I have learned many things since starting the wild horse project, in May last year. Some things,just from observing and comparing horses, from the wild ones, to the ones we raise. Lots of ideas and theories i had about horses, have become more established, and i have been reminded of lots of things that had slipped to the back of my mind after working in solely with show horses for the last few years.
- The biggest lesson, Horses are only as wild as you make them. I already kind of thought this but working with my three wild horses, just confirmed it. They are not born crazy, and given the chance they are pretty stoic animals, not as prone to flight as we think they are. We determine how settled they become in life due to the kind of handling, and the amount of time put into them. True of either horse born wild or in domestication. But really, nothing seems to upset the wild horses to much, they just take life as it is and don't get to phased by it.
- You can feed a wild horse half as much, and it will grow twice as fat as one of my precious sport horses. Some of this isn't just their great metabolism, but behavioural as well. The ones from the wild see eating as survival and are very focused about it. The sport horses see it as something to do for entertainment and pick and fuss, or stand at the gates wasting hours of grazing time waiting to come in to the barn.
- Wild horses are HAPPY, once domesticated. Mine give no signs of longing to be free in the mountains again, and seem totally settled in domestic bliss. Given the chance I'm sure they would lock themselves in the stable with a pile of hay and never come out.
- Domestic horses are a lot more prone to flight than wild horses. All my 'wilds' if spooked stop and stare and then just carry on with what they are doing. Some of the sport horses, whirl, and bolt before they even seen a thing. this can be in the paddock or ridden. Also while the domestic ones gallop headlong, excuberantly down the hill to be caught, the wild ones have always calmy picked their way down, even though they are the ones born runing on mountains.
- The biggest thing that surprised me though was the Independence that the wild horses showed. We think of herd animals as being together constantly, and unwilling to act alone. To this day, if the wild mare doesn't agree with what the herd is doing, she just takes herself off and does her own thing, completely out of sight of the herd if need be.Today is a classic example, the herd of mares is grazing where i can see them, totally exposed in the pouring rain, shivering and cold. The wild mare cant be seen, but i know is on the next hill over, tucked way back into the forest, where shes dry and warm, a looking out over the other idiot equines standing in the rain.
- they develop a lot faster and studier, than our purpose bred sport horses. Sonny the wild yearling looks like a fully grown little stallion in miniature, strong sturdy, glossy coat, and a good covering of fat and muscle. he looks like he could survive anything and behaves more like an adult horse than a you would expect. The purpose bred sport horses on the other hand, long, lanky, impossible to keep weight on, with no muscling, they are still very much babies mentally, apart from the colts keen desire to breed with anything, he is nowhere near as developed as Sonny. This makes sense if they were in the wild, the quicker they develop the better their chance for survival
- Going slowly as far as training, does not make it easier for the horse. Going to fast and putting to much pressure on them doesn't help either. But the people who take months and months, to get to where they can handle a horse, i think, only prolong the amount of time the horses spends scared of you. If you can get to where they can be haltered and handled relatively quickly, i think its better for the horse as they learn you mean no harm and can relax in their new environment.