When the first horse came into your life, did you realize the importance of understanding equine behavior? I don’t know about you, but it didn’t cross my mind.
I’ve had a special connection with horses since I was just a toddler. There’s always been this feeling that runs so deep inside of me that I’ve never been able to fully describe.
Throughout my journey with horses, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the best equine behaviorists in the country. Not only do they understand horse behavior, they also share that same “deep-rooted feeling” for horses.
The more I learn, the more I realize that fully understanding horses always goes back to the fundamentals. Nowhere else have I seen Mother Nature’s core principles demonstrated as well as in the beautiful, educational documentary by Robert Vavra, Such is the Real Nature of Horses.
The first time I saw this video, I was captivated by the incredible footage and the inspirational and educational narration. In this review of “Such is the Real Nature of Horses,” I point out how this video can help us understand horse behavior at a deeper level.
Throughout this video, the educational aspect is impressive, but even more so is the video footage that allows you to actually observe everything as though you’re a spy strategically hidden amongst their herd.
Love for horses is only one part of the equation of being a competent equine guardian. It’s imperative that we understand horses from their point of view.
I now know that there are others who have that same feeling about horses that I’ve described to you. Most people think of us horse people as having some kind of crazy horse gene, but Robert Vavra perfectly described that love I hold so deeply for the horse!
From my earliest memories I have loved horses with a longing beyond words.” ~Robert Vavra
Vavra narrates the entire documentary and you can feel and sense his true essence and love for horses. This documentary beautifully portrays the horse in its natural state allowing us to take away mounds of information through observation and discovery.
What a Quick Glimpse Can Portray
In the introduction, Robert Vavra narrates as we observe the differences between a free roaming horse versus one who’s manipulated by man.
This glimpse is very powerful.
Anyone who truly loves horses will look at that piece of footage and think more about the spirit of the horse. That glimpse and the way the sequence was presented caused me to feel like I was suspended for a moment in time… feeling what the horse was feeling.
One side of me felt a sense of freedom, strength, and power and the other side of me felt my spirit being harnessed and manipulated with little or no respect for my dignity.
Vavra has devoted most of his life to observing, photographing and understanding the horse.
Even as a child, it seemed to me that the horse’s natural behavior among its fellows was far more intriguing than any trained behavior I’ve seen at the race track, show ring, circus, or rodeo.” ~ Robert Vavra
This documentary takes place in the marshes of France so the terrain the horses are on doesn’t come close to the desert-like conditions where most people think free roaming horses live. It’s very wet and mushy and provides a variety of plants for foraging.
This documentary is based on a 30-year study of wild social equine behavior.
Here we can find the horse before its spirit was captured and tamed by man.” ~Robert Vavra
Horses in Their Natural State
Horses are amazing in their natural state.
The more I learn about equine behavior and the way they thrive in their natural habitat, the more I can apply those principles to my own horses. There are many key points throughout this documentary that are important.
It’s our responsibility as equine caregivers to understand the true nature of horses.
It’s that understanding that can assist us in a much more fulfilling relationship with our domesticated partners.
Such is the Real Nature of Horses gives us a gift beyond compare by providing us the opportunity to understand horses at a deeper level and as Mother Nature intended.
Watching the Camargue tribe day after day and often at night, I was continually amazed to think that animal behaviorists have once gone far to study exotic species, such as gorillas and hyenas, while the horse, the animal that has MOST SERVED MAN, had for years, virtually been ignored.” ~Robert Vavra
Many of the core concepts that I discuss in my articles on Soulful Equine, bled out through the screen as I watched this documentary. A few key principles discussed are as follows:
- The Horse is one of the most social of animals yet a majority of domesticated horses are kept using inferior horse keeping practices that are not at all in the horse’s best interest.
- The Camargue horse spends 60% of its time eating, only 10% interacting and 30% resting and sleeping.
- It’s amazing how adept horses are at selecting and plucking individual plants. With the Camargue horses, although springtime filled the Camargue with a large selection of vegetation, herd members were choosy, some more selective than others. Their selectivity of plants changed from season to season.
- Because of the low nutrient value of their diet, they must eat vast quantities to maintain weight. As already mentioned, they spend 60% of their time foraging while moving from place to place.
- As far as basic language, it’s pointed out that there can be no society without communication. I believe this is where we go wrong the majority of the time with our domesticated partners. Most horse guardians love their horses, but they have no basic language with them.
- Dung (stud piles) and how it relates to dominance and communication is discussed in the documentary. In a previous article I published, The Scoop on Poop, I discussed the importance of equine behavior and relative dominance when it comes to manure management.
- Within the Camargue tribe the herd pecking orders are strict and generally these well-defined rules leave each animal feeling secure. This concept is very important to grasp not only between our horses, but also between our horses and ourselves.
- Though stallion behavior is more obvious than that of mares, equine females dictate much of herd activity.
Robert Vavra discusses his observations about dung and applies an interesting analogy:
Each dung deposit serves as an equine communication device, like a personalized calling card or a note posted on a public bulletin board.” ~Robert Vavra
Equine Social Order and Structure
A large portion of the documentary focuses on the social order and interaction between tribe members. I found the complexity of the Camargue tribe’s interaction and social ordering fascinating. Vavra educates us about different aspects of social ordering and interaction.
The natural components of horses as it relates to courtship, to a mare giving birth, to foal imprinting and strength of bond, are all depicted throughout the documentary.
For example, the social order and structure of a stallion’s harems is intriguing. Each stallion has his own style of courtship. It was also pointed out that tribal stallions always exclude mature daughters from their harems.
The more I studied equines it seemed to me when left to their own kind they attend to their lives with a sensitivity and in ways more complex than most horse people even have the opportunity to observe.” ~Robert Vavra
The Day Old Foal Named Petite
At one point in the documentary, a day old foal Vavra had named Petite was accidentally knocked down in the cold marsh water. Once she got out, she began to shiver. Robert Vavra made the following observation about this incident, one with which I agree and that’s seldom understood by most horse people.
It is often difficult to accept that horses have much lower pain and discomfort levels than do we and can survive conditions that would be unbearable to us.” ~Robert Vavra
We humans often think of horses from a human standpoint versus from the true nature of horses.
Hoof Integrity and Shape
In the environment of these horses, water is everywhere.
As someone who’s obsessed with observing horses’ hooves, I couldn’t help but notice the shape of the hooves and the level of soundness of the Camargue horses despite the amount of moisture they’re exposed to.
The Camargue horses would stand around and nibble on forage in the wet marsh. Hoof form varies based on terrain and environmental conditions. There’s a big difference in horse hooves in the marshes of France versus horse hooves in desert lands.
I noticed that the hooves of the Camargue horses appeared to adhere to core aspects that have been identified as a result of the barefoot horse movement. However, it’s unlikely you will find a beautifully formed mustang roll on one hoof in the Camargue tribe.
Although the horses self-trim, the wet, soft terrain and conditions don’t appear to allow for that beautiful roll to form like it does on horses in more desert-like conditions.
This doesn’t keep them from moving and flowing beautifully across the terrain they have adapted to. The main reason they’re able to stay sound and maintain quality hoof integrity is due to one core principle…. movement.
Your Equine Library
I personally own this particular documentary and each time I watch it, I find something I missed previously that I feel helps me have a much deeper understanding of horses.
I would recommend that Such is the Real Nature of Horses be part of any equine guardian’s library. It’s something you can watch more than once and continually take away important lessons that you can apply to your horses in domestication.
By not understanding the true nature of horses, no matter how much you love your horse, you will be doing them an injustice.
As horse guardians, we must continue to observe and learn more about equine behavior in order to provide an optimal environment for them that will allow them to thrive versus just survive.
Keep it soulful,