At the therapy program I work for (Sunrise Center North, hence the username ;] ) we have a horse named JW. J is a gorgeous 20 year old 16 hand chestnut thoroughbred with serious self esteem issues. He loves people. He'll do whatever you ask of him, but he's got issues with other horses. JW spent 12 years of his life as a Pony Horse at various thoroughbred racetracks (Pony Horses are the horses which lead the thoroughbreds to the starting gate, for those of you wondering). Being a pony horse puts an incredible amount of stress on a horse- they are always in high stress situations with high strung horses who bite, step on, bump into, jump on, try to run away from, and sometimes break free from them and they are NEVER allowed to fight back or so much as reprimand the other horse. (God forbid the racehorses get some socialization and learn some manners!) Pony horses spend a majority of their time alone. Most racetracks where they are stabled have no paddocks available for them- they get their exercise on the track leading the horses (whom they are not allowed to socialize with).
Now that JW is with the therapy program and has the time and space to run free and socialize with other horses and be playful, he just can't seem to. His mentality of "The other horse is more important. Can't touch the other horse" from the track has carried over to his life here. His paddock mates ignore him for the most part and rarely give him a chance to eat at the hay feeder with them. Some of the younger horses have tried to play with him, but he just looks bewildered at their attempts. He gets bullied and doesnt fight back, he and his paddock mates never engage in mutual grooming, and he, for the most part, always stand alone.
When I bring some of the therapy horses to the arena to play, everyone love to play tag, or engage in free lunging, or hide and go seek behind the barrels, or Follow The Human, etc. JW however, doesnt seem to know how to play. He just looks confused. When I turn him out in the arena with the other therapy horses, its like he's just another barrel in the arena. They'll run around him, hide behind him, but to them, its like he's not even there.
When you groom and saddle him up, he just comes to life because he loves interacting with people and really knows what he's doing. He understands whats expected of him under saddle. He doesnt understand what we're talking about when we ask him to be a horse, not a machine.
What can I do to help JW? How can I help him realize its okay to let go and be free here? I feel like he needs a self empowerment clinic or something!