How long for a 16 yr old horse to adjust to a new barn and owner? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 04-07-2020, 02:44 AM Thread Starter
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How long for a 16 yr old horse to adjust to a new barn and owner?

Hello everyone,

I just got my new horse 5 days ago. 16 yo Rocky Mountain Horse. Former endurance horse that hasn't done much in the last year. He moved from a quiet, beautiful pasture with two mule friends on the property of his owner, to a mare motel stall in boarding facility that has probably 100 horses. The vet, farrier, and horse hauler all raved about how quiet and easy going he was. When I rode him it was literally during a storm, he had not been ridden in a year, and he was amazing for everything.

Currently my 16 year old, "been there, done that" rock solid trail horse, is very spooky, at what seems to me to be nothing, when being lead around and just seems insecure and unhappy. He stares out the back of his stall (he has a million dollar California hillside view of the pasture.)

I am currently feeling that I have ruined his life and have the opposite of what I wanted, and is a spooky horse that isn't going to be my go anywhere pal. :( (ok, I might be feeling sorry for myself)

Here is a summary of what I have done and what has happened since we moved in:

Day 1: He came off the trailer uneventfully. The hauler said what a good guy he was for everything. I led him over to a round pen to let him stretch and roll after his 2.5 hour ride. He rolled, looked around and that was about it. I got in the pen asked him to move out and he did. Then I asked for him to speed up (he is gaited, but he trotted) and I had him change directions which is did for me. Then I asked for a canter and he did. Another direction change and then I let him walk and stop and he faced me and when I turned and walked away from me he followed me. Yay, I thought. This is what the books said should happen if I did it right. I am feeling pretty good.

I lead him back to his barn and he is looking around and nervous, not overly so, and he leads easily and respects my space.

I put him in his stall and he immediately befriends the horses on either side. They are both squealing and kicking and he is just quiet. Within minutes the gelding next to him is grooming his neck! he drinks water, eats hay, seems ok. I am feeling pretty confident and happy at this point. I spend an hour and a half touching and grooming him (huge knotted tail that took some time to detangle) and having him get use to me. I try his new blanket on him. Perfectly happy to have that done. I leave him munching away on his lunch.

Day 2: I come take him out to the round pen (different one. This is back by his barn) and turn him out. He rolls and stands there. I go in to get him moving again, but I brought a lunge whip (just the stick part, the rope was coiled around) and he starts galloping and galloping and looking really nervous. I drop the lunge whip and he continues racing around. I signal him to slow down and he does, only to speed up again.

I finally get him to move more slowly and change directions a few times. He does. Then stops to face me. Follows me when I turn and walk away from him, but now I need to cool him down so I start walking him out and several ground squirrels explode from in front of the stalls in the back lane area, scaring him (and frankly me) half to death. He does those small spooks where his head goes up and he scrambles his feet. Not a totally huge spook, but enough to get your heart going. We recover from that I take him to the tie post to groom him.

He is doing pretty good and then the mare next to him spooks hard and he and the horse on the other side pull back snapping their safety strings and they trot off toward the pasture. He was easy to catch, but still a bummer. We went back the tie post and finish the groom. He is a little jumpier now. I lead him back to the barn and he is still a bit jumpy.

Day 3: Back in the round pen, no lunge whip. He is moving out sanely and changing directions, paying attention to me, all is going very well. Then the pastures on either side behind us explode with galloping horses. The reason for the this commotion is a loose horse that has dumped its rider and is flying back to the barn and races past the round pen. My horse starts galloping and bellowing frantically. I thought i was going to get sick watching him from the center of the pen. I try to slow him, but it takes several direction changes to finally get there. I take him out of the round pen lead him around the area, he is still very jumpy maybe even more so. *sigh* I start asking him to lower his head and back and yield his hind end to change focus. He does it. He is very responsive, but still jumpy. Back in his stall he faces out the back and when I am cleaning out some poop he stomps his back foot at me. He is over me for the day. I have been dismissed by my new horse. :(

Day 4 and 5: It had rained hard rain, so no round pen. We just walk around practicing the refocusing and relaxing techniques, he does them, but he is really jumpy. The mare next to him is screaming her every loving head off for him and the other gelding on the other side of her to come back. I groom in the stall because the rain is back and, even with the unsettled mare, he is great there. Much happier. He was even coming back to me (after staring longingly at the pasture) and "snarfing" me with his muzzle, but the spookiness on the lead is frustrating.

Am I expecting him to settle too quickly (I hope so)? Am I doing something wrong ( I hope not)? Pushing too fast? Going too slow? I am grateful for any and all advice.
Katydid2019 is offline  
post #2 of 7 Old 04-07-2020, 03:21 AM
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I think itís still early days. Keep doing what youíre doing. Is he getting enough turn out? It could well be that he has excess energy due to reduced turnout.

Also, some horses never get used to some living situations but it is too early to tell. A few forum members have been through such experiences and maybe they could chime in. But I donít think his behavior so far has been outside the norm.
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post #3 of 7 Old 04-07-2020, 04:11 AM
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Answer; about that. I've had horses 'adjust' & settle in within a few days, and horses that take many weeks to really get confident in a new place. I think a lot is to do with how the horse is kept - eg. living out as part of a herd generally(unless it's been socially deprived) is easier, esp if it's a stable group, than keeping a horse locked up in a stable, in solitary confinement or such.
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post #4 of 7 Old 04-07-2020, 11:48 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you, Horsef and loosie. I really appreciate your comments.

It has been a long time since I have gotten a new horse. I just don't want to screw him up or make him (or me) unhappy.

The pastures are not ideal. The largest that I could have gotten him into is beautiful (that is the one he can see), but steep and, in my inexperienced opinion, a little over crowded. I have heard horses have gotten beaten up out there and strained tendons when it is muddy. There is a smaller one with older, calmer horses, but that one is definitely full.

I do like the openess of the mare motel and he has a view and can interact with the horses on either side that he likes already and they already like him. Day 2 he looked like he had a 80's home perm from all the grooming from his new gelding buddy. I will have to figure out how to post pictures.
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post #5 of 7 Old 04-07-2020, 12:02 PM
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He needs more time. I wouldn't be working him this soon, personally. I tend to just spend that first month getting to know them and building their trust in me.

Your horse has no idea where he is, what he's gotten himself into, who you are, who the other horses are, who he can trust, who is the boss, who takes orders.

You've had him 5 days... and he's gone from the quiet pastoral life to a busy, crowded boarding situation with complete strangers. His quiet been there done that nature may have been him internalizing stress and you're getting a glimpse of it when you work him.

Just give him time, and earn his trust and respect first. That may be two weeks, it may be two months.


ETA: Was he kept in a stall at his former home? How often is he stalled now that you have him?
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post #6 of 7 Old 04-07-2020, 04:15 PM Thread Starter
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AtokaGhosthorse, thank you very much for your response!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AtokaGhosthorse View Post
He needs more time. I wouldn't be working him this soon, personally. I tend to just spend that first month getting to know them and building their trust in me.

Your horse has no idea where he is, what he's gotten himself into, who you are, who the other horses are, who he can trust, who is the boss, who takes orders.

You've had him 5 days... and he's gone from the quiet pastoral life to a busy, crowded boarding situation with complete strangers. His quiet been there done that nature may have been him internalizing stress and you're getting a glimpse of it when you work him.
Well the quiet, been there done that personality was at his old home, he hasn't really shown that here yet, LOL, but today was better.

I wasn't trying to work him. Just 10-15 minutes in the round pen to "move his feet" and earn trust and respect. I had read a few books about bonding and gaining trust and talked to a couple of the horse people I respected at the barn and this was the recommendation. I am definitely open to other opinions, but that is what I was trying to do, not really work him yet.

The bulk of time is grooming and walking around the place, grazing, giving snacks (I know there are lots of opinions on this, but I am doing it. If he turns into a mouthy jerk everyone can tell me they told me so) getting him used to my voice and me in general.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AtokaGhosthorse View Post
Just give him time, and earn his trust and respect first. That may be two weeks, it may be two months.
Ok, that sounds reasonable. I wasn't sure what to expect and how to know when I have a problem and when is just normal adjusting.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AtokaGhosthorse View Post
ETA: Was he kept in a stall at his former home? How often is he stalled now that you have him?
No, he was on pasture almost exclusively. They had uncovered pipe corral paddocks that they used occasionally, but no stalls. He was stalled in training, but that has been many years ago at this point. He is stalled (mare motel open pipe corral type, with solid walls on two sides only, My guess would be 12' X 12'? I will measure tonight) all the time except when I have him out. Unless he is a pasture horse you can't just turn them out at the boarding facility. I am currently going out twice a day to see him. I am on the waiting list for the large paddocks with a run in stall, but that will take months at least to get into one of those.

I went this morning and he was much calmer. Head carried lower, eyes less worried looking. Looked more relaxed when I had him out. The round pen was still soup, so I did not turn him out. We just walked around and he grazed in the sun.
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post #7 of 7 Old 04-08-2020, 09:49 AM
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I would counter with 10-15 minutes of round penning IS work. Especially right after a trailer ride that was between 2.5 and 3 hours. He's a mature horse, who's a LONG way from home, in a strange location, surrounded by no one he knows. He has no idea who you are in relation to his life. He's gone from living in a pasture with his herd mates to a prison cell that amounts to solitary confinement with daily walks with his prison guard.

He needs time to get oriented and adjust to his new life.

Once he settles, THEN do the round pen work.

TBF - I've given in to the temptation to get right to it with a new horse. It doesn't work, and if anything, you're going to make it harder on both of you than if you just took it a little slower.
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