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Courtney 09-12-2011 11:27 PM

A different take on herd bound horses:
My young gelding, Levee, was recently turned out with a decent sized herd of horses - eight, to be exact. They are an even split of mares and geldings. For the first month, Levee was in a bull pen within seeing and hearing distance of the herd. They called back and forth. When we moved Levee into the field, he got beat up pretty badly. Long story short, he went trotting out to the back 40 to meet the herd and came running back within 30 seconds, with the entire herd on his heels. They chased him into a corner, where the lead mare proceeded to take a chunk out of his hock, and then through a shallow pond where a gelding decided to lay his heels into my gelding's rump. A couple more bites later, two Haflingers chased my little guy out into the back 40 and stood guard, preventing him from coming back for water.

Things calmed down within an hour (I stayed and watched to be sure) and didn't get too crazy over the course of the night. The barn owner made sure to check my gelding out and aside from some minor bites, he survived the night.

That was about a month ago. For the first 3 weeks, he was overly eager to leave the pasture and would follow me willingly. Within the last week, Levee has found his niche in the herd and isn't as eager to leave. The first day, I didn't have a lot of time with him and when I realized he was going to raise a fuss about leaving the pen, I opted not to lead him out and simply lead him about 20 feet away from the herd and call it a night. You know, end on a good note.

The second night, I had more time to kill and I spent nearly an hour trying to lead him away from the herd. He wasn't dangerous, he never threatened me or made a fuss... he just planted his feet and refused to move. Rather than getting into a pulling match with this horse, I gave him a couple pops on the hindquarters and jogged him in circles. Then I grabbed his buddy, threw a halter on him and led them BOTH out of the pasture.

I went back again today and Levee got wise to my tricks. As soon as I grabbed his buddy, Levee trotted just out of reach. So, I led his buddy just far enough that Levee became curious and began to follow. I was able to catch him this way and lead him out (with his buddy).

I know I'm doing something wrong here and I know there has to be a better way to go about this. I don't think he's arena sour because honestly, all we do once he's out of the field is groom, clean his cuts and go on walks to build some muscle. He goes to the round pen MAYBE once a week and even then, he isn't worked hard. A few circuits around, some "good boys" and then we walk around and he grazes.

What am I doing wrong? Once he's out of the field, he leads great. He'll follow the handler up and over anything, through anything, without a second thought. It's getting him out of the pasture that's beginning to pose a problem and I want to nip it in the bud before it gets worse.

Any suggestions?

Peppy Barrel Racing 09-12-2011 11:59 PM

Your letting the horse be the boss. YOU are the boss not the horse. Almost everything you did gave the horse power over you. Don't worry about hurting his feelings you need to reassert yourself as alpha especially since he is in a herd of horses. You do not need to do all that stuff that's just silly to get one horse out. He stops moving (discipline immediately) you either pop him with the rope or snap the lead to put nose pressure down and make him focus on you. Try a rope halter its gives more nose and behind the ear pressure. (Discipline but don't beat the crap out of him of course). Remember YOU are the boss not the horsey.

Dreamcatcher Arabians 09-13-2011 01:15 AM

Take a crop or dressage whip with you. If he plants his feet, I would first try to get him moving any direction sideways, backwards whatever, by asking. If he refused the ask I'd tell him with a pop of the whip on his hindquarter. Not a beating just a simple pop. If that didn't get him going he'd get a full on swat with the whip, and once moving he'd get praised and told what a good boy he was. You need to gain his respect again, he's 'gone over' to the herd and has his place there and knows who his herd boss is. What he needs to understand is that YOU are the boss over all bosses and he has to do what you say no matter what.

ropercastle 09-13-2011 02:47 AM

Theres a couple factors that could play into this:
1. I'm guessing he spends alot of time with this herd so he sees them as safety, and hes comfortable with it. I would suggest you spend time out THERE in the pasture with him while he is still with the rest of them.the more he sees you and spends some quality tlc time with you the more he will become comfortable with you and want to spend time with you, and will also come to see YOU as his herd.
2. dont just take him away to work with him, or treat his cuts. spend lots of time giving him treats, talking to him. what i find is that my horses LOVE getting massages, or T-touch. any time you spend with him away from the herd that is possitive and makes him relax and enjoy it will make him more eager to leave them.

jody111 09-13-2011 05:43 AM

when he stops - pull him off balance pull him slightley to the side... I would drive him forward as well - def carry a crop - you dont need to beat him but he does need to respect you and start moving...

agreed get him moving forward back to the side.. you control what hes doing...

mbender 09-13-2011 06:08 AM

This may be a wrong thinking but as hard as it was for him to establish himself in the herd he probably feels like that will happen again if he leaves them. I really doubt a horse thinks like that but its possible. And yes, that is now his safe zone.

As the other posters said, take him and don't work him but maybe feed a handful of grain once he's out. Making leaving the herd a wonderful thing.
The other thing is, spend time with him in his herd. Standing near him, talking to him, brushing him, checking him over and then leaving him. He will walk away from you at first. In his mind, you coming in the pasture means he has to leave. So show him that you won't always be taking him away. Carry treats with you and treat him when he comes to you. But also carry a crop for your safety as the other horses will get curious and possibly pushy wanting treats too. Take your time and he will hopefully get better.

The only other thing if this becomes a big problem is work him near his herd and lead him away and treat him and let him relax. Repeat this as often as necessary. Good luck and stay safe.
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Marecare 09-13-2011 09:30 AM


You did the "throw into the deep end of the pool"method with the herd thing.

I am sorry your fella got the hard end of it.

We usually try to do the introduction a bit slower for the horses that have not been in that kind of setting.

Put them into a mid sized space with a couple of others and let them build a working relationship and weeks later bring the group into the larger herd.

You horse is in a phase where you are not needed or wanted.

Your standing is unknown to him in the herd and he does not need to respond to you.

I would just go grab his best buddy and lead him out and your horse will follow.
This will start a routine and you can start adding to it.

Each time approach the buddy horse and just ignore your horse completely.
Walk away and he will follow.

A week of that and he will be standing there asking to go to.

Out think um!

Cherie 09-13-2011 09:55 AM

Everything you describe is very typical (and expected) herd behavior. Horse DO get run through fences and do get kicked and injured by horses trying to 'teach' him his place in the pecking order. A better way to introduce a horse into a new herd is to let them get acquainted over a safe fence (never a wire fence of any kind). A week accross a fence will get them acquainted and they make herd friends before they get thrown into the Lyon's Den -- so to speak.

You do not have a herd bound problem -- but you soon will have one if you do not take charge of your herd of two.

What you do have is a 'leading problem'. Just like the horse that will not lead into the barn or into a trailer, yours will not leave his new-found herd -- which is the natural way for a horse to live. Leading is 'optional' to this horse and he should ALWAYS be ABSOLUTELY and PERFECTLY obedient to you and your halter and lead-rope. He should never even hesitate when you want to lead him him to or from anyplace in this world.

Work on his leading skills and your problem will disappear. If you don't, he will find more and more places he does not 'want' to go. He should not get to voice his opinion at all -- ever. It is a matter of respect and not a thing that will disappear with treats, hand feeding or any other caving to his wants.

Courtney 09-13-2011 10:19 AM

Thanks, everyone!

1. When he hesitates or puts the brakes on, I always try to send him off balance by a turn or leading him sideways. When he's really being a brat, I walk directly toward his flank, which causes him to side step away from me.

2. I don't believe in bribing a horse with treats, because I feel it can cause more harm than good. I went out there yesterday with a bucket that contained his lead rope, rope halter and some cleaning supplies. As soon as the herd saw me, half of them came barreling toward me to see what was in the bucket. Not cool. The two Haflingers were actually very, very pushy about it, insisting on shoving their faces into the bucket and checking my pockets. It was very annoying and it earned them each a smack. I can see the value of treats on occasion, but it's not something I want my horse to associate people with.

3. I know this has the potential to become a larger problem, which is why I want to nip it in the bud. What I can't understand is why it has suddenly appeared and why is only appears when he's with the herd. As soon as I get a little bit of distance between the herd and my horse, he's wonderful. Outside the field, he's awesome. There's just a 20-foot radius of space that he would much rather remain inside and it's a fight to get him to cross his invisible borders.

I'm going to start bringing in a lunge whip with me and use that as a way to prompt him to move forward. I definitely don't want this to become a bigger problem than it already is, especially because he's going to be a big animal. Right now, he's still small enough that I can push him around a bit, but when he's full grown and acting like a brat... it'll be harder to work with him.

Just throwing this out here, but would it be beneficial to inquire about moving my horse to a smaller field with fewer horses? He has settled into his large herd now, but would it help the issue to move him into a field with two horses instead? A field just came available after a few boarders moved out, and there are a few brand new horses that are just coming out of quarantine that are ready to be moved out of the bull pens. Would this be a waste of time now that he's found his place in an established herd, would it really confuse him, or would it be helpful?

PerchiesKisses 09-13-2011 12:12 PM

It sounds like he's young... which to me would make it perfectly understandable for him to be testing you. From my experience, youngsters go through fazes of learning, being perfectly good, testing the rules and then (depending on the reaction they get from these tests) they either become really good again or go downhill until retaught.

What I would do in your situation is make him work when he decides he doesn't want to follow. I would bring out a lounge line and lounge him - and get him sweating... or at the very least lounge until you see him start dropping his head and licking his lips.

Then try asking him to follow you again. If he resists, continue lounging him. He needs to figure out that it is easier to walk with you than to stand there because standing = a lot of work.

If he's a smart horse he will only need to be lounged a few times to figure out that he must follow.

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