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LittlemanRob 09-14-2010 11:52 AM

First he is herd bound now he is eating his stall.
Hello everyone. I'm glad I discovered this place. I didn't know such a thing existed and there is a ton of info here.

I'm new to the country and horses. Been a city boy all my life until May of this year. I sold my business and decided to take a year off work period and relax a bit. I've not had a vacation in 15 years so this is it.

I have a smallish place, only 4 acres but its nice and divided into two pastures, one about 1/2 acre and the other about 2 acres. The rest is trees, yard etc.

I started with 2 goats donated by a family member who sold their farm and moved to the city.

Not wanting to rush into things with a big horse we decided to buy an adorable mini foal from a neighbor to learn the ropes. The mini has been great. He was about 4 months old when we got him and he is a very well behaved, well mannered fellow now.

I started shopping around for a riding horse. I wanted one that was older, well mannered, with no vices. After shopping for months I settled on a 20 year old Quarter/App cross. He was great there. Rode him a few times, lunged him, got to know him and really liked him.

I got him home and the nightmare began. As soon as he arrived at the house, he became seriously attached to my mini. To the point that if he is not in close proximity he is almost impossible to deal with. Can't lead him, lunge him, groom him... nothing. If the mini is close he is easy to deal with. His attachment is so severe that in the barn my horse will scream and work himself into a huge dripping sweat if the minis stall door is closed and out of sight. He is less than 6 feet away. He run back and forth and beat at the walls. Trying to work him is asking to get hurt. He just doesn't pay any attention. If the mini is in the same field in view he is pretty good. Riding him is an exercise in futility.

Although the mini is his buddy sometimes he treats him poorly by running him off the water bucket or biting him randomly.

I decided to try an separate them a bit by placing the mini in the small pasture and him in the larger one beside it. They are separated only by a small fence. He has been running up and down the fence and whinnying like mad. It has only been 2 days.

To make matters worse he has been chewing wood in the stall and has actually managed to destroy a good chunk in 2 nights. I bought some no chew spray after the first night and it did nothing. I used half the bottle in his stall and in the morning I discovered more damage. I also bought a jolly ball when I bought the spray to distract him but it didn't work last night.

I'm guessing his chewing is a result of his anxiety of being separated by a fence in the day. I need to do something quick because he will destroy my barn in short order. Am I doing the wrong thing by separating them?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Speed Racer 09-14-2010 12:12 PM

Your big horse has become severely herdbound, which is why he's being such a lunatic.

How many other horses was he with prior to your bringing him home? He may be stressed because he only has one companion now.

I try to keep 3 horses at all times, because if I take one away, I don't want any of them coming unglued. They're allowed to call to their buddies, but not allowed to act up.

In fact, I've been known to take 2 of them off the property and the one left behind is expected to deal with being left alone.

Being new to horses is also problematic for you, because you don't know how to properly deal with the issues.

Your horse needs to focus on you, not his little buddy. You may need to get professional help to train your horse out of his codependency role.

Horses are herd animals, so by their very natures have no desire to leave their herd. It's up to us to train them properly so they'll behave when taken away.

LittlemanRob 09-14-2010 12:17 PM

Previously he was stabled with 5 or 6 other minis but the former owner told me he had one special buddy. She may have been less than forthcoming about the extent of his buddy dependency, although when I was riding and working him at her place there wasn't a horse in sight at all. The minis were in the barn out of view. If my little guy gets out view of the big guy behind a bush for a second he loses it.

Speed Racer 09-14-2010 12:27 PM

Well, part of it's a double whammy.

He was brought to a strange place and expected to bond with a horse he didn't know.

The problem is that he bonded too well, and is a shaking, sweaty mess without his companion.

How long have you had the horse and how long did he live with his previous owner? At 20 y/o, that was like asking a 60 y/o man to give up his family and move away someplace where he'll never see them again. I don't wonder that he's become unmanageable.

The seller should have been a little more aware of the problems that could occur when selling off an oldster to someone he doesn't know, to go somewhere different, with just one strange horse as his companion.

This horse's whole world has been uprooted, which is why he's become stressed and unstable.

herdbound 09-14-2010 12:40 PM

If your horse is biting the mini and running it out of water and food, the big horse is the leader of the little two horse herd. That Arabian I had acted the same way and she was the alpha mare.

LittlemanRob 09-14-2010 12:49 PM

I have had this horse a little over a month. The previous owner said she had him for about 4 years. She did ride him regularly but last year she broke a hip and can't ride, which is why she sold him. She was really picky about selling him and insisted we spend time together to see if we were a good fit.

She was messaging me every other day on FB to see how he was. Now that he is having an issue she won't respond to messages. Go figure eh?

herdbound 09-14-2010 01:02 PM

Go out there and spend a lot of time with the horse. He is just being nervous...eating his stall is his way of releasing some nervous energy. This is a common problem. I show and some people have to bring along thier horses buddies to even get thier horses to perform correctly. Sometimes its even a goat :) You have to prove to this horse, that it is going to be fine and safe away from it's buddy. He is worried that something bad is going to happen to his buddy as well if they get seperated. This is a matter of patience and diligence...but you can work through it. Start taking walks with the two animals together and then seperating them for short periods of time, then start increasing the periods of time. Be careful to not reward his behaviour though by letting him out of the stall when he is being bad...make sure he is calmed down when you let him out, otherwise he will think his fit throwing earned him freedom. He will calm down. Try spending time doing something like grooming away from the mini...something that soothes and relaxes him...gets his mind off the mini and onto you. You need to work on that bond...strengthen it.

LittlemanRob 09-14-2010 01:19 PM

Thanks Herdbound. Sounds like a good place to start. In the meantime, since this is going to take time I really need to solve his chewing problem. The amount of destruction in such a short time is astonishing.

What can I do in the short term to stop him from damaging the barn or giving himself colic from eating wood?

Should I muzzle him? Should I tie him to the wall with no edges?

Should he and the mini be separated in the pasture as I have been doing the last two days? If I bring them back together will it cause me more trouble and make it harder to help cure him?

The funny thing is the mini just doesn't care. He rarely calls back and just goes about his day. But if he out of sight behind a goldenrod or something Robbie just goes bananas.

Rowzy 09-14-2010 01:28 PM

The no chew stuff that you paint on to wood works better then the spray on stuff, atleast in my opinion. If the chewing is as big of a problem as it sounds I would buy a can of that and see if it works.

herdbound 09-14-2010 01:42 PM

I amswered a couple of your questions below...yours are in bold...mine are normal. I am an idiot and can't quite get the hang of the quotes :) Here is a pretty good short article on some stuff to aid with the woodchewing problem, it is a vice, and you do need to address it :

How to Stop a Horse From Chewing Wood |

Should he and the mini be separated in the pasture as I have been doing the last two days?

I know it is hard to see a horse that is "stressed out". We feel like we have to eliminate the stress...but sometimes it has to work through it. I would seperate the two in a way that he can see the mini at times but not be able to dominate the mini. Maybe put them in different pastures, where he can see the mini, but can't get to it. And sometimes the mini can meander out of his view. Yes he is gonna run around like a nut and throw a fit, and make a lot of noise. But he will calm down, it may take awhile, but he will. Just make sure he can't injure himself on the fence. If you have wooden fences you should be ok. Barbed wire could be a problem if the horse tries to run through it or go over it to get to his friend.

If I bring them back together will it cause me more trouble and make it harder to help cure him?

He is doing something very natural, he wants to be a part of a herd. He is able to be the leader in this herd, so he wants it even more. I would keep them seperated until he calms down and accepts you as his leader. It is best for the horses to be kept in a herd, but when they are having an abnormal level of anxiety about seperation you do have to address it. You need to get him back to "normal" in a way. You want that bond to be with you, not the mini.

The funny thing is the mini just doesn't care. He rarely calls back and just goes about his day. But if he out of sight behind a goldenrod or something Robbie just goes bananas.

Of course the mini doesn't care...when he is over there away from the big horse he is his own king. Noone is bossing him around. He probably prefers solitary confinement to be locked in with an overbearing control freak...wouldn't you?

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