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Equine Social Structure

By Kathie Gregory

© Susan Nilson

In studies that have not been subject to manipulation, I have yet to find reports of dominance hierarchy. Disagreements are low key, with horses being tolerant of each other…When there are very small groups, it is likely that an older, experienced horse initiates more movement than younger ones. These factors make it look like horses have one specific leader, but this is unnatural equine behavior due to the influence of external conditions and incorrect to apply these findings to all horse populations. Studies by Rees (2017) show that there is no one mare who leads the group, and that any horse, including the youngsters, may initiate a change in movement or direction. The overriding factor for who initiates a change is driven by whoever is the most motivated. Read more.

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