part 2 of an 8-part series on horse psychology by trainer Gina Gaye Muzinich of the Morgan Horse Ranch

The horse’s instinct to be in a “herd” and learn from other horses has helped him survive for centuries in the wild. Usually when one horse is sleeping, another is on guard. If one senses something of possible concern, he tells the others with sounds and body language. Some of these indications include: snorting, high carriage of the head, animated movements, tail held out or up, and ears pointed in the direction of concern.

Horses know that when they stay together there is less chance of an individual being caught by the unknown. It’s “safety in numbers”. Wild horses that stayed in the center of the herd were safer from attack. This can be seen today with zebras in Africa and with wise old ranch horses that learned that they were more likely to be roped from the herd for the day’s work if they were near the edge, so they sought the center of the herd. Horses do not realize that there is hardly a chance of any lions or tigers running loose to attack them, so the natural survival instincts remain and are very profound in some horses.

Some horses are more fearful and possess the tendency to become “herd bound”. If this type of horse is separated from others during a ride, she will exhibit her insecurity by “jigging” (a short-strided, bouncy trot), sweating, snorting, or neighing. If these insecurities and behavioral tendencies are not recognized initially and dealt with properly, the horse may become out of control. If you are riding a horse like this, I suggest not separating her from other horses if you are not skilled enough in horse handling or do not know what to do to help the horse.

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