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The "Aloof" Game

By: Galadriel Billington

9:42PM Apr 17, 2004

Horses use body language to express almost everything. A dominant horse plays the "aloof" game when confronted with a new situation.

If the boss mare of the herd is convinced that a situation is not urgent or dangerous, then she pretends to ignore it. The other members of the herd see that she is not alarmed, and so they remain calm. This can often be seen when introducing a new horse into an established herd:

Many of the horses run over to greet the new horse; lots of squealing & scuffling ensues. One horse (or several horses) pay no attention whatsoever to the newcomer. This is not out of disinterest, but out of dominance. The horse who is first to give in to curiousity, loses the "game." Often the new horse will eventually approach the herd leaders himself, and in this way he demonstrates that he acknowledges their position.

This can also often be seen when you are out in a field, doing chores of some kind or otherwise not interacting with the horse. The horse will hold himself aloof; apparently the horse is paying no attention whatsoever to you. He may graze closer and closer to you, but will not look directly at you nor appear to notice you. However, if you go on for long enough without looking at the horse or acknowledging him, eventually that horse will be paying no attention to you whatsoever...while grazing around your shoes.

Understanding this interesting facet of equine body language can be very useful at times, particularly when catching a difficult horse, or negotiating for dominance with a horse who has a "boss mare" temperament (whether or not the horse is a mare). If you win the "aloof game," the horse has more respect for you.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.