Since we’re talking about parents this week, and we work with horses who typically make excellent parents, we wanted to talk a little bit about how horses parent. Since horses live in the moment and make decisions based off what is actually going on in their environment (unlike humans, who typically made decisions based off of what is going on in their heads) horses react to their foal’s behavior instantly and clearly.
Here’s a few facts about how horses parent:
- When a mama horse (mare) is going to give birth, she typically moves away from the herd and has her baby on her own. (Unlike humans these days, who often have three cameras going in the delivery room.)
- The mare is the caregiver. In a herd of wild horses, the daddy horse (stallion) is the protector of the entire herd. His parenting comes down to discipline only if a young horse’s behavior is putting the herd in danger.
- It is important for young horses (foals) to have other young horses to play with. They learn how to socialize this way. In domestic horses, humans often intervene to help socialize a young horse. This works for us humans because it teaches the horses about how to interact with humans. The horse parents, however, already have parenting mastered when it comes to the foal learning to be a horse.
- When a foal is not behaving or is potentially causing danger for the herd, the older horses drive the foal to the outside of the herd. They do not do this when there is imminent danger, but being on the outside of the herd is a vulnerable place to be. Horses don’t like that position. So when the young horse shows submission through her body language, the adult horses will invite her back into the herd.
- When there is imminent danger, the adult horses close in around the foals and run with them to safety.
- Lastly, when it is time for the youngsters to be on their own, the mare will give clear signals, over time, that it is time for him or her to move on. The young mares will often stick around and help to grow and diversify the herd. The young stallions will typically go off and form a “bachelor” herd until they are strong enough to be in charge of a herd of their own.