Throughout the years, as humans domesticated and bred horses, gentler horses emerged. Every horse is an individual and, whether wild or domestic, wants to be recognized entirely for himself. Horses as a breed have characteristics that separate them from all other animals.
We know that horses are herd animals and have a hierarchical social behavior within the herd. Within this structure, there is a trusting of individual friendship. We can see both wild and domestic horses within the herd finding a favorite partner. This is why we humans, if done right, can build a special relationship with our horses where they love to be with us.
Wild horses and domestic horses are very cautious, aware, sensible, and do not want any trouble. The obvious difference between the wild and domesticated horse is the wild horse is out there on open rangeland, where there are no stalls, no barrels of feed, no people bearing brushes and tack, no horse trailers, no veterinarians, etc.
Nature did not condition horses to deal with the trappings of civilization.
Horses graphically portray the basic drive for self-preservation that is shared by all living creatures. The concern that horses have for their security stays on the surface throughout their lives. Horses can recognize simple patterns of predictability and take confidence in them, but when anything out of the ordinary happens, their nameless dread springs to the forefront. This is because the horse does not possess the ability to apply known facts to new situations. Example: Your horse may be accustomed to the sight of a tarp in a certain place and walk past it many times without anxiety; but if the tarp is lifted toward him by a sudden gust of wind, he will startle with fright. He won’t know why the tarp moved as though alive.
We must understand that all horses respond differently. Some are very sensitive and respond quickly, and some are more lethargic. Whether wild or domestic, one major difference in their behavior is caution. All horses are curious by nature, but the wild horse differs in his curiosity from the domestic.
CURIOSITY IN THE WILD
Out west on a wild horse sanctuary, I see the wild horses off at a distance. As they became aware of my presence, the whole herd looks up and stares at me. Remember, these horses have never been touched by a human. I am patient and just wait. Eventually they all start to walk toward me. When they are about 300 yards away, they stop and look at me. Because of their curiosity they are waiting for my next move. If I get aggressive, they will flee. If I try to get close to them in a gentle way, they will still leave, but not so aggressively.
At a breeding farm where five to six hundred horses are out in the pastures, I watch a herd of about one hundred off at a distance. When they look up and see me, the entire herd actually gallops toward me and surrounds me. There is one stallion, many mares and a bunch of babies. They are friendly. I can touch them. The babies come over so I can pat them and the stallion puts his head right on my shoulder. Even though they are cautious, they are more curious and trustworthy.
The most appealing trait of the horse is that if he is loved, if he is given the proper body language and leadership, he begins to put trust above his own fears.
Bob Burrelli is a trainer/clinician dedicated to excellence in natural horsemanship. www.bobburrelli.com