What is second horse syndrome?


You know one of the things is it’s not always men against women when it comes to bullying. There are many situations where it’s a woman who is one of the strongest bullies. And I call this second horse syndrome.


I own two horses that have been together for over a decade. Sir James, a 17.1 hand (big!) boy is the leader and Two-Stroke a 17.1 hand grey is the follower – always has been and always will be.  They are both huge, love to play and weigh about 750 kilos each, which is not to be sneezed at. I have had them for 20 years and I have done natural horsemanship lessons for much of that time.

What I have learnt is that horses are a herd animal and within that herd there must be a leader and followers. 

Two-Stroke (named after his ability to imitate a two-stroke mower at his birth when spluttering for life) bites. It is a pain to deal with and a worse pain if he gets you. He has jaws like a crocodile. The issue, I am told, is that Two-Stroke has a leadership issue. Being big himself he would like to be a leader, which he is not.

Interestingly I am told that the second in command often bites. Sir James, however, takes the lead position. Lead horses often kick, and we have had an instance where Sir James got into a paddock with an elderly horse, cornered him and kicked him almost to death. He doesn’t take any prisoners, our Sir James.

When Two-Stroke and James are in the paddock, Two Stroke can often be seen chasing the deer or the kangaroos outside the fences. He suddenly decides they have to go and off he canters on a mission. The problem is that if a person enters, Two Stroke immediately has to make a decision no different to the kangaroo or deer. Being a human does not automatically give you special power. He is happy to be second in command, but he sure as hell is not happy to be downgraded to third in command. 

The person entering the paddock is a third entity in the equation. They must be overcome for him to hold his position, so he lashes out. Of course, once you know that you can deal with it (which I have learnt to do by establishing leadership through ‘natural horsemanship’), but if you are unaware, it can be nasty.

Through my mind this is exactly what I see in business. Come on, you can’t deny it! Many women who have been early adopters taking on the business world have suffered. On a personal front I am sick of drivers missing me because they are looking for a man called ‘Dr’. It is the drip, drip, drip, of every day. They have been interrupted, had their ideas stolen, been treated like administrative slaves and on top of that have been paid less than their male equivalents. It must have been simply awful for them.

In business, some women have struggled as second in command that when they have others in the paddock they act like Two-Stoke, and they lash out to protect their space. I call this ‘Second Horse’ syndrome. 

Understanding it can lead to dealing with it more easily. 

If you’re a female in a leadership position that may be in a situation similar to the above, why not register your interest for my new program, Stepping Up, which is launching on the 11th January 2021? You can register your interest HERE.


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About Me

Dr Louise Mahler is a body language expert. With a focus on study of the mind-body relationship and business applications; providing practical inspiring improvement to global leaders.

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