In search of ponies: Spoiled horse gets schooled in manners

Sharna Johnson

When Sancha first came into my life she was the only horse and like an only child often does, she became a bit of a diva pretty quickly.

A number of the defiant or spoiled little stunts she would pull were enough to concern me about her future disposition and attitude.

The general consensus was that she needed a companion and immediately the suggestions started pouring in to get her a goat or some other type of friend.

It would help solve the loneliness and some of the behavior issues as people told me.

What would really be good for her was an older horse that could “school” her in proper manners.

As it turned out, I ended up getting a second horse and then a third and the dynamics began to unfold.

With the first new addition, not much changed.

A passive older gelding, Blackie really didn’t present much fight to her prissy manner issues.

But when Pyrite came along it was altogether different.

A bit of a narcissist, Pyrite wasn’t about to put up with her shenanigans and instantly took her to school.

All of a sudden the little princess found herself being moved from here to there for no apparent reason, or quickly disciplined every time she engaged in her nonsense.

The change was almost instantaneous.

Sancha developed a sensitivity to her environment, always looking around and watching for the bared teeth or hoof that was sure to come if she stepped out of line.

And her disposition with her human handlers changed too.

In the wild, herd setting, the pecking order is very clear and the dominate horses move the lesser ones, discipline and direct them both for order, safety and in the interest of finding food.

But even in a barnyard setting, those dynamics were remarkably effective.

That is until the toll of her education became worrisome and Pyrite began pushing her away from her food and biting and kicking hard enough to leave scars.

In the interest of making sure she got enough to eat and wasn’t badly injured, they had to be separated – still given some time together here and there, just not in the same concentrated amounts as before.

And even though they are separated by a fence, they are still drawn to one another and can often be seen standing side by side against it, just as if they were still in the same pen together.

Only without the bruises and bites and her getting to eat all of her food, rather than having to step aside when he wants more than his pile offered.

What it all boiled down to was that in a domestic, confined situation, those wild dynamics so imperative to the function of the herd quickly turned into problems.

As much as the discipline and correction Pyrite gave helped with one problem, it created another.

If he had run her from one green patch of grass to another all day long, it wouldn’t have been an issue. When there’s only two piles of hay, it’s a different story.

And when those two piles of hay or human attention create a focal point for feuding and fighting, that problem compounds.

But that doesn’t mean those dynamics have no place.

A young horse acting up should know that a nip from an older horse is soon to follow, or that bad behavior means you get put in “time out” and shunned from the herd.

Only it has to be done by finding a balance between the wild and the domesticated worlds and at the end of the school day, Sancha goes home to her own place, where she has her own pile of food.