Personally, I feel like most herdbound horse issues stem from the horse feeling like the human that's leading them/riding them/working them/whatever isn't a strong enough herd leader/protector and therefore, the herd is a much safer place to be.
I used to think that theory was all hooey until I started working at my summer camp where I have my pick of 12 very herdbound horses. I could take almost any of them out by themselves (there are one or two that it would be dangerous to try taking out alone, just because of how unpredictable and green those particular horses are) and have a nice ride. But, I guarantee you that if one of my (highly inexperienced) assistant wranglers tried the same thing, they would not get farther than the edge of the woods.
I figured out that the trick is to act like you know what you're doing, all the time. You have to be thinking 4 steps ahead of your horse at all times and it's really helpful to have a respectful on the ground relationship too. You have to be prepared for anything the horse might do and turn it around into the behavior you want.
Like, if your horse starts spinning because he/she doesn't want to keep going, you keep that horse spinning until they are asking to stop and you let them stop spinning with their head in the direction you want to go. Basically, every evasion technique they think up turns into your idea. And you CANNOT give up without winning something.
If your horse spins (using that example again) around a few times and you decide "hey, this is a little scary, lets go back to the barn" and let that horse spin around to the barn and head back there, you are going to have a much harder time the next time you try to take that horse somewhere by his/herself. Now, if your horse spins and you decide "hey, this is a little scary, lets go back to the barn", but ask your horse to keep spinning until he/she is asking to stop and you let him/her stop in the direction you want to go, get the littlest step in the direction you wanted to go, THEN go back to the barn, you've rewarded your horse for doing what you asked and you'll have a much easier time of it the next time. After that first victory (which will most likely be the hardest won) it'll usually get easier and easier, if you keep your goals small and are prepared to make them even smaller if it becomes obvious that your goal for the day, however small, was actually too big.
Another important bit is that you have to think positively! If you start out thinking "well, I'm scared, and I want to get into the forest today but I don't think Fluffy will be ok with that so if she acts a little crazy, we're going back!", you will fail. But, if you go out there with an attitude of "I may be scared but I am the best gosh darn leader Fluffy has ever had and we are gonna take one step into that forest and we're gonna have fun!", I am willing to bet that things will go much more smoothly.
I am by no means pro but I have fixed my fair share of very herdbound horses with this method so I feel pretty confident with it. My mare used to be terribly herdbound and while she's not perfect, I can, and do, take her out on trail rides multiple times a week by herself with very few issues. Sometimes she'll test me a little bit but she knows that she will never get away with trying to take me home (her thing is turning around to go home when she thinks I'm not paying attention, she used to back up like crazy, and rear when I'd try to redirect her, but then I got a crop and she soon learned that backing up randomly is not so much fun) so she might try to turn around once, get pulled back into line, and never try again for the rest of the ride.
Hopefully that all made sense. :) And good luck! Herdbound horses are no fun, I totally totally understand. Just think positively, have a distinct easily attainable goal, be prepared to make adjustments to your goal depending on your horse's response and your response (if you're terrified, don't push it to a place where you can't handle it anymore), and be confident!
Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding
Rest peacefully, Lacey.
Last edited by Wallaby; 04-25-2011 at 01:38 AM.