Respect can be defined as “a feeling of deep admiration or deference for something that is good, valuable or important and that is elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” I can drive a car, type, and stand on one foot. Does my horse appreciate me for these talents? Does he deeply admire me for my ability to play the violin? Does he defer to me because I was an Eagle Scout or have a Ph.D.? I don’t think so.

Does a horse respect anything? What does your horse deeply admire? What abilities, qualities, or achievements has he noticed in his colleagues?

These are easy questions with hard answers…

Dominance and Hierarchy

I have argued that a herd of horses is much like a school of fish or flock of birds, leaderless and choosing a course of action via collective decision making. I have argued that “respect” as is normally meant by humans, does not exist in the horse, and that humans often use it as a euphemism for “fear”. I do not dispute the existence of “dominance” in a herd of horses, but I have questions about what it is and whether the concept is useful. Thirty years ago, researchers were far from a consensus on how to define and measure dominance, and little has changed since then. Anything gets harder to talk about when we can’t agree on what it is.