Herd-bound Horse

This topic contains 7 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Joan Fry 3 months ago.

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  • Joan Fry Original Poster
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    I’d like some advice on a problem I’m having with my mare. After nearly a year of being the only horse on my property, I moved her to a nearby boarding stable. I went on a few short trail rides, but she was very unhappy–she wanted to go back to the barn. Since the feeding schedule was very erratic, I figured that was why she wanted to go back–she was afraid of missing dinner. I moved her to a much smaller barn where she goes out in a field with other horses twice a week. In many respects it’s ideal, except the owner has two youngsters, now yearlings, that she plans to train and sell. I knew my mare had a foal a few years ago, but it never entered my head that she might decide these foals needed a mother. Well–that’s what she’s decided. Now every time I ride outside the gate, even with another rider, all those foals have to do is neigh at her and it’s Katie bar the door. We did circles until I was dizzy, mostly to no avail. All winter we’ve been working on the basics in the round pen, first on the longe, and once she knows and obeys those cues every time, I’ll ride her in the round pen. What I want to know is, what do I do after that???

    bnelrod
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    My horse a mare has the same issues in the field with a filly we acquired. When I trailer her away the issues seem to disappear but when riding around our acreage with the filly she is excited especially if things are happening around the filly. She was also doing some small bucking.

    On my last ride on the property with one of our other horses she seemed more relaxed. Maybe it just takes time. Try working her and gradually increasing the distance over time or trailer her away for a ride.

    Joan Fry Original Poster
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Thank you very much, bnelrod. I especially like the “trailer her away” advice. She is boarding close enough to us that I could take her home for a long weekend and ride her here. I think that will solve a lot of her problems. Meanwhile I’ll do as you suggested and stick close to the pasture my first few times, and gradually get farther and farther away. She doesn’t buck–maybe crow hops a little, but mostly she violently shakes her head from one side to the other and strikes out with a foreleg. Not too pleasant, but I don’t think she’s trying to get me off. She’s just lodging a protest.

    HighHopeFarm
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 3

    As an instructor and trainer, I have dealt with herd-bound horses a lot. What has worked for me is this: Ride the horse away from the herd/barn until the horse wants to go back. Then go back to the barn, turn around and ride away again right away. Do this over and over until the horse realizes that going back to the barn just means he has to turn around and go away again. Let him make the choice. You might only gain a foot each time. Keep at it. I have had this take 50 trips until the horse gives up and goes peacefully away from the barn. Works like a charm, but you must have patience. Do not punish the horse, just ride quietly to and from the barn. I have not had this method fail. (I did not invent this method – I got it from Clinton Anderson). Whenever possible, let the horse have a choice for behavior. When he makes the right choice, life gets easier for him. They figure it out.

    Joan Fry Original Poster
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    That is great advice, HighHope! It really does give the horse a choice! I’ll try it. When you say you’ve taken 50 trips away from the barn–do you mean you do that a single day? Or do I reward her the first time she goes one step farther than she did before, and start doing it again the next day? Thanks very much for taking the time to answer!

    HighHopeFarm
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 3

    Yes, I have done that in a single session, but If you don’t have enough time, it’s OK to quit when you have gone a bit farther then the time before. I would then get off of the horse while away from the barn and lead him back.day. Takes a lot of patience to stick with it. If you have an excitable horse, you need to be “ho-hum” about the whole thing. Don’t make a big deal about it, just stick to your program of going away and coming back, going away and coming back. Once you’ve been successful, the next time will be easier. Eventually, you will be able to ride away without all the rigmarole. Am curious to see how this works for you.

    SueC
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    While I am not a professional trainer, I have worked with many horses over the years with this problem and I use a variation of what HighHopeFarm writes about, not my idea but one I found on the internet. When you ride back to the barn, have a place close to the barn, patch of grass of whatever, where you can really work the horse, then walk away and make the place away from the barn easy. Then repeat, again and again. Pressure on (not punishment, just pressure) at the barn, pressure off as you go away from the barn (i.e. trail, dressage arena, or wherever). Repeat as often as necessary, daily, as much as possible for however long it takes. Then dismount and loosen girth, far enuf from the barn so that horses feel a release of pressure.

    Warwick Schiller is a good one on youtube who explains this well, and his specialty is problem horses of all breeds, including WB’s, TB’s, QH’s, or ponies. He is “western” but has a great feel for all horses. My background is dressage. I’ve seen this work many times.

    Joan Fry Original Poster
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Thank you both for your help! Right now we’re battling kidney issues (hers)–a new development. When I can get back in the saddle, I look forward to teaching her that we are going to, eventually, ride away from the barn, and, eventually, return to it. I will definitely let you know what happens.

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