California Riding Magazine • January, 2013

Horsey Humor:
Head of the Herd

by Bob Goddard

I used to think men could learn a lot by watching how a wild stallion takes care of business. I admired the way this mighty horse stayed at the head of a thundering herd, boldly leading his harem and followers to some vital destination. Every time I saw this on TV or in books, I would think, "Yes! This is exactly what the contemporary American male needs to do! We should take our cues from the stallion and re-establish our rightful place as supreme lord and high leader over the females!" (And then run like hell!)

So imagine my disappointment when I discovered the truth. That the "mighty stallion" is just like us. He's just an average Joe. He's boring old "Joe Stallion."

According to experts, old Joe Stallion (not to be confused with any brutal communist dictators) does not always initiate the stampede. More often than not, one of his mares makes the first move. The stallion, revealing his deep-seated insecurity, will end up following the mare to make sure she doesn't fall in with another stallion. Or worse, another mare. Then again, some stallions go for that sort of thing.

Sadly, stallions spend a great deal of time allowing themselves to be led around by a female. Check out any major department store on a Saturday afternoon and you'll observe a stunning parallel.

But it's not just the females that create difficulties for the stallion. They also have to put up with those annoying little colts. Observers have noted that when a colt takes off from the group, he runs at a slow pace in order to allow the stallion to catch up and pass the younger male. Experts say this is done to make the stallion think it was his idea to lead the herd in that direction in the first place. In other words, he's completely manipulated. You can almost see the smirks on the mares' faces as they follow along.

None of this is to suggest that Joe Stallion is completely without purpose—besides the obvious one, I mean. Like the human male who dominates such family activities as garbage duty, changing flat tires and handling the TV remote, the stallion has specific duties to perform. He is the one who is responsible for keeping the small herd together. A good stallion strictly prohibits any kind of straying. To him, that would be equivalent to allowing your children to open the car door and hop out when you're going 70.

This is a never-ending job. The stallion continually rounds up his group so he can keep track of them. However, a good stallion does not employ violence to keep the herd in line. Instead, he will nod and shake his head, pin his ears, stick his neck out and charge at his family members with his head down. In other words, he doesn't give spankings, but he yells a lot.

Each of these herding behaviors closely parallels actions taken by human husbands and fathers. For your convenience, I have included them in column form:

Male Horse Behavior
Equivalent Human Male Behavior
Nodding head
Telling female: "Oh, yes you will!"
Shaking head
Telling female: "Oh, no you won't!"
Ears pinned back
Stands with index finger raised, making a point.
Head-down and charging
Retrieving beer from refrigerator

The place where a human male most closely resembles a stallion is at one of those equine expositions. You know, those home shows for horses where people spend a great amount of money in a short amount of time. The head male, knowing that each female has her own credit card, is wary of allowing even one of them out of his sight. If one strays, the potential for tragedy is very high. Thus it is necessary for him to constantly round them up and keep a close eye on each evildoer.

There are only a few situations when a stallion will use the full potential of his mighty physique. One of these is when an outside stallion gets too close to his herd. In these cases, the primal instinct kicks in and the stallion rises up to defend his turf. Plain old Joe Stallion becomes Joe Hero the Mighty Lord and Protector of the Clan. And it doesn't matter if the other stallion has no evil intentions or is just passing by. Mighty Lord Protector will attack the poor guy, no questions asked.
Due to our laws and social conventions, human males are not advised to mimic this behavior. If you were to fight every male you came across, it would take forever just to get to the gas station. Besides, there really is only one crime that one man can do to another which would justify this level of violence. And that, as we all know, is to take his last
cold beer.