When Little Love first arrived at her current barn, she kept a very low profile when it came to interacting with her herd mates. She was cautious and careful. She spent hours merely studying the other horses, watching what they were doing, quickly moving out of the way when they approached her with their ears pinned back. She took every precaution to make sure she did not get into a confrontation. She seemed like she was a follower, yet when you saw her interacting with the other horses, you never had the sense of submission from her part. Was she really at the bottom of the pecking order or was she merely waiting for her turn?
Today I spent some time observing the herd with a friend of mine (we have had some visitors this week, but I'll have to write about that later, once I process my thoughts). I haven't had much time to do that lately, but as soon as I stood there for a while, it was obvious that something had changed in Little Love's attitude. The main difference is with her relationship with Manta. Where before she used to move out of Manta's way - although halfheartedly with her ears pinned back - she now barely acknowledged Manta's presence. When Little Love walked to the water source and Manta made a mean face as if to say "Don't you dare come here!", Little Love walked right past her and drank out of the bucket without batting an eye. Manta threatened her again, but just one look from Lilo stopped her antics. She watched Lilo drink and walk away without interfering. Ten minutes later, Lilo circled around Manta, tossing her head back and ears against her neck. Manta backed away, obviously unhappy, but letting Little Love chase her away quite easily. This seemed to upset Kira who showed up with her mane flying around fiercely. She tried to chase Lilo away from the herd and Little Love moved, but making a point of doing it very slowly. Impatient, Kira turned around and kicked at Little Love, trying to push her away from the rest of the horses. Little Love whirled around and kicked back - hard. Both horses moved away from each other after this, so neither really lost face, but it all left me wondering if Little Love has finally decided to take her real spot in the social hierarchy. I have never seen her challenge Kira like that before.
I feel that this herd, although at most times seemingly tranquil, has something cooking under the surface. Perhaps that is the reason Little Love is not gaining weight nor is she going into heat like usual. Perhaps she is still unsure of her place in the herd. Or she knows exactly where she stands, she just has to make sure everyone else knows this, too. She is not rushing out there in the middle of the herd to claim her space with kicks and bites, but rather is working her strategy the way she always does it - slowly but surely.