A mysterious circumstance arose one morning to discover a Ghost amidst the Sand Wash Basin herd. Specifically, the bald face dapple-gray Wyoming Mustang we named Ghost found his way either under or over the field’s cross fence. This unplanned encounter presented a unique opportunity for observation and discovery. In addition, our interaction provided insight that could not have existed on the open range. The result was completely unpredictable and reinforces our opinion that feral equine behaviors are mostly personality driven.
In a previous post titled “O’ Brother, Thou Art Hither” we described how the half-brothers Coal and Flint developed an unprecedented co-leadership coalition. One might have expected Ghost, being the third equine, was motivated to challenge that leadership and take over the herd. Surprisingly, the behavior we observed was more like Ghost, an outcast, was seeking acceptance from the herd while Coal and Flint acting as kind-hearted caretakers gracefully offered additional space. Neither of the brothers interpreted Ghost’s situation as a territorial threat. There was no rearing up or aggressive sparing. Instead, it appeared simply as a personality conflict.
Ghost being extremely timid toward humans continued to distance himself whenever we gave affection and attention to the friendly equine. Meanwhile, the less friendly members kept their normal posture by remaining close. Ghost, however, paced with anxiety around the fringes never comfortable with us in the mix. From a distance, we observed the herd did not expel Ghost but they did not accept his leadership either. They did not submit to his authority despite a little bullying.
Groupthink appeared to dominate the response to this intrusive encounter. This behavior manifested itself for quite some time. There was clearly a lack of harmony within the herd. Quincy, the little gray gelding, eventually found comfort in hanging out with the brothers. We resolved finally that Ghost belonged back with the Wyoming bachelors and the harmony of the herd was ultimately restored.