Thursday, April 30, 2009

The "Middle Child" Syndrome

Tucker Tendancies

Tucker used to be the baby of the family. When PJ was still alive, he was the youngster. PJ was a quite confident, but not dominant elder statesman, and Toby, then the "middle child" was so alpha, he was the herd boss--so no loss of status there.

Tuck was quite happy being the baby, especially since I concentrated most of my training on him. At that time PJ was fully retired, and Toby was not really competing anymore. Still Tuck was a brat. He was and remains quite opinionated, and needs to be "asked" to do things rather than "told."

Then, PJ passed away, and Chance came into the picture as the new baby. Suddenly, Tucker became the "middle child." He cannot rise in the herd hierarchy, because Toby is too much of a boss to challenge. Thus, he needs to find a way to make his presence known in some other way.

He has decided to boss Chance around every chance he gets. To his credit, Chance is totally unfazed by any of this. He has a sunny disposition and simply gets out of Tuck's way. Every once in a while, he will defend himself with his hind feet--and he's quite quick about it--but most of the time, he just waits his turn with a gracious acceptance and doesn't seem to hold a grudge.

Tucker will choose his hay pile after Toby's selected his, herd Chance away from the barn at feeding time, and shove his way into my presence if treats are at hand. I'm sure he thinks he'd like to be herd boss, but I am not at all sure he has the sense of responsibility that requires. After all, the herd boss needs to keep on the lookout for danger and lead the charge should there need to be one. Herd bosses are on the alert and not so distracted by their stomachs that they eat instead of bossing. Tuck prefers to assess most situations from afar, and, when his stomach is involved, forgets almost everything else.

Chance has no interest at all in "moving on up." He has such a sense of self-confidence, contentment, and independence he is just fine hanging out with "The Boy" or hanging out by himself. He will play with anyone who decides to join him in a game or has fun tossing the playball, rolling a barrel, or dragging something around the paddock all by his lonesome.

Tucker watches all this with a curious eye and often, if I am working Chance, a jealous eye. It's clear he would prefer to be the center of attention. But he just has to settle for being the center of the herd.

Middle child--a bit on the lazy side, but full of creative ambition. That's my boy.


  1. Anonymous12:30 PM

    I love observing the herd dynamics. Things change with the addition or removal of one horse. It's nice that in the horse world, those that are at the bottom of the hierarchy don't generally mind too much, provided they aren't harassed and have enough to eat. My mare Maisie is very submissive, but after she came back from a clinic where we worked cattle, and she had discovered that she could make the cows move away by pinning her ears, she became much more interested in finding another horse to push around! She managed to assert herself over Misty, and that seems to make her happy.

  2. I love herd dynamics! LOL

  3. Well I think that in a REAL herd with alpha mare involvced, Tucker will get a good wallop and actually be at the bottom of the feeding ladder. Perhaps he knows it that is why he is so greedy.

    Chance will be a good "passive leader" as described by Mark Rashid in one of his books. Actually in a bigger herd the others horses will follow Chance rather than Tuck who really is a bully.

    It is all explained in one book by Mark Rashid. You know he kept his horses in big herd of 30 to 50, let loose after ranch work.

    I cannot remember which book. But all of his books are interesting read, even if they are not really applicable.

  4. Polo tends to be the boss maybe why he's so sharp to ride haha.He's not a bully but does give newcomers a hard time initially.
    Ali is the passive leader which Muriel describes. He'll let anyone eat with him and play but if there's trouble he'll stand his ground.He took total control when I moved them and wouldnt let any horse near Polo.
    They get on fantastically.