Monday, February 20, 2012

Herd Bound

Scott Bradley

There are three horses here on the ranch proper. And if two is company, three's a herd.

One need not have a box of egos at hand to study interpersonal dynamics; these three do nicely.

These horses have bonded together in a most touching way. When one is saddled and ridden away from the others, the remaining two are noticeably upset. The neighing only stops when they are all together again. Thus are they 'herd bound'. Their individual sense of well-being is bound up in the proximity of particular others. They are co-dependent.

In as much as horses are herd animals, this should not surprise us all that much. It is humans that would artificially separate them. And it is only because humans wish to harness and use them that their herd mentality becomes problematical.

It is more often the case that two of the three horses are loaded into the trailer for a riding adventure at higher elevations. Cheyenne is the horse almost always left behind, and his misery during this time of separation is palpable. There is some irony here, however, since he is at the bottom of their little pecking order. His hindquarters bear the marks of bites intended to keep him in his place. He is best fed last lest he be driven from his feed. Yet, he cannot bear to be without his tormenters. Another form of co-dependency.

During the summer, this same horse was daily removed from the pasture and corralled because he otherwise ate too much. The other two missed him dearly and welcomed him back each evening, though only so that they might further assert their dominance over him. The bully, too, is co-dependent and requires an object to torment.

The horse at the top of this pecking order is Chaser. I call him the alpha-gelding. He is ball-less, you see. But this does not stop him from bullying others. Perhaps it even encourages him to do so. Were he a proud stallion, sure of himself, what need would he have to bully others? Others would naturally submit to his dominance. There was a time in my life when I was a bit of a bully, and I know now that it was only compensation for my own low self-esteem.

Three is a troublesome number, of course. Perhaps so many godheads are triune because only God could be three and not end up in a two against one dynamic. Horses — and people — are generally not so mature, but at least horses don’t appear to possess a reservoir of resentments.

Are people herd animals? We are certainly social animals. But we sense the danger of the herd-mentality; we understand that the healthiest foundation for our socialization is our individual self-affirmation born of non-dependence. That we bully others is a function of our failure to realize this non-dependence.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. One gives birth to two, two gives birth to three, three gives birth to a herd of 10,000.


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