At the end of the first year of having the Quarters I thought I knew them, at the end of two years it seems that my earlier estimate of their personalities wasn't quite on the mark. You may recall that I was keeping them at a shabby boarding barn with mostly every day turnout. I thought that their biggest issue was Gwen losing her mind at being left alone and Coriander charging at other geldings over the fence. What I found out after I moved them to pasture board was that they were actually constantly stressed in that old barn, and that their personalities changed quite a bit once they could finally relax.
For one thing, Gwen is an absolute sweetheart, she really is. I know that I do a lot of writing about how reactive and flighty she is but you couldn't find a more cooperative, eager-to-please, downright affectionate horse than her. Another thing I've come to notice more and more in the last year is that she's actually quite curious and likes to explore. She's still not quite comfortable going out by herself but if another horse comes along she's in the lead checking things out. She's gaining confidence and growing much bolder. In all, she's a super fun horse and I just love getting to work with her.
Coriander is also not what I thought he was last year. For the first year he was my "easy" horse, the one I didn't have to worry about other people handling, the one I could ride. I took him a bit for granted. In this second year I've had to devote a lot of attention to him, he's taught me about thrush and how to be a better trimmer, he's taught me how to be a more effective rider, but most of all he's taught me a whole lot about compromise. Coriander has very strong opinions, opinions he will defend forcefully if need be, that I need to pay very close attention to because most of the time he's right (don't tell him that though, his ego is already pretty big). I've also learned this year that Coriander is playful. I never saw him playing during the first year I had him and it didn't strike me as odd until this spring when I noticed him playing with Butch, lately I've seen him initiating play with Gwen. It's nice to see him relax and enjoy himself.
They're also teaching me some interesting things about herd dynamics and dominance. Food hierarchy in the pasture goes like this: Butch then Rocky then Coriander then Gwen. Butch is definitely the Boss Hoss, he can eat wherever he wants, whenever he wants; Gwen is the exact opposite, everybody can push her off her food; yet Gwen appears to have become the herd matriarch. When Gwen decides it's time to graze somewhere else she'll just go- and the rest of the herd follows. For this reason I keep Gwen in the halter when I take the Quarters out for walks. Coriander will follow her anywhere, but if she's loose she'll decide at any time that she needs to return to the barn. At a gallop. That's not exactly safe, so she stays in my hand. I also think it's nice to give Coriander the chance to explore places on his own that I'm normally directing from the saddle.
This development is very interesting to me because it basically throws dominance theory on its head and, to me, proves Mark Rashid's passive leadership theory. Gwen is on the bottom of the hierarchy yet the herd loves her and will follow her anywhere. I'll be keeping that in mind the next time someone says you have to dominate your horses to be the boss.
This is why it's so wonderful to have horses, they have so many good lessons to teach us!