In leadership I'd like to talk about the natural herd and it's leader. The horse and it's leader, or like in some cases when the horse feels the need that he will have to be the leader. That's how it should be, that's how it has always been; a leader and his followers. Horses, being prey animals, live in a herd to increase their chances of survival. To be able to keep harmony within this herd there needs to be a leader. And this leader is chosen by hiŽrachy. Usually the most dominant horse is the leader of the herd. The alpha. The herd respects him and follows him. His position is challenged occasionally by the "second" in command, to be sure that the leader is still up to do his job. In turn, the position of the "second" in command also gets challenged by the "third" in command and so on. And this way the hiŽrachy works itselfs down to the bottom in command, who is most likely the underdog of the herd.
It could be that you are dealing with a naturally dominant horse, who is continueously challenging your position as the leader, to take over on the day that you cannot handle that position anymore. Or ofcourse it could be possible that your horse is very docile and not too fussed about taking over your position at all, and that he thinks it's all fine and dandy as it is. As long as they can feel sure that you are in charge and that you are confident in being so. If you start feeling insecure about the whole situation, the horse will feel this instantly. When this happens the horse doesn't want to feel trapped with an insecure person and he will challenge your role as the leader - come on, someone needs to keep you both safe and sound! So, it is fair and easier for the horse if you can clearly show him that you are very capable of this position as a leader, and that he can count on your leadership abillities.
For as long as we can remember we are taught to be dominant over the horse, to teach him to respect us. If he is the underdog, he will respect us and perform anything we ask him to. But the question is, does he really respect us? Does he work for us because he respects us? Does he actually get the job done? Or is it more or less a case of fear? Is it not the ultimate dream of every horselover to become one with the horse? Can we achieve this through dominant behaviour towards the horse? Many questions...
Now if we take another closer look at the herd hiŽrachy we find a second kind of leader; the passive leader. The passive leader has no ambitions what soever to become the alpha leader of the herd and therefore doesn't use any agression or dominance to prove himself. He is often a bit older, knows his way around and just wants a quiet life. The herd usually finds peace and calmness with this horse, because he is pedictable, consistant and usually the one to lead the herd peacefully to better grass or a nice spot in the shade. They sense his peace and trustworthiness and this is what earns their respect and admiration.
So here we arrive at a junction in dealing with horses. Would you rather fight out the hiŽrachy with your horse as the alpha leader through dominance and agression? Or would you rather build a partnership with your horse, based on trust. Him be able to trust you and you being able to trust him. It sounds like a kind of Utopia. Harmony between man and horse. If your horse would totally trust you, would he still challenge your role as the leader of your small herd? I guess it all depends on the horse himself and its rider....but I know which way I would choose.....
To find out more about Passive Leadership I'd like to recommend the books written by Mark Rashid.
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