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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We currently have all four of our horses together in one large pasture. We are thinking of separating them so that they are not so herd sour. Not sure if we should put each one separate or buddy them up. What are your opinions about advantages either way or also we could separate them sometimes and have them together sometimes. We have plenty of room, the fencing, watering means, and shelter for them to each have their own large area if we decide to separate them. So basically, just trying to decide which would be easier for behavior. Thanks a bunch.
 

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Personally, I think if you had the time to work with the horses on their herd sour issues, that would be the best way of solving this. Because horses are so fundamentally herd animals, keeping them together is always best unless there are direct threats to their health.
 

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I agree with working with them, I have 4 horses (3 mine and 1 boarded), in the summer what I used to do is put a halter/lead on one and let them come out in the yard with me to graze.......didn't take them long to figure out the other one will be back and that the one out got the good grass LOL now I let all four out in our yard with a rope across our driveway so they won't go visiting neighbors LOL
 

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Agreed. Horses are herd animals and it isn't good for their mental health to keep them isolated. That's why vices run rampant among show horses that are stalled alone for much of their lives; weaving, stall walking, pacing, cribbing, wood chewing, pawing, wall kicking, etc are almost always results of the stress of being kept alone for long periods of time.

The way to solve a herd sour horse isn't by keeping them alone, it's through training.
 

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I do it a little differently - I have three horses right now - a five year old mare, a two year old gelding, and a yearling gelding.

I have separate paddocks and they all come in every night for dinner and stay in their individual stalls/runs until after breakfast... this makes it much easier for me to monitor feed intake and make sure each get to eat stress free.

I normally turn the yearling and two year old out after breakfast so the yearling can socialize and move around the pasture - then switch it up every so often, turning the mare out with the two year old - but I notice that every night at dinner, no matter who is out with who - they all stand at the gate waiting to go to their stalls for dinner.

I have never had any of them stand at the fence and act concerned about not being turned out with the other two - they all seem happy when they are with each other, but not anxious about being the odd man out. And that is exactly the way I like it. I can put anybody in the trailer and leave without any upset, either from them or the ones left behind.

I think horses that have the stall issues get them more from the fact that they are in the stall than from the fact that they are kept individually. The barns I have seen that have open dividers (and so can see and socialize with their neighbors) have much more content horses than those kept in solid dividers - but in either case, horses that live in a stall without the benefit of freedom of movement are absolutely prone to vices as they are generally bored out of their minds.

Even though my horses are show horses and I do want to keep them blemish free, I accept the risk as I find they grow up much healthier and happier than those that grow up in a barn and never get to run in a pasture, bucking and kicking at their buddies. There is always a balance.
 

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I have always let them run in a heard and work with them randomly one on one a lot, but at the same time, im home most of the time and have this ability. I also tend to keep my horses who are in more strict training separated as it makes them bond more with me and learn i am in their herd and also lead mare. A lot of horses become herd bound as in the wild that is how they have protection, but if you can show them you are capable of protecting them when it is just you two, they will look to you for safety more easily and it will help with the herd bound issues.
 

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They HAVE to be together. I perceive isolation from the herd as an act of moral cruelty, unless there are serious health concerns and it is temporary. Herd-bound is a people issue, not a horse issue - you have to work on a horses' complete trust and respect in you, so that he is motivated to concentrate fully on you, not think only of his herd. If he's not - well, then you see the issues with "herd-bound" or "buddy sour". They are neither bound nor sour, they are just herd animals with flight instincts, and they are hard wired to know that their strongest chance of survival lies within keeping the herd together. Thus, the human has to learn how to become the horses' herd.
 

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I've actually heard that horses kept in pair or small groups are more likely to be herd bound. Also, keeping them in separate, neighbouring paddocks might not help the situation at all.

Horses are generally happiest when together. Work with your issues to solve them, rather than looking for a quick fix.
 

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That's right - they know perfectly well that they are weaker in a smaller herd and build up closer relationships, so, if their handlers cannot establish trust with their horses, the horses are more likely to become herd bound - it applies even more to horses who live in pairs, as, when one is taken away, the other is left alone with no perception for how long it will stay that way. Small, neighbouring paddocks are not a solution as well, as mutual grooming and other forms of physical contact are vital to a horses' well being.
 

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Saranda -
You obviously have a strong opinion - but my horses live a very satisfying, emotionally healthy life without living in a group herd.

Making statements like "they HAVE to be together" is just not true. Many, many horses are not kept in herds, and many that are in a herd dynamic that isn't healthy would be better off in a separate paddock.

Keeping horses over a fence from each other is not isolation. Horses in adjoining paddocks fight, groom, snooze in the sun together - I see mine doing it all the time.

There are no absolutes in horses, and there is not only one way to raise, train, and care for horses. There are many, many ways of giving horses quality lives. Everyone just needs to do what works best for their horses and their situation.
 

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Mostly everyone just does what works best for themselves, and horses come second. Then again, I am not to judge anyone, so let's just agree to disagree like proper adults. :)
 

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huh. Most people I know care very deeply about their horses and if something isn't working for their horse, adjust accordingly. I don't even know how to respond to "best for themselves, horses come second" - in my experience, most happy horse owners do what works for themselves AND their horses.

Yep, let's agree to disagree.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
thank you everyone for your opinions. Ace80908, yours was very helpful as this is what I was considering was that they would be right on the other side of the fence from each other so they can still socialize. My main reason for considering separating them is because I have two young daughters who ride and are now starting 4 H. They are at the point where they can go get their own horse pretty much without help, however, I have one girl that is scared of the other horses because they are very friendly and "swarm her" when she goes in to get one. Then when one is taken out, they all want to go out. She is a perfectionist and get very upset when she has trouble getting out the gate with just one. I agree that training will help with this and experience will help her also, but in the mean time I worry about her safety being in there with them. They are not mean by any means, but she is small and inexperienced. Even though I am always at the gate to help it makes me nervous and I would like her experiences to be good. I do want what is best for the horses, but also for what we do with them. We ride everyday, however, not all of them. We have two that are "kids horses" that they ride. One in there is a 4 year old that my husband is working with, although, he is very busy and does not get the time to work with her everyday. I definitely want what is best for the horses, but I do also want what is best for the kids and us as well. Feeding would be easier separately as well, as we do have a "food bully" in the bunch. I do hesitate at the separation though, as they are definitely herd sour. When ever one gets loaded in the trailer, the others panic and thus the one in the trailer is upset as well. I am thinking this will get better the more we do it, as the kids have only been in 4H for one year, so this is new for the horses for one to leave. I am wondering if separating them, but so they can still touch over the fence, may help as they would still get their socialization from that, but have an easier time being apart?
 

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We kept Ana by herself in a Paddock for 3 weeks before turning her loose with the herd.

Pros:
Can retrieve her faster from the Paddock
She can't get beat up by other horses
Easier at feeding time

Cons:
She was lonely an anxious
She had less room to stretch/run

Honestly, she's so much happier being with the herd. Other boarders who use paddock boarding do so because: the horse doesn't get along with other horses or the horse is a hard catch.

Hope this helps.
 

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Snowball - I am happy I could help ... keeping mine separate works for me. As your girls hit show season, it is likely they will be grooming and putting them in stalls the night before a contest, so that may be another reason to at least get the horses used to the idea. As someone else mentioned above, it does also help the horse get a stronger bond with their handler... my geldings both meet me at the gate everytime I go to the barn.

As you can see, many different ways to do it - I just haven't seen any behaviors from mine that would indicate stress or worry. My horses are on my property and I am out there multiple times a day. I have happy, sociable horses who enjoy their people as well as each other.

It may be that the best thing to do is a trial run - separate them and see how it works for you... Horses may not care at all - mine don't have any preference. If they run the fences, scream for each other, etc. you can always adjust...
 

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I've always found 2 horses in a paddock is harder, because they get attached to each other and is harder to take just one of the field. Horses are better off in a herd because they need to interact with one another and socialise. Unfortunately, Ginny is on her own at the minute but she can see other horses and interact over the fence. She's much more reliant on me, and although it seems she loves me, it's not fair on her being on her own and much healthier if she were with 2,3 other horses. The best way to fix this is with training and keeping them together. Always try not to separate them if it can be helped.
 

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You only should separate a new horse from the existing herd, over the fence, so that they can talk to each other and nose each other. Keep them together. Nervous horses get colicky and frantic and separating them during turning will only freak them out.
Horse training is a LOT of work. Don't make it any harder.
 

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You only should separate a new horse from the existing herd, over the fence, so that they can talk to each other and nose each other. Keep them together. Nervous horses get colicky and frantic and separating them during turning will only freak them out.
Horse training is a LOT of work. Don't make it any harder.

So true. When we moved Ana to the pasture, it opened up a spot for the BO to separate a mare from a gelding who had been paddocked together. They could still see each other and touch noses. The mare was totally freaked out. Sweating, pacing, huffing and puffing. The gelding was completely unaffected. He was busy flirting with the ladies on the other side of his paddock fence. Such a player :wink:
 

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As long as you don't have issues with the individual horses not getting along, then I think it would be best to keep everyone together and work with your herd sour issues on each horse individually. Definitely don't break them up into pairs. It works alright for some horses, but with some it causes them to become more intensely bonded to their buddy and will actually make buddy sour issues worse.

This exact thing happened to my horse when I moved him to my current barn. There weren't really any available pastures in the area to put my guy out with more than one other horse, so the barn manager started putting him out at night with the horse he was stalled next to. Things weren't so bad if I took my horse out to work- I guess I was considered a buddy to him and he behaved well. I was doing some work with his pasture mate at the time, and if I took that horse out of the stall my guy would fuss and fuss for the duration of the ride until I brought his buddy back. This problem was further complicated by the fact that the arena is adjacent to the barn so my horse could see his buddy for parts of the ride, and not for other parts. He got his buddy privileges revoked shortly after that, and was turned out in a pasture next to a couple of mares. They'd stand next to each other over the fence and interact a little bit, and he was perfectly fine with that. He's been turned out with stall neighbors plenty of times in the past, but there have always been other horses out with them- anywhere from just three horses to a dozen.

I DO think that it is best in almost all situations for horses to be allowed to interact freely with other horses, so we worked something out where he's being turned out with two other geldings that are on strictly pasture board. 97% of the time the other two horses ignore him, but he gets to chase them around for a little while. He seems happier with it.
 
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