Transitioning Harley to our home barn?!? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 05-19-2016, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Transitioning Harley to our home barn?!?

Finally, our stalls are finished. There is an area of the pasture that is done, and electrified. I've been looking forward to this for so long.

Harley is still at the neighbors, and will stay there another week or two, but I've been hand-grazing him at the boarding barn for 10-15, then 30 and 45 minutes over the last two weeks. Tonight, I rode him over to our place and let him eat in our own pasture for an hour. The area he was in is about 1.5 acres, maybe 2. I rode him in the pasture, took off his saddle and bridle, put on his halter and let him go. He promptly put his head down and started chomping on the lush green grass.

That went on for about 30 minutes. My daughter and I watched him for a while, but then went about doing a few chores in the backyard where we could still keep an eye on him. Every once in a while, he would look for us. I think he may have lost sight of us for a minute because I turned around and he was gone. He'd run to the other end of the pasture. I talked to him and he saw me, but started to run full speed from one end of the pasture to the other. He even threw in a few bucks! He never gets to do that because his pasture mates harass him and try to bite him so he kind of stays in his corner. What started as a kind of expression of freedom soon started to look a little panicky, however. Nostrils flared, running at full speed, totally alert, not grazing anymore. It went on for a few minutes and I was glad I made my fences high and had checked that they were all electrified! I walked into the pasture and he ran full speed towards me, but stopped in front of me as I snapped on the lead line. He was clearly in a state of high anxiety, snorting loudly with nostrils flared and head held high. But he seemed to settle a bit with me beside him so I walked him around a bit and he totally settled down, like it was a huge relief not to be alone in that great big pasture. I figured it was going to be a crazy ride back to his boarding stable, but quite the opposite. He was calmer than he's ever been. Like feeling the saddle and bridle and having me on his back was familiar, like he knew what to do and felt secure.

So I guess my question is, should I rethink my idea of transitioning slowly to the new place? I was thinking I'd start letting him graze for an hour, progress to half days, then eventually a full day (but still sleep at the boarding barn), and finally, days and nights at our barn. But is going back and forth only going to make it worse? I ride him over since we live really close. That means he knows which way is home. If he came on a trailer, I think he'd be fooled into thinking he's far from home. We could actually do that - trailer him over and keep him here permanently. But I don't know that we'd be fooling him now that he knows the way.

What may be compounding the problem is that we still don't have a pasture mate for Harley. I've been looking for a second horse (as many of you know), but no luck yet. So he's alone here, at least for now.

What are your thoughts? Make slow, incremental adjustments or rip it off like a bandaid?
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post #2 of 17 Old 05-19-2016, 10:55 PM
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I really know nothing about this, but I think very few horses have ever had the luxury of slowly getting used to a new home. Also, I'm impatient, so I'd be all about the bandaid route. You may want to wait until you can get the borrowed stablemate though. His anxiety may have been about being alone.
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post #3 of 17 Old 05-19-2016, 10:56 PM
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Also WOOHOO for the barn being done!
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post #4 of 17 Old 05-19-2016, 11:18 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Jan1975 View Post
Also WOOHOO for the barn being done!
Oh it's far from being completely done! But I have stalls, they just don't have lights or water or even exterior siding! However, they're all boarded up with 2 x 6 on the inside and doors are on so technically, I could use them, but won't just yet.
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post #5 of 17 Old 05-19-2016, 11:43 PM
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I agree with Jan--there are few situations where a horse is 'weaned' into their new living situation. They are trailered over and stalled or put in a pasture, end of story. You should have no issues simply moving him over.

The sensitivity of the internet baffles me.
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post #6 of 17 Old 05-20-2016, 12:08 AM
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I don't remember his living situation, but if he's not used to grass then weaning him on to the grass is a good idea. I don't really see the harm in doing it how you are. The being alone thing is a different story. I don't know too many horses who actually like to be alone. He could get used to that though.
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post #7 of 17 Old 05-20-2016, 12:10 AM
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^Well, at some point she's planning to purchase another horse, so that'll remedy that issue.
In the meantime, are there horses near you? If they're close enough, it could work for the 'meantime.'
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The sensitivity of the internet baffles me.
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post #8 of 17 Old 05-20-2016, 08:29 AM
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There are some horses that don't do well being alone ---- my Arab was one of them In his younger years ---- to the point he went thru the electric fence at my friend's house. I had rescued Streeter and was waiting for a stall to open where Duke was boarded.

1. If you haven't found a horse by the time Harley needs to come home to live, borrow one from your coach. BUT make sure you borrow one that isn't going to play King of the Hill with Harley and harass him all the time.

Your coach should know her horses well enough to know which one will be a "like-minded companion. I just hope it's one she is willing to part with.

2. It always helps to put strips of orange police tape on the fence, until the horses get used to their boundaries. One never knows when horses will get to running and forget where their new fence boundaries are.

I strung a new fence between two pastures that looked like a landing strip by the time I got done hanging tape on it and that was only five years ago, lol

I don't care what anyone says, I do not believe in taking chances, in that regard. I've seen too many times when a horse had to be sewn up from running thru a "solid" fence. Or the horse went right over the fence tail-end-over-tin cups and still managed to get hurt, somehow.

I am not trying to put you in panic mode but you are right to be concerned about Harley being alone if he's not used to it.

3. One should always walk a horse around the fence when they first come into the pasture.

We only had 14 acres when we first moved my three horses here. We hand walked all of them around the entire perimeter. That was fun---not, we didn't have 4-wheelers back then, lol

A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.

I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.
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post #9 of 17 Old 05-20-2016, 08:43 AM
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Some horses do not do well by themselves, especially if it is the first time.
When you bring Harley home to graze for a while ( and keep on doing it) don't leave him out there long enough for him to eat his fill then start worrying about being alone, I would leave him in pasture for a while then put him in the barn to stop the running because that can develop into a bad habit. After he has been in the barn for a while, tack up and go back to the stable. He was probably quieter for you after a good run.
I agree with putting flags up on the fence to remind him where it is, I do that all the time, I cut plastic shopping bags into strips and tie them up if I don't have anything else.
Just did this the other day when we closed off one pasture, I put them on the gate to remind the horses it was closed before one of them decided to take off from the barn without thinking about the closed gate.
Happy to hear things are progressing so quickly for you
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post #10 of 17 Old 05-20-2016, 08:47 AM Thread Starter
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So what I'm hearing from all of you is that regardless of whether I move Harley over slowly or quickly, I should plan for another horse being here to keep him company when I do. Correct? I am still looking at horses, but the window is closing fast on me being able to buy a second one in time. I do want him over here permanently by June 1st.

My plan was to bring him over an hour at a time, then a half day, then a full day, but still sleeping at the old barn. But maybe that will just encourage him to think he's still living there. Part of the problem is that the BO is not putting her horses on grass at all yet. Over here, there is nothing but grass because I don't have any horses to mow it down! I can't have Harley transitioning from no grass to full-time grass. I do have one area that has less grass (just a little nibbling), but still some. I had been hand-grazing him in a field at the BO's place, but now that I'm doing it for an hour, that's rather tedious and time-consuming! I thought it would be easier to bring him here and let him loose in the pasture for an hour and build up to 3-4 hours.

And no, there are no horses within sight. The horses at the boarding barn are close enough that he could hear them, but not see them. However, they've never actually called out to him or him to them when he's here.

Sounds like I have to start discussing borrowing a horse from my coach.
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