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THE PECKING ORDER
Ask White Star
~ Millie Chalk
Often there is peace and wisdom in doing what
comes natural. In nature there is an order that
brings to all of its inhabitants stability, security and
strength, but as humans we are called to rise above
what is simply an instinct, and go beyond our
existence being relegated to mere survival.
Unlike the animals, we were born to create, evolve
and improve upon our condition, both in our thoughts
and in our relationship with everything around us.
This has always been what sets us apart as a species,
yet we have seen throughout our history the once oppressed becomes the oppressor. Slaves rise up and exact revenge upon their masters, an entire people seek freedom from religion or poverty and invade a continent, slaughtering millions only because they can, and the remnants of an ancient people, almost decimated in the most inhuman way, are liberated to return to their place of existence from the past, only to drive out the inhabitants, claiming their God has given them the right. This behavior of survival is repeated over and over in nature but finding wisdom for us is to learn from our study of its creatures, not from imitating them.
I first noticed this bullying behavior in horses more than thirty years ago on my ranch. I always knew horses bossed one another around, jockeying for position to establish their hierarchy known as their “pecking order”, but I had never seen it taken to an almost “human” extreme until I came across a little horse named Alphy. He was a fifteen hand Arabian. He was large for his breed but a bit smaller than the other horses in the pasture. He was super strong and a gifted athlete but he had a passive, sweet nature and my heart ached to see how he let the other horses pick on him mercilessly. Each morning I would come out to find some new scrape or swelling on him where the other horses had bit or kicked him from the night before. He could just be standing there by himself and another horse would come up and shove him around until he would run out of area. Sometimes they would pursue him until exhaustion and my heart was breaking to see how he was treated. He was meek and their abuse so relentless.
Finally we built a new coral to house a rescue that I took on partly to save its life but partly to give to Alphy a companion, someone that had been treated even worse than him. This horse was old, sick, hungry, and tired. Alphy had always been kind, and I thought the two to be a perfect match, that he could help the old horse and in doing so, feel better about himself.
For a couple of days I established the new horse in his living space. The coral was a close distance to the pasture so he didn’t feel alone and abandoned. By the second day he was doing well, getting stronger by eating some really good food and I felt he had settled in sufficiently when I brought Alphy in to join him. There was the usual squealing, stomping and posturing that I’ve always been used to seeing so I didn’t think much of it. I turned around and walked back up to the house.
It wasn’t long, perhaps only an hour or so when I decided to go back down to check on the two of them. I gleefully walked with pictures in my mind of the two peacefully cohabitating, sharing the trough, grazing next to one another, perhaps even a bit of mutual grooming or fly swatting with each other’s tails? The sight that greeted me as I approached was shocking. The poor new horse was drenched in sweat. He had cuts and bruises all over his body, blood smeared on his coat and was near exhaustion. Alphy was in a frenzy chasing the poor beast with ears pinned flat against his head and teeth barred. Each time I separated them to their corners Alphy would break past me and come out charging to pursue the old horse once more. My hopes of giving Alphy the life of compatibility that I felt he deserved, while helping to comfort another were dashed. How could he be so stupid? Although I tried to pair them up again a couple more times, each attempt produced the same result and my only recourse was to house Alphy in the barn. I was sad to think he could have had freedom, companionship, lots of room to roam in a perfect setting but he had to be a monster, doing to another the horrible abuse that had been dished out to him.
That experience always stands out in my mind when I see what’s happening in the world today. In this country the gatherings filled with hate speeches, the mentality of “we’ve got to get them before they get ours”, the school shootings, the unrest in the middle east, trapping people in modern day ghettos just waiting for them to die, and governments all over the world depriving people while their oligarchies only get richer, leads me to believe we’re still not the humans we were created to be.
When will we learn that like Alphy, we will be imprisoned by our contempt of others? We are cajoled into the idea that we are secure by keeping the less fortunate away, or benefit by the manipulation or even legal theft of others, and believe the lies that a leader can and will solve every problem for us through divisiveness and his words of hate while he extols the virtues of violence and bigotry.
I’m not feeling too hopeful for our country. I know this is all to be expected because Karma can be a punishing taskmaster, and this country must pay for the transgressions of its past. My hope is that once we as humans are finally on the other side of this we will have learned, once and for all, that we possess what is needed to form a better, kinder and more evolved society. I cling to the awareness that such people already exist. Each day I see others together and separately building something better through their service and regard for others. I know I must dwell on those images to recognize more, because right now I need to know that we’ll get through this and be a better people in doing so.
Writer/Rider and general lover of life
Member of Board of Directors for Whispernthunder.org
Trainer at Cherokee Ranch, Backyardhorseman.com