Four Lessons From the Herd

What Horses Can Teach Us About Middle School

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One: It’s All About The Herd.

Horses, as big and strong as they are, know that survival depends on being part of the group. Together, they may bicker and jostle for position, but they feel far better equipped to meet the threatening world outside their tribe. Alone, they’re mostly afraid and miserable. For kids past the age of eleven, friends increasingly take the place of family and adults as their bedrock, their sense of home ground. Finding their place in the herd is an intense and ongoing preoccupation, one that can’t be ignored by teachers or parents.

Two: Every Herd Needs A Leader, And Leaders Are Tested.

The first thing a natural horsemanship trainer will tell you when you are handling an equine is this: in the horse’s mind you and he now constitute a herd. The herd is the basic unit of survival. It has to have a leader, and given that the horse weighs 1,000 pounds and is afraid of almost everything, that leader needs to be you.

Three: They Don’t Know Their Own Strength, But You Need To.

Having an adolescent body is much like suddenly being in possession of a horse. It’s a big, strong creature. It has huge appetites. And sometimes it behaves unpredictably, for reasons that even it may not understand.

Four: They’re Worth It

Horses and kids take a lot of work, a lot of patience, and a lot of resources. But what they give back is incalculable.

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Writer & educator. The Startup, Writing Cooperative, P.S. I Love You, The Ascent, more. Award-winning short fiction. Visit me at

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