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For Herd Bound / Barn Sour Horses, we must remember that a horse that is a prey animal finds safety in numbers. Some of these animals have a deeper sense of security among the herd then others. So we have an insecurity found in the mind of the horse.
That is where we wil start. Dealing first with the insecurity, otherwise we will have a bigger fight on our hands, and the more intense the struggle with a horse the more dangerous it is for both us and the horse.
I picked up an Arab Mare that was alledgedly a Grand Canyon Horse. If this is true, then it would have never left the herd, which would make it even tougher for her to over come this insecurity.
As soon as she arrived she immediately was attached to my Paint Gelding. I let her hang out a few days to ge used to her new home.
After a few days I discovered she was herd bound.
If you approached her as she was near the Paint she was a gentle doll. But when removed from her stall /Paint, she was rude, disrespectful, and in the hands of newbie, intimidating, or even dangerous.
So here is how to handle a horse with such a problem.
If you can isolate the horse from any other horses, then all the better. If not then you can still progress normally.
First I taught her to lunge and follow verbal commands, at first it was point the direction I wanted her to go and forcing her to go that way, then stop her by saying "Whao and then pulling her to a stop, then taking her the opposite way. Do this so you can safely manage the horse and gain some respect. But remeber her primary focus will be on the other horses and it will want to go back to the herd. You do this with the herd or barn in plain sight. After lungeing her for respect, stopping her and turning her around, sending her the opposite direction, she will begin to pay more attention to you and less to the herd, although see is still near the herd, and will have one eye on them. DO NOT run the horse around and around in circles to wear it out, when exhausted the horse will learn nothing and not use the thinking side of it's brain, it will only respond instinctfully and that is rarely productive. Lunge it one way for a lap or two and turn it around, mix it up and then lunge it half a lap and turn it around. Important note, when you feel the horse needs a rest, take it away from the other horses or stables, walk it out away so it cannot see the herd. When it gets nervous and excited, take it back and lunge it some more. That way the horse will learn that when it is with other horses you will be making it work, it can rest when it is outside the herd. Physical work will help reduce some of the anxiety the herd bound horse feels when removed from the herd.
When the horse responds to your commands and is attentive to you. Also teach it other important things like lateral deflection, backing up, turn the front shoulders, making sure the feet cross over, and most importantly, dis-engage it's hindquaters. Because when you remove her from the herd she will need some sort of physical release from the anxiety brought on by it's insecurity. And you will give her that by letting her lunge/move around you (with a shorter lead rope) until physically moving enough to release it's anxiety.
Now that your horse reponds to you near the herd, take it away from the herd, let it move around you on a lunge line to relieve it's anxiety, it will stop eventually, almost always facing the direction of the herd. Take a training pole to make sure it does not run over you but stays respectful of your space, (remember you have an upset horse on your hands, but one that should at this point consider you it's alpha, but horses like people do strange things when upset, that is why you gaiin the repsect before you go to this step, to minimize and danger) Once you have taken it out away from the herd and let it lunge around you, take it back and put it away for the day, it has taken a big step and needs to know things are still ok,
Next day repeat the same steps of lunging for repect and making sure it is attentive to you, you too will become part of the herd in it's eyes and it will find security in you since you are authoritative in it's mind. Then take it to the same spot you were yesterday away from the herd, let it physically release the anxiety, then take it farther away. Each time the horse will find release in a controlled manner which was taught by and controlled by you. Making the stressed out horse, safer to manage. Repeat this process until you can walk a quarter mile or so in any direction away from the herd without MAJOR incidense. Of course at times when it hears the other horses hollering at it, it will get a little nervous ad holler back. Do this day after day as often as you can, until it is not a struggle to go for a walk with your horse. Our schedules do not always allow us to do this every day, but do not be discouraged, just stay as consistent as you can and you and your horse will overcome this problem.
Now that you can walk your horse away from the herd in any direction without it stressing out to much. (you can physically see the stress brought on by anxiety, excessive sweating, body shaking, loud whinning to th herd, constant movement) When this is more managable, it is time to ride your horse away from the herd. Again for the safety of the horse and the rider this should be done in stages. Now that your horse is respectful on the gound, you can reduce the time on ground training, but at this time do not completey stop it. Consider it a little maintenance program until the horse has overcome this issue.
Riding your horse, you should follow the same principles, make it work around the herd or other horses, then take it away to let it rest. When you take it a short distance to rest and it begins to act up, take it back by the herd and make it work some more, your horse will want to make it's way closer and closer to the herd, When you get closer, increase the intensity of it work load, by making the horse move faster and make more turns. (By the time I am next to the stall of the Paint, I have the Arab, run back and forth in front of the stalls making quick roll backs. After a few of these she runs to the resting place. After she rests away from the herd, she will get a little nervous and want to go back to the herd where I will take her and make her work some more. Then take her away and let her rest away from the herd again.
Now for safety sake I said that you and the horse must learn to dis-engage the horses hindquarters. You did this on the ground first so you could gain control of the horse when you are on it's back.
Now that your horse is repsectiveful and wants to rest away from the herd it is time to ride it past the sight of the herd.
Repeat some ground work, repeat some work on it's back, letting it rest away from the herd and it's stall, then ride the horse past the resting place. IT WILL BALK. But we knew it would, do not hit the horse at this point, do not let it back up which they all want to do, do not let it rear, this is important, give it release, when it balks, dis-engage it's hindquarters turning it around and then sending it the way you want it to go, it will take several trys, but it will go the direction you want it to go, even if it is only a couple steps. Then it will balk again, again dis-engage it's hindquaters and turn it around and head it the direction you want it to go. Eventually it will again head a few steps in that direction, repeat this process until you are near the area that you use to walk it too. Then take it back and put the horse away.
Each time take the horse farther and farther away from the herd, the worst trip will be the first trip, the horse will figure out that when it balks you are going to spin it around an make it work, so it will balk less and less. The time it takes to overcome this insecurity depends on the horse. And the riders consistency. But this is a fool proof method that works.
Things to note:
By dis-engaging the hindquarters you take away the power of the horse, making it safer.
If the horse will not stop spinning and head the direction you want it to go, shift your weight to the outside of the horse impacting it's ability to keep it's balance. It will stop and head the direction you want it to go.
Keep your hand down below your knee as you pull on the rein to dis-enegage the hindquaters, that way you will not pull the horse over on it's side upon you.
If the horse trys fight the rein place your other hand down on it's head or neck to keep it down, remember when you disengage the hind quarters the horse looses it power.
When on the trail, (I recommend a dirt road until the horse has more or less overcome this issue) move horse side to side on the road until it learns to walk with a loose rein.
From the beginning stages teach the horse to stop using only one rein. And stop it each time it starts to go faster than you told it to go, after a few days it will figure what the heck, if I go faster, she is only going to stop me. And I might as well walk.
Also by using the one rein stop you will automatically dis-enegage the hind quarters.
Soon you will have a respestful horse that is looking forward to going out on the trail with you. And because you two have worked together to resolve this issue, the bond between horse and rider is strong.
Another important note: If at any time during this process you do not feel safe or comfortable, go back to step one, lungeing for respect. And start over.
If you do not feel confident enough to go thru this process then hire a trainer to work with you. Do not hire a trainer to do the work for you, but to oversee what you are doing, because many of the issues with horses are people created problems, altough not necessarly this one, it is vital for the owner and the horse to work together. That way the relationship between the two will develop. The trainer will not be riding the horse, you will be.
Good Luck and be safe