18 Comments

  1. thea fast on October 4, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Mark brought up an idea on the call that I really resonated with but it didn’t come across fully. If I may, Mark. It seems to me that it is not only the person being challenged who has to demonstrate incredible self control in receiving the beating while controlling emotion and reaction but also the person delivering the beating. They I’m sure must need to find the balance between underdoing and overdoing the beating and do it in such a way as to not get lost in the violence of it all as well. I think it would be quite something to deliver a beating to someone I am not in a total emotional rage at in the moment. I can think of very few times in my life I’ve been highly motivated to deck someone and I never have. Yet this skill of controlled aggression is necessary in working with horses and in functioning in a culture of violence. If we don’t buy into the cultural story that violence is bad unless its used for good and accept that living beings physically interact with other living beings in meaningful an intentional ways that have within them the inherent potential for physical harm then it would make sense to develop our ability to communicate thus. If the young people in the Fulani culture can’t beat or stand up to the animals, they’ll be beaten by the animals. It makes sense to then take responsibility for beating them as fellow herdspeople as at least you can control the outcome. So adults males are expected to beat male children as well. So it seems healthy to me to have the adolescent males demonstrate and practice their abilities to beat and be beaten by each other before they come into adulthood. I think the problems inherent in taking a beating and maintaining self control are probly as large as delivering one would be and the rules around how to do it as stringent and demanding and difficult to define outside the context of the individual interaction. Seems pretty darn sophisticated and civilized to me. We sure haven’t solved the problems of male violence in our societies. I wouldn’t bet that in eastern marshal arts this kind of thing isn’t taught bigtime as well. I know Mark Rashid talks about it in terms of Aikido. It seems all the skills you’d need to build a great “crescendo” would be learned in these kinds of interactions. I bet the girls need to be able to stand up to the animals as well. Probly the women beat them when they don’t. Makes sense to me and scares me to. “Can’t go there, too kind or spiritual” is not a valid answer. Gotta be whole, gotta get good at perpetrator and victim in order to move beyond them both into What is required of you in this context and yes, I can find it in my repetoire, no judgement.



  2. thea fast on September 23, 2012 at 3:38 am

    I’m wondering if oxytocin is released in our bodies just being around a settled herd or whether its only through a certain kind of interaction with them. The idea of it being released through petting makes me even more committed to my grooming before and after learning or riding routine. What I’m curious about is whether just being with them going for walks or interacting with them like we do in efpd exercises like “meet the herd” releases oxytocin in us all as well. I also wonder about the effects of meditating with horses on the horses and on the people doing it, whether there isn’t oxytocin and altered brain states happening there. I really like doing spiritual practice with the horses especially with groups as well. They sure are attracted to it. I think it was after my 2nd epona workshop i started meditating in the roundpen with the gate open and the horses loose around it. Every time I did it a horse came to join me in there and we would work together learning new things with the gate left open. So much respect and appreciation that they were offering themselves it set the tone for the whole interaction. I’m more and more able to work with the herd without having to restrain anyone with a halter and leadrope. They’ll even willingly come back off the grass into the dry corral when they spend 23 hours/day in there. I’m amazed by their willingness to cooperate. I’ve also been having huge success learning new skills with horses in the context of the herd instead of taking them off my themself. Quite often when the horse who is learning with me gets a little stressed another horse will come stand calmly nearby and lend their quiet and presence. I wonder if there’s oxytocin there too.
    Fascinating stuff Linda!! Making more and more sense of my pastoral tendencies of late in terms of being out walking with the herd at liberty. The more we establish the routine the less I end up needing to halter my lead mare. Last time they trotted toward home ahead of us and were waiting for me to open the gate when I got there instead of having to find them again and lead them through.
    I found the water buffalo thing excellent! Thanks Kim for posting the link. Wow the altruism in there! and organization! I liked at the end where another buffalo went to back up the one that chased down the lion and then was having trouble not being chased again.



  3. Erin on September 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    To me, this chapter helped clarify the my eldest female alpaca plays in her herd. She is the undisputed leader. New members of the herd will sometimes clash with her, but she never punitively attacks them. She uses only as much energy as is necessary to make her point. The herd follows her to and from the barn, and she is alway vigilant, choosing a higher vantage point to survey her herd from. She samples every bucket when we fed the herd, and will take a bucket from another girl. But she shares with any baby. She doesn’t stake a claim to a particular bucket. In general, babies are allowed to get away with behavior that wouldn’t be acceptable from an adult, but she is exceptionally lenient with them. And there are times when the little ones seem to annoy her, and it looks like she wants to lash out. It’s almost like she’s saying “because you’re a baby, you can do this for now.” But she will in force the rules if a baby is particularly impertinent.

    She is also the only one who will play with another female’s baby. At one point, we only had two babies. One got weaned, so there was one remaining, and she would play with the baby.

    She herself can be very harsh when weaning her babies, but it’s more ultra strict mother behavior than anything else. Her daughters seem to have a particularly hard time once they’re weaned. Before weaning, they benefitted from their mom’s status. On their own, they revert to the bottom, though all her daughters share her leadership personality. Her eldest, a young adult, is a bit more of an immature leader, prone to outbursts and attempts at control. She was rather aggressive to her newborn sister, so I had to separate her. And she has her own separate herd now. The yearling daughter seems identical to her mom in every way, and she’s appointed herself leader of the babies.

    Something else she does, that no other girl does, is act as almost a “security blanket” for a very high strung, insecure herd member. She’ll tolerate this girl in great proximity to her. The only others she lets get and stay this close are her offspring, and the one “adopted” daughter she has (the other female’s baby she played with).

    She does seem to be the ruler of her domain, and the one are she is not very forgiving is with us handling her newborns. There are some things that must be done with a newborn, and the extent depends on the individual baby and the weather. But to her, “this is MY baby! You touch, you look at , you think about….you die!” Complete with murderous glare. So I need to be very much in tune with the subtle warnings she gives, so I can safely do what I must without escalating the situation. Distraction, scoop and run, covering myself with the blanket/towels used to dry her newborn, are some things I do with her. And once the hormones calm down, things are pretty good. I just make sure I respect her as the mother and leader of the herd.

    “That extra hint of tiger is mostly just for show….” When we first got her, she had not been respected and was extremely aggressive. Now, she is very easy to handle, though she does “put on a show” sometimes when we catch her. Grumbling, shifting her weight. But if we catch her, and the rest of the herd can’t see, so doesn’t do this!

    And on the leader/dominant note, I have recently noticed that these are separate animals. If I’m reading it correctly, there are two dominants. More likely to fight to assert control. They are similar to the Leader, but the rest of the herd doesn’t follow them and they are not very patient with the babies. They are the most likely to be aggressive to another female’s baby. I also think there are two or three Vigilants. The eyes and ears of the leader, they are the most likely to sound the alarm (even if the “danger” is wild turkeys….) or investigate danger. And this seems to be learned too. Yearling and young adults daughters learn from their mothers.

    The males live in bachelor herds (adult and the weanling/yearling/2year old). More a collection of individuals sharing space than a real herd, it seems.



    • LindaKohanov on September 2, 2012 at 11:42 pm

      Thanks Erin for sharing these nuances with your herd. I too have seen horses engage the role you refer to as vigilants. I often called them “sentinels.” It would be interesting to watch the males to watch for more subtle leadership behavior, see if they are sharing leadership more equally, or trading it situationally. Herds take on all kinds of forms. I’ve seen groups of gentle individuals move harmoniously together with very few skirmishes. They seem effortlessly yet deeply connected. This would certainly be a herd that many of us might envy. Or are these guys truly individuals who totally go off on their own without really caring about the others?



    • Susan Garvin on September 6, 2012 at 8:07 am

      Thanks Erin, this is fascinating, and how observant and intuitive you are!!!
      Linda said “groups of gentle individuals move harmoniously together with very few skirmishes. They seem effortlessly yet deeply connected.” I think the small herd of three (two geldings and a mare) that my horse joined last year was just one such group, but he has upset the harmony a little bit i think, which is sad of course. He can be very much the same as them then will suddenly attack one of the other two geldings with ears back and teeth flashing. It might be jealousy rather than dominance, I don’t know. He and the mare have formed the classic pair bond. On the other hand he sometimes attacks when i can’t see any reason for jealousy (proximity, walking close to or grooming with the mare etc). His behaviour perplexes me a bit.



      • LindaKohanov on September 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm

        Hi Susan,

        Attacking for no apparant reason is a characteristic of a naturally dominant animal. I talk about this in chapter eight. And you’re also right in thinking that jealousy may sometimes be a part of it. Horses, particuarly dominant horses, do claim specific herd members as “theirs” and can be quite vigilant in keeping others away. I have a herd of three mares, with one naturally dominant animal named Savannah. When I put them in adjoining pastures next to other herds, I never have to worry about these horses playing over the fence as Savannah keeps her herd from touching or playing with the others and possibly damaging the fences or getting too rambunctious over the fence. So there are benefits to dominants in certain situations, as I also discuss in this chapter….



  4. Kristin on September 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I thought the group might enjoy this youtube video of a herd of water buffalo protecting a baby. It is a little difficult to watch, but keep going. The power of the herd is very present.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM

    If only humanity could relate to itself as a herd and allow the enemies to be fouled air, water, land. Maybe one day, with the assistance of horse.

    A friend sent me an email that the dolphins have been assisting in humanity’s evolution but their work is finished now, and horse is taking over. Any thoughts?



    • Anonymous on September 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      Hi Kristin,

      This is precisely the video I describe in Guiding Principle Eight! It’s absolutely fascinating and encouraging.

      The main thesis of this book is the horses have been helping people evolve all along, but that now a larger number of humans are finally free enough to cultivate power and leadership in a whole new way that horses hold many of the keys to. In Guiding Principle 12, I will offer research and theories that suggest this has been happening for 30,000 years!



      • Anonymous on September 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm

        Note the above reply is by Linda Kohanov.



  5. Ianrowcliffe on August 26, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Re: Studies supporting this theory show that when female mammals feel threatened,
    oxytocin, amplified by estrogen, does in fact inspire “tend and befriend” behavior.
    Women, in essence, are designed not just to rely on the power of the herd, but to create
    and cultivate it through biochemical impulses.

    Once again – look at any traditional farmer who may be representing a collective response, but as far as I see it, works along the tend and befriend axis, too. Natural farmers are always looking for ways to bring in parallel processes to enhance their lives. They don’t put their ‘eggs in one basket’ but spread their risks. It is the systems from outside that ‘force’ them to restrict themselves to monocultures. Hence, ‘tend and befriend’ is the base of all friendship irrespective of sex…isn’t it?



    • Anonymous on August 27, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Yes, I think especially in the case of farmers, who are working daily with animals, and nature, that the tend and befriend response is enhanced. That’s part of the reason why I recommend continuing relationships with animals and spending time in nature as a way of enhancing the arts of relationship, part of which a number of scientists are suggesting has to do with increased oxytocin (remember the studies show that interacting with animals is a reliable way to release the hormone and it’s healing, calming, social effects.) However, studies of stress responses in men and women do show that men go to flight or fight more naturally, and women to tend and befriend more naturally. The theory is that testosterone supresses oxytocin, and that estrogen enhances it. But men who are tending to animals, helping cattle and horses give birth, grooming them, and milking them, benefit from those activities which are now known to enhance oxytocin. And women who must care for large animals learn to become assertive, and hold their own with 1000 pound animals. So in some sense modern science and the examples of patoral cultures both show that men and women both become more balanced in association with animals.

      It’s clear that both men and women have testosterone, vassopressin, and oxtytocin, so both have the biochemical agents for fight or flight, protection, aggression, connection, and tend/befriend behavior.



  6. Ianrowcliffe on August 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Re: And indeed, “evidence concerning a fight-or-flight response in females has been
    inconsistent.” And so we recognize the ‘tend and befriend’ response but not exclusively in women surely!!! If anything that is exactly what makes virtually any relationship between couples possible.

    I am reminded of Deborah Tannen’s work and how men and women tend to work along different axes. Nevertheless, it is blatantly clear that women can adopt the one-up-manship axis and men the centering horizontal one. In short, friendship extends between sexes…. naturally … and I would say is contextualized and not defined by gender (and related hormones) necessarily.



  7. Ianrowcliffe on August 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Re: the sharo ceremony and its implications – this reminds me of old style single sex public schools, which in my experience may make you a ‘man’ but possibly a socially deranged one. Want an example, think Prince Harry:-) Leadership material????



    • Anonymous on August 27, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      It appears to be a characteristic of tribal cultures that there very well defined separate roles for men and women, perhaps because both sexes live very close to each other, and there’s not much privacy in nomadic tent life. For instance, I developed a workshop with a Navajo medicine man and his apprentice, which we will be offering again next spring actually. There was a considerable cultural difference I naively wasn’t plannning on, namely that a woman who is “in her moon” (menstruating) wasn’t allowed to participate in ceremonies. This was quite a problem for me to find out the day before a workshop where 9 of the 10 partipants were women, some traveling from Europe and considerable expense, to attend. To hear that they could be exluded from workshop activities if they were in their moon was quite a shock to me. But the Navajo men hadn’t really thought to mention this earlier because it was totally implied in their culture, and they never had to discuss it with their own tribe members. When I asked them what women do during this time if they are excluded from a scheduled ceremony, they simply didn’t know!

      About the sharo: This seems to me to be less about excluding women than it is a way to handle the natural competition between adolescent males, offering a unique social message: that to face a challenge and NOT fight back is a valuable option. This becomes the basis of an emotional heroism skill I outline in Guiding Pricniple Eleven, without the physical violence of course, updated to include a more socially intelligent way of solving difficulties that led to the challenge.



  8. Ianrowcliffe on August 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Re:And you need a drop, just a drop, of a cunning and ferocious lion in you: to protect your
    extended interspecies family from the occasional carnivore lurking about—and much
    more commonly, excessively predatory members of your own kind. After all, if you
    combine the agility and evasive intelligence of the horse, the skill and sheer nerve to
    stand up to a stallion or a bull, and the power to rally an entire herd, any two-legged or
    four-legged animal at all concerned with self-preservation will run screaming in the other
    direction—if he’s stupid or cocky enough to attack to begin with.

    That extra hint of tiger is mostly just for show – I am not convinced about that – in my experience, an alpha mare will send signals that she is prepared to attack, which, if not heeded, will be acted upon by simply charging and if necessary trampling you. All this depends on how she sees the threat, for example, approaching her foal or a lower ranking member of the herd by a stranger.

    Similarly, try Googling ‘Fulani herdsmen’ and there are countless reports of attacks and deaths related to them – bad publicity, not grounded in fact???? Could this be that they are territorial and act naturally by defending it and attacking the intruder when threatened.

    Either way, ‘It is therefore important to remember that in nature, a dominant animal will charge
    others for no apparent reason, apparently trying to keep everyone a bit on edge’ so there seems to be a ‘random’ element at play besides the calming affects of the chemicals released to enhance nurturing, calming behavior, doesn’t there?



    • LindaKohanov on August 27, 2012 at 5:08 pm

      It’s important to see 21st century Fulani in a similar position as the Apache in Arizona were a hundred years ago. Settlers were taking their land, treaties with the “white men” were not being upheld, and as a result, the Apache began to attack new settlers with a vengance as their own way of life was being threatened. If you read editorials in US newspapers at that time, you will see similar outraged statements about the “senseless violence” Apaches were engaging because they were irrational “savages.” When people and animals are backed into a corner, they do fight back! This is not the occasionally over-the-top aggression of adolescent alphas. This is steadily escalating, quite rational, yet still tragic, violence of a culture fighting what seems to be a losing battle to save their 1000 year old way of life.



    • LindaKohanov on August 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      In the comment you made questioning whether or not “the extra hint of tiger is mostly just for show” in relation to a mare acting assertively then aggressively to protect her foal, it is my point exactly that the “tiger” is unnecessary here.

      The tiger, as a metaphor for the predatory side of humanity, is very rarely necessary to engage precisely because empowered non-predatory animals like the horse are fully capable of dealing with dangerous aggressors. I make this more clear in Guiding Principle Eight which outlines the differences between predatory and non-predatory POWER in nature. Large non-predatory animals are not weak or cowardly. The nature-video example I use in this guiding principle graphically illustrates courageous, altruistic behavior of an entire herd to protect a younger member from a large pride of lions. I find the ability of “prey” animals to sound an alarm and rally the power of the herd very encouraging for those of us humans who have long felt that associating power exclusively with predatory metaphors/behaviors has been one of the biggest mistakes of human culture. (note, two previous comments above marked “anonymous” were from me, Linda Kohanov.)



      • Ianrowcliffe on September 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm

        Thanks for you explanations, Linda, which I only came across now as the follow-up notification system hasn’t been working…