This doesn’t mean they have no individuality. Not even slightly. Every one of those apparently indistinguishable black or brown or white or spotted animals has his or her own personality, attitude, and way of fitting into the crowd.
Anyone who has the privilege of interacting with an established horse herd can tell you just how individual (and opinionated) the members of the herd are. And, if the herd is socialized to humans, it will accept the tottery little two-legged critters into that herd.
That’s what we’ve been working with here, as an offshoot of our Horse-Assisted Yoga sessions. These started as one horse with group of humans, but my herd so intrigued the instructor that she started experimenting with actual herd yoga. That means humans in with the horses, doing their stretching and breathing and balancing, and the horses joining in, or not, as they choose.
So, not too long ago, she made it a thing. White Horse Yoga, with handpicked class, set up to explore the possibilities with my eight white horses. Seven in one area, one (the stallion) in his own domain, but very much a part of the interaction.
Well, eight to start with. The week before the first class, we had a Karmic Event: one of my favorite mares in the world, who had lived here years ago on a breeding lease (in which I paid her bills, oversaw her breedings, and kept the foals, but she remained the property of another farm, which took her back at the end of the lease), had been sold to a breeder in Oregon. The breeder was suffering difficulties, and the mare had to be placed in a new home immediately. Both she and the original owner very much wanted that home to be my farm.
There was no way–but then there was. The shipping fees materialized, thanks to friends within the breed, and the new rescue foundation for the breed. The shipper with the lowest bid (and it was rock-bottom low) could pick her up within days. The veterinarian could do the transport papers right away.
Her ETA: More or less on time for yoga class.
The theme, therefore, was Sangha: Community, and welcoming a returning member. The herd was mellow, but the stallion had been staring off to the northwest, where the highway came around the mountain forty miles away, all morning long. The mares kept an eye in that direction, but weren’t unduly perturbed.
One, whom we call the War Mare because of her ferocious temper and tendency to be one big knot of tension, lay down to sleep on the edge of the circle, and let one of the new members of the class pet her. This, for a horse, is major; a horse lying down is highly vulnerable, and when touched, will usually leap to her feet. But she was quiet and peaceful and totally trusting.
And of course our big mare, the Enlightened Master, was here and there and round about, correcting this person’s form with a touch of the nose, or offering her substantial bulk for balance and the occasional, obligatory hug.
Lipizzan Number Nine arrived as the class was ending, in a truly palatial vehicle–which is no more than her due; we call her the Queen. She was plastered with the finest vintage of Oregon mud, but healthy and sound. She got a wholehearted, but mellow, herd and human welcome. And a personal one, too.
We’re taking our time with the actual integration of the new(ish) member into the herd. Some are her daughters. One is a stallion she remembers very well indeed. We’re introducing her to the group one by one, and carefully, so that no one is hurt in the flurries of social rearrangement.
It will take a few weeks to get them all together and settled into the new configuration. Where she’ll be in the hierarchy, no one knows until it happens.
But we know it will happen. Sometimes when you bring a horse into a herd, the disruption is such that integration never really works. If you’ve had cats, you may know how that works. One or more in one room, the rest in another, and never the two shall meet without bloodshed.
In this case, the excitement died down quickly enough and the newcomer is wise enough in picking her fenceline battles that we’re sure she’ll end up a full member of the community. She’s putting her daughters in their places, not engaging with the senior mares, and only defending herself against direct challenges. It’s a good sign.
The next White Horse Yoga session, in a few weeks, should be interesting. She’ll have plenty to say, I’m sure. And plenty to teach, as well.
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