A couple of weeks ago when I called my two old sweeties and the rest of their herd to come in for food, I snapped this photo.

I couldn’t get the image of the Sharks and Jets out of my mind. It looked like a face off – a rumble.

In case you’re wondering, it’s a reference to the 1957 award-winning Broadway musical West Side Story. It was also made into a 1961 movie – same glorious awards. It was a winner, full of music people still sing today.

Well, some people!

The story is about rival gangs in the 1950’s in New York City. The Sharks are made up of first generation Americans from Puerto Rico, and the Jets are the working-class Anglos. Tony, from the Sharks falls in love with Maria whose brother is in the Jets. It’s loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

You can imagine the conflict.

The two gangs get into fights, though unlike gang activity of today, the face off often involves singing and dancing. Given the current level of violence, maybe today’s gangs should give the West Side Story version a try.

Okay, enough movie trivia. But if you don’t know West Side Story, you might want to check it out.

Horses are herd animals. They live in small family-style groups, usually with a dominant male and female. For many years, Bud and Pepper were herd leaders. Pepper still runs their small herd, but Bud has lost his status. These days, Red is dominant.

They don’t like the other horses and spend at least 90% of their time completely separate. The larger herd is younger and definitely rougher. It’s a relief to me to have Bud and Pepper in their own, small and safer group.

When they come in, they must sometimes make their way through the others. It always makes me a little nervous.

As the photo shows, Pepper almost always goes wide. She arcs as far away from the others as she can and then at the last possible moment, makes a break and runs for all she’s worth toward me and the gate.

Bud, on the other hand, remembers that he was once a feared and respected leader. He walks through the herd, though he sometimes stops to check things out before proceeding.

That’s what he’s doing in the photo – scoping out the danger.

And then he gets a little trot going, and makes his way to me. He really wants to be first out the gate, and will often squeeze his way in front of Pepper. She usually yields to him.

There is after all, a protocol to follow.

And old geldings deserve respect.

Pepper, is a wise old mare and knows exactly how to keep her men – all of them – happy.

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