Today I spent some time watching the horses interact in the paddock. There is a wooden structure at the bottom of the paddock which acts as a cover from sun and rain. The horses seem to find the spot right under it and beside it the best and most coveted place to be. When Kira and Manta are down in the pasture, Little Love immediately parks herself under the pine trees, her bottom half under the canopy. Needless to say, when Kira and Manta show up, they hog the "sweet spot" leaving Little Love to settle for another patch of shade under single pine tree on the left, some twenty feet away.
This was exactly the case today, too. After walking Little Love down the road (it was awful, the horse flies were crazy aggressive) and letting her graze for an hour while visiting with some people, I put her into the paddock. Seeing that Manta and Kira were up in the paddock area, she walked over to "her" pine tree. But she was watching the two horses. At first I thought it was a longing look, but when I saw her meander towards the shelter, I realized she had been plotting something.
Little Love made a circle, walking around the paddock until she came to the wooden shelter. Without looking at the two horses dozing in the shade, she passed under the cover. She never stopped, she never acknowledged Kira or Manta; she simply brushed by quietly. When she was already walking away from the two horses, Kira pinned her ears back, screamed and kicked out. Little Love kept moving back towards her tree, in no way disturbed by Kira's tantrum. She stopped under "her" tree and turned to look at her two herd mates. She waited two minutes. Then she walked towards the wooden cover again, this time approaching it from the other side. Right when she was underneath it, only a few feet away from Manta and Kira, she stopped to scratch her face (as if it needed scratching, to me this looked like a ploy). The scratching lasted only three seconds and Kira didn't react to it, but Manta took the bate. She lunged towards Little Love, trying to pass in between her and Kira. This upset Kira, who considers herself the "boss" and thinks Manta has no place telling Little Love off, since that's her job. Both horses "chased" Little Love off, who had turned around and was heading towards "her" tree. But Manta and Kira wouldn't let her stop there and chased her even further. When Little Love kept moving away, Manta and Kira settled under "her" tree, staring her down.
And what did Little Love do? She calmly walked over to the "sweet spot" under the cover. It took about five minutes before the two horses realized what she had done. Of course, once it dawned on them that they had been robbed of their "sweet spot", they chased Lilo off. Little Love slowly walked to "her" tree and stopped to watch Kira and Manta. It wasn't long that she started her rounds again, brushing by close enough to get their attention, but never too close to seem confrontational. It didn't take but two minutes and the two horses had moved away from the "sweet spot" again and Little Love had it to herself.
It was incredible to watch this interaction take place over and over again. It was so systematic, yet subtle. Silently, in her own passive way, Little Love was asserting herself and frankly she seemed to be getting what she wanted, even if it was for just a short while at a time. It was absolutely intriguing to watch her bate the two horses and then get pushed away. If you only saw it happen once, you would have felt bad for her, being pushed around like that. But having seen Little Love work the situation over and over again I could see that there was something else entirely going on between the three mares. Little Love was calm, never taking even a trot step when the two horses told her to move (yet always politely moving away), and somehow she always ended up in the coveted "sweet spot" - time after time.
Sneaky, I would say, extremely sneaky :-)