How much do you think youngsters learn from older companions?

marmalade76

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Just musing, partly prompted my a friend lending me a Buck Brannaman DVD (which I have to say I found rather boring) and the realisation that my next ride (my boy is in his mid teens so have a few years yet, unless he gets stolen by my children!) will probably have to be a youngster as I don't have the money to buy a nice made horse and I am no longer happy to settle for other peoples' problems.

I have worked with youngsters in the past (a long time ago now, the last one was my dad's and she's now 18!) and have to say they were all quite easy and this has made me wonder just how much youngsters learn about life from their older, chilled, sensible companions.

Discuss :)
 

Pearlsasinger

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I think that they do learn from companions but I think that the main thing that influences youngsters' behaviour is genetics, coupled with their early upbringing by mum and breeder.
 

Charmin

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Hopefully not too much - am planning on introducing a youngster into a trio, one of which is terribly bolshy with humans on the grounds and one cribs! Hoping he bypasses those traits and picks up on the peaceful living and normal calm!
 

tobiano1984

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I think they learn lots from older horses - although I've had great youngsters that have also been turned out in a herd of young horses. I think fundamentally they learn from being in a 'herd' even if only 3 or 4 horses. The worst horses I've ever dealt with have been homebreds who have been overhandled by people, and horses that have been kept stabled or alone. These tend to be the ones that get injured as when they eventually run into a herd situation they end up getting in someone's face and getting kicked/bitten.

I have a 3 year old TB off the track who hadn't been out with other horses since he was a foal, and when he went out with my lot (luckily he's sane and didn't do anything silly) he would watch one of the older horses bossing others around, and then picked on my poor 14hh pony and decided to 'boss' him around like the others. He doesn't quite get it but at least he's trying :)
 

Templebar

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I think it depend on how young they are and what previous situations have been like. For whoever said about cribbing and learning it, it is important to remember they were once stress related and a coping mechanism so it is important to try and keep everything chilled out, it there is only one cribbing and others acting normally then they are more likely to copy the stressed one if stressed and the normal one if chilled. Does that make sense?

My homebred lives in a group of 4 mares, though one was introduced later. She has learnt how to interact with others and what's appropriate and what is not, it is just a case of teaching the sample with people. But also now starting work i long reined in the field with the others which worked out really well as she ignores other horses now when we are working. Early upbringing do have a lot to be desired and if buying a youngster i would buy one straight from breeder where yo can see what the upbringing was like and therefore know what they do and dont know.
 

suestowford

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I think they learn some things from older horses - especially if you get one who hasn't had much handling. They can learn (by watching) that humans are not really that scary, that nice things come in buckets, that the things humans do with horses (like picking up feet etc) are not going to kill them.
When I had my oldie he was a great help with the young pony I had.
 

pennyturner

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Everything, as regards horsey behaviour, and much more than you'd think about everything else.
Confidence, ground-manners, steadiness, pulling up (if the rider falls), riding past distractions (other horses for example) All are learned from their companions, more than from training.

Our colts have learned field manners from their field-mates, as you'd expect, but that's not all. A couple of times they managed to get out of the gate as we caught the others, so we slapped headcollars on them, and tied them alongside their mates, brushing, picking out, saddling and bridling them as though we were going to ride them. They saw the others quietly accepting this, and enjoyed every minute. No pulling back, not once.

Roll forward to this year and we have been able to ride them straight away into traffic. They take their cue from the others, who don't bother. 2nd time ridden, we rode past a crop sprayer the size of a combine, spraying a couple of metres from the path. The youngsters gave it a curious look, but continued quietly past it without hesitation.

I sometimes wonder if there's a market for 'educational stay' livery for neurotic or highly strung horses to mix with a calm herd and learn to settle.
 

Dry Rot

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Pennyturnber, I loved your post! I agree, they learn the herd/social stuff but not sure about the explanation given to me by one of my helpers, who is apparently quite experienced with horses…"We'll head collar mum first, then foalie will see her head collared and want one too…"!!!

Social learning (or whatever the behaviourist are calling it) is quite well known in animals. Apparently, social birds learn a lot from their parents. Grouse and partridges, for example, learn to recognise predators from their parents who give an alarm call when they spot one, although they already have instinctive knowldge. They show their brood what plants and seeds are good to eat, etc. Some game farmers trap up wild partridges and introduce them to artificially reared broods which are all then released together. The old bird bird, experienced in living in the wild, is said to show the youngsters the ropes and how to survive! I am quite sure something similar will happen within a herd of horses living in the wild and there is no reason why that should not be exploited when training youngsters. Of course, it also works the other way around and if your horses are nervous of the farrier or vet, for example, the youngsters would probably pick that up too!
 

pennyturner

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Here's an interesting example.

One horse, in his first winter with my herd, began to stick his head under the water to eat the river weed.
It took a little time, but within a couple of years the whole herd had learned this behaviour. When there's not much grass, you'll find them all wet from nose to eyeballs.

Not sure if it's supposed to be horse food, but they do very well on it.
 

Sparkles

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Lots. Body language and hierarchy being top two. Coblet lived with my very dominant elderly mare for a winter to put any coltish behaviour to rest (not that he ever had any) and did a marvelous job. He then went on to be with my late laid back gelding who wouldnt tolerate any nonsense if it started but who was otherwise an easy gent. Also led him out ridong off both of them. End result mixed with his temperament is one very well rounded respectful easy colt, kept on a mixed yard with no issues and able to mix with any extra equine i put in with him. :)
eta - we do a lot of herd behaviour at work and how they are in the 'herd' translates so much towards how you go towards their handling and training. Coblet is very low herd order and easily submissive, so takes instruction and subtle cues well.
 
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Liane

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Not a young horse but we had one horse who was terrible to clip, took sedation and chiffney to hold him as the minute the clipper touched him he would be off (and squash anybody in the way), the following year he was tied in the yard in just a headcoller next to my horse and I started clipping my horse, who stood dozing in the sun whilst I did it. I then joked about trying the other horse as he seemed quite calm, I seemlessly moved onto clipping him and he stood as good as gold and didn't bother moving!!! We now always clip him after mine has been tied next to him being clipped and he is fine!
 

marmalade76

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Everything, as regards horsey behaviour, and much more than you'd think about everything else.
Confidence, ground-manners, steadiness, pulling up (if the rider falls), riding past distractions (other horses for example) All are learned from their companions, more than from training.

Our colts have learned field manners from their field-mates, as you'd expect, but that's not all. A couple of times they managed to get out of the gate as we caught the others, so we slapped headcollars on them, and tied them alongside their mates, brushing, picking out, saddling and bridling them as though we were going to ride them. They saw the others quietly accepting this, and enjoyed every minute. No pulling back, not once.

Roll forward to this year and we have been able to ride them straight away into traffic. They take their cue from the others, who don't bother. 2nd time ridden, we rode past a crop sprayer the size of a combine, spraying a couple of metres from the path. The youngsters gave it a curious look, but continued quietly past it without hesitation.

I sometimes wonder if there's a market for 'educational stay' livery for neurotic or highly strung horses to mix with a calm herd and learn to settle.

Yep, this is what I was getting at, if they learn a lot more than just herd manners. The youngsters I dealt with in the past just accepted everything with no fuss and I suspect that this was because they'd seen it all happening to others, also with no fuss.
 

L&M

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Our older cob has been invaluable to my youngster. He puts him in his place in the field, and when we do 'new' activities, I always take the older one as a companion for the first time to keep the youngster calm and show him the ropes.
 

myponyvic

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I think they learn a fair bit but this could be debated. Generally the majority of their personality/manners/etc are learnt from Mom and whether they've been 'brought up or dragged up.' Example: My pony is in a field with two foals, one aged two and is 16.3/17hh! and the other is just coming up to a year old. He's been put in with them to hopefully teach them some manners in polite horse-y society because as of now they're a little...wild to be left on their own. Not so much wild in the sense of I'm going to kick your head in but more they don't like leaving other horses alone. Admittedly they are very young and what not, but they are very playful and Vic really likes his own company. Let's just say if they get 'too playful' then they get a sharp telling off from him. Another example is when my instructor got her OTTB. Her Mom had acquired a Shetland pony that was a little worse for wear. Any who, her TB was very nervous around people and other horses until he met the little Shetland. Little one really helped him overcome his fears and influenced the way he is now. Since getting TB little man has gone blind. Now TB looks after little one and makes sure he doesn't wonder off! Oh the joys of friendship.
 

Megibo

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I think they learn a lot, I've experienced lots of examples but the most recent one was-

My 5 year old mare who is shy around big farm machinery that we meet out hacking. Mostly tractors! Would get unsettled and try to shoot off. Hacked out with YO and 5 other liveries and happened to meet a tractor, the YO's horse isn't fazed at all by any traffic so I put her next to him and of course he didn't shy at the tractor so she didn't either. Touch wood so far since then when out hacking and meeting traffic/big machinery she's far less bothered.
 

debsflo

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i plan to do the same ie get a youngster and the breeder advised to have an older mare to keep them in line and a younger one to play with. My minature who i got as an unhandled 10 month old was confident and brave from word go but would have been a very strong stroppy girl i think if she hadnt got some older mares to square her up now and then..
 

Mrs B

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Hugely, when it comes to hacking out.

Am currently accompanying 2 babies out on hacks where they will see a variety of tractors, buses, wheely bins, screaming toddlers at the kindergarten, cows, pheasants, idiots driving too fast and yappy dogs on leads. They also have to negotiate ancient narrow village streets 6 ft wide between the buildings, where folk can open the front doors right by your bridle ... Merlin (bless his grubby cottons) is on these occasions *touches wood* as unflappable as an unflappy thing without wings. He goes on the outside, acting as a reassuring equine pigboard and while mostly letting the babies keep their noses just in front, will take the lead if anything seriously scary needs passing. The confidence he instills in them for their future working lives is brilliant to see and a real privilege to be a part of. Even if he is sometimes a Grumpy Grampy and warns them that nothing on their left is ever going to be a scary as him on their right, so just get on with it ... ;)
 
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Peregrine Falcon

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Same applies to us humans - a huge amount.

My 4yo NF was with her mum out on the forest until 8 months then in a field together with another elderly mare for the winter. Flicka was allowed to eat out of both of the mares bowls and when it came to weaning it was easy. Flicka already had a surrogate mum. The elderly mare was a calming influence and you really would struggle to find a more placid animal, she's a pleasure to have around and to own.

Out hacking my 21yo gelding is a "security blanket" for novice ponies.
 

mystiandsunny

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I had a pony come to us on loan, who taught all the others how to destroy the rubber bottom of their muzzles!

Conversely, my lot are quiet, chilled and relaxed as a rule. They come in when called, enjoy their work and behave respectfully. Horses that come to join the herd, settle quickly, then copy the behaviour of the majority. So within a few weeks, they know where to stand to be tied up, how to behave politely, are easy to catch and get upset if they are NOT ridden when the others are.
 

marmalade76

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Cheers, nice to see my conclusions are not idiotic!

As I said, I've worked with youngsters and foals in the past, we just got on with what we needed to do and they just accepted it in the main. So, going back to the other part of my musings, I and the people I trained and worked with did not feel the need to set aside time to do specific ground work, unlike my friend who lent me the DVD. The DVD (I have only been lent the first part of a box set) was all about making your horse move backwards at the flick of a rope (a 75 minuet DVD devoted just to getting this right, all very dull) and this is what I don't get, why some put so much time and effort into doing such things 'cause from my experience, such things really aren't necessary :confused:
 

soulfull

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Cheers, nice to see my conclusions are not idiotic!

As I said, I've worked with youngsters and foals in the past, we just got on with what we needed to do and they just accepted it in the main. So, going back to the other part of my musings, I and the people I trained and worked with did not feel the need to set aside time to do specific ground work, unlike my friend who lent me the DVD. The DVD (I have only been lent the first part of a box set) was all about making your horse move backwards at the flick of a rope (a 75 minuet DVD devoted just to getting this right, all very dull) and this is what I don't get, why some put so much time and effort into doing such things 'cause from my experience, such things really aren't necessary :confused:

They aren't necessary if things have been done right. But if not it can be a very useful tool. I know of a least one on my yard that needs this sort of ground work. However if I did it with my mare she would get upset, wondering what on earth she had done wrong! My theory is if they are left with knowledgeable breeder and handled/educated by them and their herd, then the likes of those DVDs are not needed
75min on backing up is nuts though!
 

marmalade76

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Yep, mine would think I'd gone mad if I started flicking ropes at them and would probably bog off!

I am most grateful to the people I had the opportunity to learn from.
 
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