There had been quite a discussion between Zeus and Altamiro regarding who should yield to whom earlier, happening just feet away from where I was standing. I had my camera at the ready but hadn't yet used it today, so I was utterly dismayed when I turned the thing on and the screen remained dark with the caption "change batteries" showing. Grrr. Of course by the time I changed the batteries, the heated debate was finished and I didn't even get to see who won!
When a similar debate between Zeus and Altamiro erupted, I had been grooming one of the mares so was a little slow to get the camera turned on and focused on the scene. What I captured was very brief, but utterly fascinating.
Here, let's have a look at the short clip:
What is especially interesting here is not only has diminutive Zorita decided to intercede on her lover's behalf, she has gone after a 16h notorious bully! I'm here to tell you that there is not one herd member (other than Mistral) who has ever so much as looked side-ways at Zeus. Zeus takes orders from Mistral and no one else--until today, and didn't Zorita just seize the opportunity.
Now Bonnie has relayed to me numerous times that Zorita is an alpha mare and quite capable of asserting herself within a group of horses. So far, Zorita has been serenely content to let the other mares have the greater say in matters, only imposing her will over the mules and the foals.
I don't like to box in horses with notions of hierarchy, because throughout the day, I so often see frequent examples of shared leadership and "lower status" horses obtaining a yieldings from "higher status" horses. Whatever hierarchy is in place here has a lot of fluidity depending on different situations. But each herd member is keenly aware of where each of them feel they rightfully line up when called to breakfast...here hierarchy is configured thusly: Mistral first, Zeus second. Then Bella and the other grullas and then the mules. With the exception of Mistral and Zeus, all the others shuffle each other from pan to pan, some days more-so than others. But no one pushes Mistral off his pan, and Mistral is the only one capable of pushing Zeus off his pan (which he only does if he happens to finish his own breakfast first--a rare thing).
Obviously Zorita saw something in Zeus that she felt she could triumph over in that moment, and likely she felt that if Zeus didn't back off, Altamiro and her together could change his mind about things. Perhaps Zorita felt there was something ungentlemanly about Zeus's conversation with Altamiro, and like a school mistress decided to remind the gelding of his better manners. We must wonder too, what did Altamiro make of this--having a female defend his honor?
It will be curious to see how this show of force alters the relationship between Zorita and Zeus.
To close, I'm sharing some still photos I've extracted from the moving footage. Very impressive mare, this Zorita, eh?
Setting the scene: Altamiro has just been roughed up from behind by Zeus