Herd bound horse solutions? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 58 Old 12-27-2016, 04:35 PM Thread Starter
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Herd bound horse solutions?

My gelding, Sully, is very much herd-bound. Hes low confidence, lower on the pecking order in the large herd he lives in, and we think a combination of rough handling and poor training in his younger years have given him some big issues as far as confidence. Multiple experienced folks that have seen him note that hes very adolescent in behavior, and behaves much more like a green horse half his age than a 10 year old. I dont know anything about his history further back than March of last year, when he was pulled from the kill lot at Sugarcreek in Ohio by a group that specializes in Haflingers. Were also pretty confident that someone got scared of him and returned him to the rescue because frankly, his ground manners stink and he throws big hissy fits when he doesnt get his way. Im very confident in handling him on the ground and I dont let him get away with anything, but so far I have not been able to work with him as much as Id like due to a lack of light. Ideally, Id be working him 3-4 days a week or more.

I plan to send him to a trainer for 30 days in the spring, but I have not dealt with this particular problem in one of my own horses. Im looking for ideas that could make some progress before then, and Id love to hear any solutions that worked for others. I keep reading Well, prevention is the key, but well, that was likely an issue long before I came along.

Anyone who feels like picking apart the session descriptions over at my journal, feel free!
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post #2 of 58 Old 12-27-2016, 05:02 PM
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I wonder if he was an orphan foal --- he got spoiled then sold and just kept getting passed around because of his behavioral issues?

Sugar Creek --- I went there back in tHe early 70's. I can't believe they are still around:(. They weren't too bad. When I first started going there.
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post #3 of 58 Old 12-27-2016, 09:59 PM
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Well, since it is already an issue, then the only solution to to teach him to accept separation.
Does he tie well?
If not, start there, and then take the time to tie him up, alone, every day, until he learns to accept that, and stands quietly waiting to be released.
Until he learns to accept standing tied, alone,you will have a major issue that will also influence how well he improves his ground manners. When he is focusing on the herd, that is where is mind is also.
With realizing that he can be alone, will be returned to buddies, his confidence will improve. He will then be ready for more ground manner training
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post #4 of 58 Old 01-06-2017, 04:17 AM
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Hi, I don't personally agree with taking him & tying him alone, as an early training step. To just force a horse into a situation that frightens him & make him put up with it, he will only become more afraid, but (when it works) this tactic will cause him to give up, quit reacting *outwardly* about it. It is an eg. of the behavioural tactic called 'flooding'.

I would instead, start out playing with the horse close to his mates. I often start the relationship with a new horse in the paddock, before I even separate them at all. Teach him the basics, what you expect, that you're fair & consistent. Make a point of ensuring experiences with you are mostly Good Stuff - he learns to want to play with you. Once you're onto a good wicket with him at home, then start taking him out, for short stints, not far, even not out of sight of his mates to start with. Take him away to give him a carrot & come straight back... or some such. With repetition, he will be keen to go out with you & be trusting you more, then you can gradually do more/go further.
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post #5 of 58 Old 01-06-2017, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by walkinthewalk View Post
I wonder if he was an orphan foal --- he got spoiled then sold and just kept getting passed around because of his behavioral issues?

Sugar Creek --- I went there back in tHe early 70's. I can't believe they are still around:(. They weren't too bad. When I first started going there.
I also remember Sugarcreek when it was a legitimate horse auction and yes you could get a decent horse there. There are still some to be had but it has turned into almost a complete slaughter auction. Mt. Hope auction also which is close by. Very sad.

I've run across several Haflingers from this area. Most of them are bullheaded and have barely been handled or trained. It takes some pretty tough training to straighten them out. They aren't huge but they sure are stout/strong! MF, you may have to start from the beginning and raise this immature horse as if it were a "baby" and become his boss mare with all the harsh lessons that entails! Not very pleasant with a horse that size and you may want to just let him be until the weather warms up.

The Amish are breeding them like crazy down (and fields full of mutt "paints") there for the unwary "English". Breeding for color only. Several of my clients found horses they wanted to look at down there and I'd go with them to try them out. None of them were as described, barely handled or trained and the prices were outrageous. If they can't sell them, they just dump them at Sugarcreek or Mt. Hope for meat prices.
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post #6 of 58 Old 01-07-2017, 04:18 AM
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I agree with Smilie, the only way to get over a fear is to confront it.
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post #7 of 58 Old 01-07-2017, 01:09 PM
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I take them over to the other end of the property. Tie them to a tree, and read a book. I don't make them do anything. Sooner or later they realize that it is ok to be with me. That I can be a trusted leader. Sometimes it takes a whole boring Steven King and others a short Ernest Hemmingway (Old man and the sea). Easy to do sand a great way to spend a day!
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post #8 of 58 Old 01-07-2017, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Foxhunter View Post
I agree with Smilie, the only way to get over a fear is to confront it.
Each to his own, if you want to do that, but it's certainly not the only way. Pushing someone in the deep end isn't the only way to get them over their fear of deep water(I think that's what gave me mine). Confronting them with a spider in front of their face isn't the only way to get them over arachnophobia(think that's what gave me mine - my father was big on confronting your fears!) Locking someone in a cupboard isn't the only way to get them over claustrophobia(never suffered from that one).
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post #9 of 58 Old 01-07-2017, 08:23 PM
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Well, this is something I have some experience with, but just with one horse.

Hondo was very herd bound with the herd of 23 that he had been living with for 7 years.

After scouring the internet, I adopted this solution to try and it did work wonders for Hondo. He now leads on a loose lead or with no halter or lead at all.

I am situated where I had daily full access to him and time on my hands.

I would place a dish of alfalfa pellets somewhere along a trail I intended to lead him down. Different trails on different days. When we "found" the dish of pellets, he was allowed to eat about half of them before "taken" back to the herd he didn't want to leave.

Wasn't too long before he was asking, "We can go back to the herd in a minute, let's stay here a bit longer".

Didn't happen over night. I was using the principle that I had read somewhere, 1% per day for 100 days and you're done. For life.

I think about that sometimes when we're walking shoulder to shoulder with rope and halter carried in my hand but not being used.

But as I've learned over and over, all horses are different.

That said, I am adamantly against flooding when any kind of bonding is a goal.
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Quote from a book: A relationship cannot be developed when it is based on a behavioral outcome that has to be controlled.
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post #10 of 58 Old 01-07-2017, 11:59 PM
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One can never say never, all horses are different and one solution to this problem is not likely to work with all horses. Having said that, the suggestion of tying the horse away from the others until he accepts it, is last on my list. I would try the other suggestions first. All my horses run together and when I first got them, it wasn't all smooth going to go out solo. One of the things I did was to switch position and distance between the horses when I was riding with another rider. Sometimes, we led. Sometimes, we fell further back. Sometimes, I had the other rider stop while we went on a little further. Another thing we would do is to continue riding a little further or turn around for a bit by ourselves, when we returned home. Little by little, the horses learned to feel comfortable going out solo. And don't forget to praise them and pet them on the neck! Good luck.
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