Do we need to be Dominant?

Dominance=Ownership NOT leadership. Dominance is designed for any group of animals living together of the same species, a family unit, band or pack. It was made so that individuals don't get hurt in unnecessary fights with each other over resources, they determine once or twice who gets priority access to resources and they stick with that role. We need to remember this dominant-submissive relationship is only in reference to priority access to resources - and it can vary heavily. It can vary depending on the resource they fight over - my mare with sweet itch values shelter over companionship or food, so will submit to fights for food or friends but will always get priority access to the shelter. It can vary based on heat cycles, our usually submissive Clyde asserts herself when she is in heat and defends her "resource" of being near our gelding. It can vary based on how the herd is composed - if two individuals want something they may fight off a usually dominant individual to get access. The dominant-submissive relationship changes regularly as well when the dominant one ages, becomes injured or sick, or when the submissive one comes of age or finds themselves desperate.

Leadership is different entirely from dominance. Horses have what we call a "passive leadership". This is where whoever has the greatest need makes the decisions, the others follow for safety. For example a pregnant mare may need more constant access to water, so while the others don't need it they'll follow her to the watering hole for safety in numbers. So leadership is based purely by need, they may even split up if the needs are that extremely divided. Their desire to stick together is purely social bonds and desire for safety in numbers. The leader doesn't force the followers to follow - they do because they must to survive. In fact they're not really leading at all, so much as they are just satiating their needs and the others stick around because their needs aren't so great right this minute. It is ever flowing and constantly changing.

ALLLLL this being said, this has little to do with how we humans should treat our horses. Inter-species dominance isn't such a thing in real life - so unless you and your horse are in a fight over who get the apple, it really matters little to our relationship with them. The other thing to consider is that we own *everything*, we control every minute of every day with our horses, everything they eat, see, smell, who their friends are, when they get to eat or go outside. We control everything - this gives us the moral obligation to meet all their needs completely and not be fighting them for the very resources we gave them! 😛 Our roles are unique and nothing as seen in nature, but it's special and beautiful when done well.

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