Herd-bound horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 01-16-2011, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
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Herd-bound horse

I told my friend that I get lots of good advice on here, so she asked me to post about this and see if it helps her. I'm not sure if there is a "proper" name for this, but I just call it herd-bound. The horse is a middle-age gelding that was a rescue from a lot where the horse was kept alone for I don't know how long. Years, probably. I personally don't know if that plays into how he acts or what.
Every time he's alone, he freaks out. He had to stay in his stall to wait for a vet to come give him a check up, and she ended up letting him go into the pasture for fear he'd hurt himself. The stalls are right next to the pasture and the other horses (two mares) could easily come up and stay beside him if they wanted. He could see them, too, but he pranced and tried to rear and circled and rushed the stall door to the point we thought he was going to try jumping it. For his safety we let him out and just caught him again when the vet came. The three horses (him and two mares) are all that are out there, as this isn't a boarding facility but just her own private home.
We tried keeping one mare in the stall beside him and letting out the other, but he still freaked. We put the two mares in stalls far away from him and he didn't seem to care, because they we all "in".
Taking him alone is impossible, even if its within sight of the others. When he's with them, there are no problems and they all get along. But in situations where he has to stay in his stall, like for sickness or injury, its becoming a huge issue.
Is there a way to modify his behavior?

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post #2 of 6 Old 01-17-2011, 11:21 PM
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My gelding has a sort of separation anxiety like that aswell, but that seems a bit weird. All I could suggest is, if you can provide the space, to keep him separated from the other mares but still close to them. You could wean him off of them, but I'm not exactally certain if that would work. I know that with any horse there is really no where you can put them where they would be intirely safe, because horses always manage to find something to injure themselves with.

But that's all I could suggest. I'm thinking that the gelding believes those are no doubt his mares, and does not want to leave them unprotected. He might just need to learn that the mares are fine without him. If the mares are not the same way about him, you could just take one of them out for a walk, and once he calms down you can return.

This would most likely take alot of persistance and effort, but I'm fairly certain this should work.
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post #3 of 6 Old 01-18-2011, 06:25 PM
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My gelding is also a rescue and I know nothing of his background, so I am not sure if it could be a past experience that caused it or not, but he does the same thing!
I had the farrier coming out, so I had put him i the round pen so he could be easily caught, but he best friend, my friends filly, ran off and the second she was out of site he would start to canter around a run at the fence and slam into it. She heard this and the second she cam back into sight he calmed down again! She stayed for a while and then took off again, and he started again. I went into the round pen and tried to calm him down and get near him but he was so frantic that he wouldn't let me near him... Every time I walked up to him he would rear up and paw at me. So I finally just let him out and he took off, but instead of going through the open gate to her pasture he, he tried to jump the fence, which ended up with him becoming tangled in barbed-wire. I was worried that he wouldn't let anyone near him to untangle him, but he stood quietly as I worked around his legs. After I untangled him he took off to go find her and we canceled the farrier until another day.
I also started to notice that he was picking up habits from my friends untrained filly, and he started to think he could push me around and soon wouldn't let me catch him and if I did he would rear and suddenly bolt, so I would have to let go of the lead shank.
I decided to move him closer to where I lived so I could get out to work with him more often, as I thought his habits might get better after being worked with more often. And after a week of being away from the filly and working him everyday, he was back to himself. He is still herd-bound but not nearly as bad... I started out by cutting back how many horses he is at pasture with (I went from 5 horses to 4 then waited a week or so until he was perfectly comfortable with it, and would continue until he was down to only one horse.) I then switched WHICH horse he went out with so that he wasn't completely attached to one horse. I then started to keep him in one stall/paddock farther away from the other horses(same process as pasture) until he was fine with only hearing them instead of having to see them. i then worked him in the arena where he couldn't even hear them until he was at least focused on me and not the other horses.... i am not sure what to say for you to do but you could try this if possible!! Good luck
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post #4 of 6 Old 01-18-2011, 11:22 PM
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I am really luckky in that I have never dealt with this level of herd bound horse. Our horses stay in a large pasture with about 12 to 15 horses, who form miniherds. I think one reason they dont have herd bound issues is that the herd is LARGE. It's not such a matter of them being really attached to one or two horses. In a couple of the paddocks that only have two horses, when one leaves the other calls for it incessantly.

I know a large herd group isn't feasible in many cases. It really works well, though. It's amazing how few injuries result from the whole bunch of them together. You'd think it would be worse.
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post #5 of 6 Old 01-19-2011, 12:42 AM Thread Starter
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I agree with you, Tiny. From working with horses in the past on over 100 acres of land and over 100 hundred horses, they broke off into their own herds, some having 3 some as large as 10-15.
I wish that could be the case with this horse. But the pasture isn't split and is an open 3 acre pasture for him and the ttwo mares. He absoultly thinks the mares are his, and wants to be with them. One is attached to him, but not to this level.
Man, your idea sounds very good and would probably work, but it's not possible for this location. That's part of why this is such a huge issue. There is an arena across the street my friend uses for riding, but her place only has the stalls and the pasture.
She's started to take him out of the pasture and walking him around her house, and she says he'll mind just fine when she does that. But leave him in his stall he acts like the world is falling apart. And he can't be taken to the arena alone. I have no idea how to help her, and the horse must be kept with his mares or we fear he'll injure himself. :/

~He knows when you're happy
~He knows when you're comfortable
~And he always knows when you have carrots.
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post #6 of 6 Old 01-19-2011, 11:43 AM
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A lot of the issues with herd bound horses is that they don't feel safe without their herd. It is our job to work with them and get them to the point where they feel like they don't have to worry about anything when we are with them. We need to let them know that we are always going to be paying attention to them, to the environment around them and make sure they are safe. The best way to achieve this is through round pen work (if available) or lunging properly. I know a lot of people only use lunging for exercise but there are a lot of other things that lunging (if done properly) accomplish. Take a look at these videos, the guy really explains how the horses think and how to think like them. Round Pen Body Language | Horse Videos Horse.com Video Library
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