Join Date: May 2011
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
A different take on herd bound horses:
My young gelding, Levee, was recently turned out with a decent sized herd of horses - eight, to be exact. They are an even split of mares and geldings. For the first month, Levee was in a bull pen within seeing and hearing distance of the herd. They called back and forth. When we moved Levee into the field, he got beat up pretty badly. Long story short, he went trotting out to the back 40 to meet the herd and came running back within 30 seconds, with the entire herd on his heels. They chased him into a corner, where the lead mare proceeded to take a chunk out of his hock, and then through a shallow pond where a gelding decided to lay his heels into my gelding's rump. A couple more bites later, two Haflingers chased my little guy out into the back 40 and stood guard, preventing him from coming back for water.
Things calmed down within an hour (I stayed and watched to be sure) and didn't get too crazy over the course of the night. The barn owner made sure to check my gelding out and aside from some minor bites, he survived the night.
That was about a month ago. For the first 3 weeks, he was overly eager to leave the pasture and would follow me willingly. Within the last week, Levee has found his niche in the herd and isn't as eager to leave. The first day, I didn't have a lot of time with him and when I realized he was going to raise a fuss about leaving the pen, I opted not to lead him out and simply lead him about 20 feet away from the herd and call it a night. You know, end on a good note.
The second night, I had more time to kill and I spent nearly an hour trying to lead him away from the herd. He wasn't dangerous, he never threatened me or made a fuss... he just planted his feet and refused to move. Rather than getting into a pulling match with this horse, I gave him a couple pops on the hindquarters and jogged him in circles. Then I grabbed his buddy, threw a halter on him and led them BOTH out of the pasture.
I went back again today and Levee got wise to my tricks. As soon as I grabbed his buddy, Levee trotted just out of reach. So, I led his buddy just far enough that Levee became curious and began to follow. I was able to catch him this way and lead him out (with his buddy).
I know I'm doing something wrong here and I know there has to be a better way to go about this. I don't think he's arena sour because honestly, all we do once he's out of the field is groom, clean his cuts and go on walks to build some muscle. He goes to the round pen MAYBE once a week and even then, he isn't worked hard. A few circuits around, some "good boys" and then we walk around and he grazes.
What am I doing wrong? Once he's out of the field, he leads great. He'll follow the handler up and over anything, through anything, without a second thought. It's getting him out of the pasture that's beginning to pose a problem and I want to nip it in the bud before it gets worse.