Today I had something pop into my head that I hadn't really contemplated directly before and I thought it might generate a good discussion.
Last October, I acquired and gentled a Mustang filly. She just turned a year old. I have ponied her several times off my younger mare, whom she buddied up with immediately. My older mare really didn't want anything to do with her, until, this week when she came into heat. Now they are best buds for the time being. I took advantage of this to pony the Mustang off the older mare, who is very easy to pilot one handed and is very steady (Dr. Deb, this is the mare you gave me a lesson on last March in WA during our anatomy class). The Mustang tried to get rough one time in the beginning, like she would out in the field when they were roughhousing. I put a halt to it immediately. She never tried it again and ponied wonderfully. This mare has a really big walk so I took advantage of that to allow the Mustang to trot alongside for the first time. They did great. We did several changes of direction and figure 8s. Both were steady as a metronome.
My mare is very obedient. As quickly as the Mustang stopped her antics, and then followed along like she's been doing it for years, I got to wondering, do you suppose she realized that my mare was deferring to me? Could she sense that my mare was in tune with me? Do they think that deep? My mare was in tune with me and the Mustang picked up on that and followed suit? Or were they both following MY feel? One through my seat and reins and the other through the leadline? Or maybe they were both ignoring me and only in tune with each other! Except that I was "driving". It was zenlike in that we all 3 were like one. My guess is that the Mustang picked up on the quietness of the mare but also was following the feel on the lead. So maybe both. The herd has its hierarchy, pecking order, lead mare, alpha mare (which aren't necessarily the same mare). I get all that. but can they think in a more complex way? Like 3 people singing a round of Row Row Row Your Boat. I did not feel this when I ponied off of the younger mare. She is more reactive and we did not reach that very quiet state of mind.
I don't have a ton of experience ponying, or driving a team of horses, so I am very curious about this. I have ponied my two mares (mother/daughter).
I've been watching Harry Whitney teach for the past couple of years and he's opened up some avenues of my thinking as well.
Another thought. When I saw Cavalia and the guy had 8 or 10 horses all going around him and one by one he turned them in the opposite direction until they were all going the other way. Might that be a tiny piece of what I felt?
I've been riding for 40 years and there's always something new. No matter how much you know or feel, there's always more. If you've read this far, thank you and I'm curious what input you all might have to this wonderful experience!