I am writing this as though writing a story, however all this did take place on one the days I was horse sitting, it puzzled and amused me, but I never thought to mention it or inquire about it, writing it off as nothing important, but now after watching the herd dynamics at Beekman I can't help but wonder, what was going on? 

It was a hot summer day in June,and I was busy mucking Rose's stall out. Julie had left for four days and I was in charge of taking care of the horses. As I mucked Rose's stall, she came in with me and stood to the back, watching as I shoveled manure into a half full bucket. Beside me, nudging my leg, Rascal a mini donkey waited for me to scratch behind his ears. Pausing to wipe sweat from my brow, I reached down and began scratching Rascal, who, much to my amusement,put his head back, closed his eyes and appeared to smile at me. Behind the two of us Rose nickered,stepped forward and began rubbing my back with her head before draping it over my shoulder. The three of us stood there, enjoying the moment when suddenly the shadow of Joe fell across us. I looked up and my eyes met his wary and hostile gaze. His ears were pinned flat as he stared at me. Never breaking my gaze,Joe lowered his head, began a series of sorting and pawed at the ground. We still studied each other, neither one of us blinking or faltering in this stare off. I squared my shoulders, stood straighter and watched as he took a step forward. I refused to move back or forward, but merely stood and watched. Joe faltered then took two big steps to me, his ears were flat and he seemed nervous and tense. He prepared to move forward again when suddenly Rose moved between us, ears flattened,and blocked Joe from coming to me. Joe snorted and pushed at Rose but she wouldn't budge. Exasperated, Joe reached across Rose's back towards me. Rose whipped her head and bit Joe in the shoulder. He jumped back and flared his nostrils. Rose continued to move forward until she had backed Joe out of the stall, when she was satisfied with her actions Rose resumed her position behind me, head draped over my shoulder. 

I resumed shoveling manure and got ready to carry the bucket out of the stall. Joe had returned and was body blocking my exit,refusing to move from my path. I had left the carrot stick outside of the stall, so I was in a small pickle. Joe took a step to me and I took two steps towards him. He was about to take another step forwards when suddenly he paused, pinned his ears and moved. Casting a glance behind me I saw Rose standing there, ears flat a warning in her eyes. Rascal trotted out ahead of me, then I followed with Rose on my heels. Trailing behind us was a very pitiful looking Joe. 

When I had finished cleaning the stall I chuckled and went inside to cool off. But  now that I am watching the horses at Beekman and experiencing these different personalities and herd hiearchy,I am wondering if there wasn't more going on here. Perhaps I too was in the middle of this cross communication and missed my cues. Maybe confronting Joe when came forward was wrong, 

Now, tell me Oh horse experts,what exactly was Joe communicating and Rose too? 

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Comment by Jackie Cochran on July 29, 2015 at 12:46pm

I have no idea why Joe is smelling you.  Could his eyesight be bad?

Comment by Paula Stevens on July 27, 2015 at 9:05pm

It's very interesting, herd dynamics and behaviour. When I run the horses in to feed them, Oulav tries to make all the decisions.If horses do not follow him he will bite, strike,kick,rear up at and even literally body slam into the until they follow him. The horses that don't will come in with for me, waiting for the next step. If Oulav isn't with the herd(I'll separate him form the herd to make it easier when bringing them in) then Money, a Paint gelding, will become ring leader of the herd and he'll lead the into the paddock. I don't deal with Joe or any of the horses on Julies land often. Another thing about Joe, he would stand smelling me, for an unforgivable amount of time.... I stood there for over 30 minutes to see how long he'd continue investigating my scent...it was a long time and he did that everytime I entered the stall, pasture or anywhere near him. None of the horses at Beekman ever stood that long to merely get my scent and neither did Cody, Rose, Jac, Duchess or Dragon. I'm not sure why he did that either....... I always take a rope or carrot stick out to pasture with me as I am entering an area with 8 big horses of different perosnalities, I like having a way to keep my personal space personal and back them off should they become aggressive or pushy or rude. Any idea why Joe enjoys 'smelling' me? 

Comment by Jackie Cochran on July 27, 2015 at 7:17pm

In case anybody misunderstands me about carrying a lead rode or riding whip, these are not for hitting the horse, these are for establishing boundaries, a visible boundary of this far and no further, horse.  Always do your best to be out of the way of any retaliation from the horse.  The carrot stick is good because it give a visual sign further away from you than a riding whip, but as you found out it is so easy to lay it down and not have it on you when you really need it.  Flicking the knot end of the lead rope toward the horse can also give this message.  In my horse owning and handling life I have rarely gone into a pasture or any other area with a loose horse without something that I can use for this, lead rope, whip or one of my canes.

If you pay attention and nip things in the early stages life goes a lot more smoothly!

Oh, in Virginia hunt seat country, where I first learned my horsemanship, if the horse was in the stall when I mucked out I was to tell the horse to MOVE TO ONE SIDE and STAY THERE while I cleaned their stall.  They were NOT allowed to "socialize" with me while I was doing my work.

Comment by Jackie Cochran on July 27, 2015 at 6:34pm

Joe may have some issues.  Sometimes some tissue is missed in the castration operation and these geldings are prone to stallion behavior.  At your level of experience, if you have to deal with this horse again, you need to practice eternal vigilance.  Always make it a point to carry a lead rope or a riding crop, these are easier to carry everywhere than a carrot stick  Make sure the riding crop has a wrist loop, then you can always carry it.

As a matter of safety I would NEVER muck out a stall with more than one equine in it.  It is also safer not to have horses roaming around an open stall door.  This is basic safety in the stable, safety both for humans and the horses. 

As you gain more experience you will learn that, just like among humans, there are horses you can never trust.  Among the horses you can never trust are proud cut geldings and stallions.  When I had a stallion he was super, super good, but I never ASSUMED that he would be good.  There are also mares you can't trust, and geldings.  For whatever reason that caused them to become hostile toward humans, it is your responsibility (and right) as a horsewoman to be prepared to defend yourself.  The first step of effectively defending yourself is to keep an eye on the horse and react immediately when you see a situation develop.

At least that is what my stud colts and stallions taught me.  Sometimes a horse will start to "bully" me because I am handicapped.  I make them move back (canes make good signals.)

You are doing well for your experience.  I would not be surprised if people start confidently asking you for advice in a year or two.

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