Mustang horses and forgiveness

Monty Roberts is the author of the man who listens to horses.He also wrote an excellent book about a wild mustang horse, “Shy Boy.”

Chapter two is, My Mustang Teachers.He writes,On an annual mustang roundup,I spent long hours observing wild herds.I was mesmerized,especially by the matriarch.The stallion,I learned,has a role as the herd’s protector,but the dominant mare actually leads the herd and makes day-to-day descions about where to graze and water.

The matriarch had a particular way of dealing with antisocial behavior.She would drive the offender from the herd,and when she released the pressure on him,the offender knew he was allowed to come back.

It’s the principle of “advance and retreat.”The theory goes like this:if you push a herd of wild horses in one direction for a certain distance,then lay off them and turn back,their natural inclination is to follow.

If adolescent horses misbehaved-took a bite out of an elder’s rump or kicked or got high–handed–they had the lead mare to deal with.She would square up to the delinquent and drive him or her out.

The offender,of course,was frightened.To be evicted from the herd is like having your death warrent signed;there are predators out there.Often elders of the herd who had outlived their usefulness would go off alone.It was a virtual death sentence,but self-imposed.

When the adolescent horse realized his predicament,he would ask to be let back into the group.He would offer recognizable signals whereby he asked forgiveness and showed submissionHe would “lick and chew”—-the classic mouthing action of the dependent horse asking for food from a superior.He would drop his nose close to the ground,another gesture of submission.

At this point the matriarch would respond.Where previously she had adopted the straight-ahead stare,her body pointed like an arrow at the offender,now she offered a new pose.She would turn and show her flank,change her attitude,and avoid eye contact.These were her signs that the offender had been forgiven.Permission had been granted to rejoin the herd.

(Great lessons on discipline,humility,submission,and forgiveness from a mustang herd).

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