Question: Hey April, question for you, my horse is apparently not so good on his own, without other horses around. Unfortunately I do not have any other horses, so he is going to have to get used to being on his own for now. Do you have suggestions to help make him more comfortable and less agitated if he is going to be so?
Answer from April Reeves: Only thing that will help keep him somewhat sane will be for him to have access to hay 24/7. Horses that are comfortable in knowing their food source never dries up are also content in many other areas of their lives. There is no fix for herd instinct though: you may find he chews up the fields and paddock for some time until he gets use to the idea, at which point he goes crazy (anxiety) again the second he sees or smells another horse. Best thing for you to consider is how to keep him from wanting to get through fences, if he goes to that length to get back to a herd or a buddy.
Question from New Zealand: I have been working through your site for answers to a lot of questions :-) and have found it invaluable as I work with my wild caught mare who is now 7 yrs old. She was only broken in at 5 and then we just got her home and a couple of months later she broke her foot. So after a year out with that I’m starting her all over again. She was trained by Trisha Wren who’s methods are similar to your own.
BUT the issue is with her little paddock mate. A warmblood 3yr old, almost 4yr filly (Pipsqueak) who each time I take Charity away from her gallops and bucks around her paddock. The last time she wasn’t even out of site but took off around her paddock and chest crashed a gate twice. The 3rd time she knocked it off it’s hinges. Very luck for us she didn’t cut herself but it must have bruised. Many times I thought she was going to jump the gate. Now she hasn’t always been like this.
Always teach your horse to move forward obediently
Question: My mare whom I’ve had about 3 yrs, she is 8, was abused, was flipped over because of being backed up aggressively by some asshole trainer, among other things, well when I try to take her down the road, she stops and refuses to go forward when she gets around the corner. I thought it was because she didn’t want to leave my gelding. So we took them both and she still kept stopping. But we did get to the end of the road. So if I take her by herself, she refuses to go forward, she will back up even into shrubs and trees. What should I do?
Answer from April Reeves: I worked on a mare that did exactly the same thing. I’ll explain how I worked with her.
It’s About Moving Forward
First, we addressed the backing up. After taking this mare out for the first time and almost landing in the ditch, we went back home to the outdoor ring and had a lesson on how to move forward the instant I asked. Doing more backing is not the cure for this style of behavior.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship, Western training answers
Tagged behavior, Equine Behavior & Problems, foundation training, herd bound, horse forward, horse training, problem horse, trail riding
Question: I have a Quarab mare and one main bad habit she has, is that she is herd bound. The people we got her from kept her out in the pasture with 6 other horses all the time and so now she doesn’t like it when I take my miniature horse away. She doesn’t usually care when I separate her from my miniature horse, but she cannot stand me taking my miniature horse away. I have been working with her on it, taking my mini horse away and walking her back and taking her farther and walking back, just so Twinkle (my horse) knows I will bring Sophie (mini horse) back.
We have a fence up and Twinkle is separated from Sophie but they can still talk and see each other. We had to recently put up a hot wire fence as well because Twinkle was leaning on the fence and trying to walk it, getting her legs stuck in the fence, which it is also good because she doesn’t freak out, she waits patiently for us to get her untied. I was wondering if there is any possible way I can get her to stop being herd bound? She is getting better but I still worry about the fence and her getting hurt.
I also have recently started riding her english. I want to be able to do cross-country and show jumping with her and if we work hard enough, possibly learn some dressage techniques. One bad thing, is that the previous owners galloped her a lot, so a lot of times she wants to run, run, run, or she doesn’t listen to my leg commands. If I ask her to trot, she will either burst into a gallop or trot for a second then go faster. I would like for her to be a better horse for English. She can be impatient and doesn’t listen well to “whoa” or only a “walk” or “trot” command. I will be getting a new English bit because the one I have for her does not work, she doesn’t respect it, but I would love for her to be a better well-behaved horse. I wasn’t sure if I could help get her to listen to my commands and whether or not I can train her to only trot when asked.
Is there a way I can train her myself, or is a professional trainer a better idea? We don’t have a lot of money for a professional trainer, but her and I having a great bond through english riding and my dream of jumping to happen.
Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: I first want to address the fence issue. No fence should allow a horse to get tangled. Although your horse is quiet about it right now, it’s a matter of time when that changes, and you lose the horse from serious leg injuries. I have a saying, “that horse never died before”.
Question: I have a 14 yr old QH mare who when my daughter and I go on trail rides panics if she is not the lead horse. It is difficult because my daughter likes to ride ahead sometimes but my horse gets real speedy and bouncy trying to catch up with the other horse. If I hold her back it is difficult and i do alot of circles to get her to stay slow. I have also noticed that when we are in the show ring she tries to catch up with the horse in front of us and then when and if we pass she is fine. Is there any way to make her feel more comfortable without being in the lead? I do trail ride her alone a lot also and she is fine. Just when there is another horse in front of her.
Answer from April Reeves: You could work on this problem a number of ways. What I will try to do is set up a training method that you can accomplish.
This is a tough habit to break. Your mare is likely the dominant in this herd of 2 (herd of 4 when humans show up), so she will demand that her role be acknowledged on the trail or arena.
Or she may be suffering separation anxiety (herd bound). If this is the case, you may have a horse that you will never be able to break from this habit entirely. In all honesty, I have worked with these horses and although I can ride them safely, when they go back to the owners it starts up all over again.
Question: I was thinking about getting a horse but the person in the next field has got a donkey so I was thinking about my horse making friends with it but I don’t know if it will work?
Answer: from April Reeves: Yes, it’s very likely your horse will create some bond with the donkey, and give your horse the comfort of knowing there is another four-legged acquaintance around. Because they will not be in the same field together, it’s questionable whether they attach themselves to each other to the point where they become herd bound. Only time will tell. You may find it becomes the perfect situation, where the horse is happier but not attached to the point where it becomes a problem.
April Reeves: Clinician, Instructor, Trainer
By April Reeves: I get this question all the time so I thought I would address it here. Herd bound horses can become dangerous if the problem is not nipped in the bud right away. However, it’s one of those problems that many people are unable to deal with as it takes a certain level of skill.
This article is for those who are baffled and need a solution that they can accomplish. It is the longest one I have written to date, and covers some very extensive ground and riding exercises. It won’t be easy, and does require patience and dedication, but the techniques are easier to follow than some others and the results are good.
This is for the horse that is strongly bonded with a single buddy or herd, and those horses at the point of showing aggressive behavior and lack of respect for the handler/rider through rearing, kicking and biting.