Knowledge of the herd
Author: Jorge Lisandro Montiel

I´ve asked myself for a long time how horses manage to remember the places they´ve visited to feed, seek shelter, relax, drink water, etc, etc...
I was sure that they somehow used some kind of natural mechanism to keep memories of places, and not to loose this knowledge.

But I couldn´t verify this by observation, though I´ve spent so much time among them, studying their natural habitat- but by logical deduction, which I later verified in the field.

The one in charge of keeping this precious knowledge within the group couldn´t ever be the stallion or dominant male, as he´s not in charge to lead the group, but only to elicit group movement (not group leading); besides, when being moved from their hierarchy rank by another male outside the group, he´d be forced to leave the group, and had this been the case, he´d take this knowledge with him.

Nor could be the younger members of the group, either males or females, as they use to herd in the middle of the group when they move, never taking the lead.

Los machos jóvenes cuando se transforman en adultos son obligados a abandonar el grupo cuando pretenden cortejar a las yeguas, el líder o jefe los ahuyenta, también en este caso se perdería la información.

So there´s only the mares left, and they are the true carriers of the knowledge of the herd.

Knowing that horses possess an excellent memory, mares should remain in the group as long as possible, as they possess the knowledge of where the good places are; and they do indeed, establishing longterm friendships with other mares, so that if one dissappears, the knowdlege would remain within the group, carried by another mare, who will soon transferir to another mare pal.

I´m sure about this statetement, as herds usually hang around and change places during the different seasons, but they always come back to the same places

They tend to use always the same patches when moving through vast portions of land (thousands of hectares). Even each different subgroup has its own patch

When they run away spooked by something, some older mare is the one to lead the direction of the run.

Argentinian gauchos make use of this knowledge when they have to force a group to move; they attach a dangling bell to the mare-leader´s neck (called godmother mare), so they know that the whole group is following this female.


We must take this fact into account when taking the leadership of our own horse, -croup is not the only place for leadership over the horse, it´s also to go in front of him when on the ground (the place to guide the group)-

There are, in my opinion, two kind of leaderships: -active (stallion) and passive (mare guide), either one not necessarily being superior or inferior than the other, just different, complementing each other without need of competition.

Therefore, we must not allow our horse to to push the bridle (if having the head stall) when we are walking with him on the ground. We would be giving him the role of guiding the group, a rank of hierarchy. We just need a twist, or turn, on our own positional axis to leave it in its proper place: behind us. This action of turning over himself is quite "unpleasant to him".

So, you´ll be asking which kind of leadership to take over the horse when it comes to break it in. The answer is. both of them. On the first place, we assume the role of boss of the herd (which is easier for him to accept) and then, little by little, and with great sensitivity, we´ll be subtly exerting the godmother mare´s passive leadership.

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