Herd sour horse! Help me! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 09-22-2011, 02:06 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Berea, Ohio
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Herd sour horse! Help me!

I moved my TB to a new facility in July to get him the turnout he needed. He goes out all day on beautiful green acres with 5 of his buddies and he is the happiest I have seen him. Hes also looking more healthy too. It was the best decision ever.

Except that he is really herd sour! He goes out in the morning somewhere between 7 and 8am. He is out all day till I get there around 430. The owners bring horses in between 5 and 6 to feed usually. When I get there I go into the field to get him, he comes right up to me and we walk to the barn to get tacked up no problem. Its very pleasant. But as soon as he realizes his buddies aren't coming too, he loses it. He calls out to them incessantly and dances all over. I get the saddle on him and usually start with some lunging to remind him its time to work. It only takes a couple passes to get his mind in order....

Except for yesterday, he would not calm down. Whinnying to his buddies. He was tearing around on the lunge, and at a nasty buck he caught the line with his feet. Of course it gave way and he went tearing out of the arena and out to the gate at the pasture where he stood. Just looking at me like, "Aren't you going to open the gate for me? My friends are waiting."

What can I do to get this head in the game? Like I said sometimes lunging works, sometimes not. After we are done he is very good. I never put him back out, 1.) because they will all be coming in shortly anyway (if not already), and 2.) because once we start working, its game over. I dont want him to get in the habit of thinking he can be a cooke again. Is this a good approach? Anyone have this problem before?


"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of man." ~ Sir Winston Churchill
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post #2 of 9 Old 09-22-2011, 03:21 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: New Jersey, US
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My horse can be this way too :\ He's good as long as he can see other horses, whether he knows them or not. If they are not in sight, he will go as far as to bust down/climb over his stall door. Fortunately at our barn, he doesn't run into this situation often. I'm not of much help, but interested in the replies you get. Good luck!
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post #3 of 9 Old 09-22-2011, 03:49 PM
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I had a similar problem with my mare. She's been living as a "only horse" for 3 and a half years now, but we still trail ride with my neighbors on occasion. Going our separate ways to go home (fork in the trail, we head one way they head another) Indie throws her fit, raises her tail, neighs, dances, and on just one occasion attempted to rear out of frustration.

One thing I can think to do is force her out on her way... but I realize this can be difficult, and dangerous. However she has gotten better once she calms down.
I am only giving advice, not telling you to try it without someone else (maybe on the ground?) present. But try making your boy continue on despite his protests... and once he is out of sight of the other horses giving him rewards like finding a lush place to graze for a few minutes, or carry treats to make leaving the sight of his friends pleasurable.

I would recommend doing this on the ground first, walking him along the trail you ride and giving rewards and praise only after leaving his buddies behind. Have him look forward to being on that trail and with you more than in pasture with his friends, but be very firm. Cooing and asking him to listen will only tell him you can't lead, and he should rather be with the other horses. If he tries to pull and dance all over you, give his halter a sharp tug and continue on.
He may not be completely happy the first time you take him out like this... but offer him the reward once out of sight of the horses anyways so he realizes the treat and how he can get it.

This method helped Indie get over her frustration; by having something else to look forward too. Once you get in a routine, he'll probably be more willing as well... kinda like "Oh! It's time to leave my buddies and go ride." Routine does wonders on horses.

Hope that helps some, and hopefully some more people will be able to give you their valuable advice :)
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post #4 of 9 Old 09-22-2011, 04:26 PM
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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My horse is a little herd sour too, but not to the extent your guy is. His problem is that he doesn't want to leave them at all. He has his safety 'bubble', which is about 20 feet from any horse and when I try to lead him outside that bubble, he puts the breaks on. Gently rubbing a lunge whip along his dock usually keeps him moving and once he's out of sight of the other horses, he walks on fine.
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post #5 of 9 Old 09-23-2011, 07:56 AM
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The very best thing you can do with this horse is tie him in a safe place as far from his herd-mates as you can until he get over it. Out of sight of them is definitely the best place to tie one.

He needs to learn to relax and get over it on his own. He needs to find out that there is life after separation and it is OK.

If you do a search on tying out for patience, you will find several different methods. The main thing is that you leave the horse alone and let him get over it by himself. They will ALL finally 'give it up' and stand relaxed and quiet with a hind leg cocked.

I use a big tree limb with a heavy nylon rope hanging down from a big limb. That way there is nothing for a horse to paw and bang his legs on. He cannot rub and he cannot 'self-destruct'. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you have a good swivel snap in the rope so that it cannot twist up and tighten on the horse. I use a big 6 inch long bull-snap with a good swivel.

I have had it take anywhere from an hour or two up to three days. If a horse is tied out several hours, you can offer it a drink once during the day, but chances are it will not drink until you put it up at night. This will not cause a problem. Then, take it out and do it again the next morning. Do it until he stands still and quiet all by himself and rests a hind leg.

I have done this for many years and have never had it fail or cause a problem. I have done it with OTTBs and OTQHs, spoiled Arabians and everything in between. A reactive horse, a frantic horse, a mad horse, a horse that is upset for any reason is not going to learn and is not going to give you a good ride. If I take out a young horse and he starts pawing or whinnying, I will end the day's lesson right there and just tie him up because he is not going to learn anything else until he is over it and HE decides to be calm and quiet. That is the lesson he needs to learn the most, so that is the lesson he will get.
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post #6 of 9 Old 09-23-2011, 02:23 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Berea, Ohio
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Thanks Cherie, I will look this up. Should other horses be in sight at all? Or completely on his own?

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of man." ~ Sir Winston Churchill
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post #7 of 9 Old 09-23-2011, 04:21 PM
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Location: Oklahoma
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Any which way will work, but I like it best when they cannot even hear or see the other horses and have to get used to liking it all by themselves. Then, you become their only friend when you untie them and work them or put them away.
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post #8 of 9 Old 09-25-2011, 03:28 PM
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My horse was the exact same way and I got some great advice on Horse Forum. I was given the advice to lunge her outside the fenced area and work on increasing that distance in baby step increments. Once she gets to the point of licking her lips and relaxing then move a little further out. As soon as she starts whinnying or getting agitated start lunging her again and don't let her stop until she relaxes again. I would even take her on walks with a lunge line and crop in my hand and as soon as she perked her head up and started I would start her in circles where every we were (street, road, trail, etc.). Once she calmed down then we would walk normal, but only for short distances. This may take several sessions/days, but it will work. Also if she gets herdy on the walk back don't hesitate to do the circles again. Also try walking her further away, come back a little, then going out further. Make it unpredictable not a routine. Pretty soon she'll be fine and realize it's easier to walk normal and behave then act up and have to go in circles again. Once she gets good with walks then it's time to ride. If she acts up when you are on her turn her in small circles from her back. Be patient and calm and it will work great. Good luck!
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post #9 of 9 Old 09-25-2011, 04:27 PM
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They've got separation anxiety, which is why they freak out when you take them away from the herd. Their sense of security and familiarity has been taken, and where they once didn't have to watch their own backs, they now have to do it themselves. I've worked with a few horses that had this, but it's their confidence and attention you have to boost. They've become dependent on the herd and forget what it's like to be independent. Some horses are just well.. dependent, of course, depending on their backgrounds and social rankings in the herd (Omegas, subordinates and young horses will often bear traits of separation anxiety ) but I'm sure there's something you can do to help give your horse that sense of security and self confidence that will make them feel less uneasy when you're on your way out.

Talking to the horse and remaining confident myself yet composed and relaxed while I worked with them, did it for me. Because as soon as you become nervous yourself, the animal soaks in that energy and gets worse. You have to teach them that you're not just their owner, but their leader and friend that's going to be there as their support and safety.

Another thing I did were attention exercises in which they had to follow me about in a meandering fashion about the arena, doing a sort of obstacle course. I started it first on the lead rope.. and then I took off the lead rope and made them follow me over the obstacle course without me touching them. Anytime they got distracted or looked away, I'd gently move them back and make them do it again. If their attention was away from me and I said their name and they came back, I was always sure to give them big praise, especially once they were done walking the obstacle course with me just following without having to be corrected. It teaches them to focus, to look to you for guidance and to learn to be relaxed even when away from the other horses. Another thing. I'd often change up the obstacle course at times just to make sure they were paying attention and truly following, rather than doing it by memory, and once done.. again, I praised. Simple games such as "follow the leader" can do wonders for the attention span and bond between you and your horse as well as their own confidence. Perhaps you should give it a try. I've had some of my friends do it with their horses after i discovered it, and they said it really did help settle their horses down and get them to focus as well as relax.

another note: Don't run the obstacle course. Walk it. The point of it is to keep the horse relaxed, focused, boost their confidence as well as their sense of security in seeing you as their leader and friend. Once a horse recognizes that they're okay when away from the herd, they're able to relax and their anxiety goes away. And once the animal is relaxed and focused of course... your partner's got their head in the game and it should make things a deal easier to do.

Last edited by Hennessy; 09-25-2011 at 04:34 PM.
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