Several years ago my goat herd had a lead goat. She was an Alpine. She was not head goat. that was a different Alpine. When the pasture gate was opened, the herd decision of where to go was solely hers.
The herd went to the gate and stood there, waiting. Loyal wandered out, threading her way through the herd and out the gate. Some mornings she led them north, some south.
Loyal grew old and died. Dude took over for the next few years, but he was already elderly. He was the last of the Alpines.
Now the goat herd is only Nubians. They have relied on the Alpines for years for leadership. Even a few years after losing Dude, they haven’t found a herd leader. Instead they have a democratic approach.
Since I open the pasture gate, I am their first leader of the day. The herd straggles along to the gate.
I walk through the gate. The herd scatters as they walk through the gate. Some goats don’t make it out of the gate right away as the giant ragweed is right there waiting for browsing.
Finally the entire herd is outside the gate milling around. At this point I can go back in and close the gate leaving the goats to stand around. Or I can walk out to pasture.
If I close the gate, the goats look at each other. Some wander off to browse. The top goats are stuck with the herd decision: Where do we go today?
If I lead the way, the herd decision is put off, sort of. The main path leads toward the bridge across the creek. At this point the herd can go north along the creek or cross the creek to go south.
Most mornings when I lead, I walk a short way north. The herd gets to the bridge and stops. I turn to see them looking at me like I’m lost or something.
The herd decision is already made to cross the creek. I’m not in on the decision. They pity me, turn and cross the bridge only to stop on the other side.
Again some wander off to browse. The head goats have another herd decision to make. They can go left up the hill and around. They can go straight and up the hill pasture. They can go right along the creek and to the ravine.
Finally one goat gets antsy. She takes off one way or another. The herd follows.
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