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Separation anxiety or stupidity in herd bound horse?
by Jessie (wrider)
at December 23rd, 2008 (02:53 pm)

Hello.  I am posting this in the hopes that I can get some assortment of advice!

I have an almost 8 year old appendix Quarter Horse gelding, Jiggs, that I have had since he was 2 and trained up for barrel racing.  He's a pretty spunky horse at times, but for the most part is very calm for a barrel racer (at least compared to my old horse).  I've been in college for the past four years and since June have been holding down a full time job.  Needless to say, though I've trained him fairly well, I think, I haven't had the amount of time to have worked with him that I would have liked.  So for future reference with his herd bound problem, this might be part of the problem.

Now, the past couple years he has been showing some very herdbound tendancies.  The first time I noticed it was trail riding and he'd crow hop and buck if he was ten feet behind the horse in front of him.  I kept at this issue and dialed him down to where he'd only prance if I made him stay out of sight of the herd. 

Next, he literally ran over my friend who was in the pasture trying to catch her mare.  Her mare was running from her and my horse was staying with her, regardless if there was a person in his way or not.  She came away with a few good scrapes, but was okay and understood that horses are horses and things like that can happen. 

Now staying with my in-laws with a older arab/cross mare, my husband and I put his 4 year old daugter on him in the pasture.  I thought it would be a good idea to remove my mother-in-laws mare so she wouldn't bother us and create a problem.  Well, little did I know that removing her would cause the problem.  Jiggs got away from my husband and took off with this poor little 4 year old on his back.  She fell off and broke her arm.  This, I know was caused by human error, and not so much Jiggs.

The next time I noticed how bad his herd boundness to my mother in laws horse was when I moved in with them this past summer and started working with him more often.  The mare he shared a pasture with would call and call and of course this would make Jiggs all upset and almost impossible to ride.  Though after a few days this stopped.  But then there were a few days where he'd get so worked up that he actually broke his lead rope from where he'd been tied and got loose in the yard trying to get back into his pasture.  We had a heck of a time catching him.  He was getting to the point where I knew he was getting dangerous.  He'd break loose from me wherever he saw the option, he'd kick and stomp at the stall walls if he was locked in and couldn't see her, and he'd get so distracted under saddle that I had a hard time bringing his attention to me. 

So, I had the two horses separated.  From then on, things were much, much better.

But, this past weekend the farrier came out and because of the snowy weather, we decided to have their hooves trimmed in the covered arena.  I brought Jiggs over and my mother in law already had her horse out and her feet were getting worked on.  I tied my horse to the flat bed truck and he stood there, quiet as could be while we waited.  Next thing I know, Jiggs is walking past me without his halter on!  I turned and saw that his halter was hanging from where it had been tied.  I wasn't too upset at this point and knew he'd probably been scratching and it fell off.  So I went over to unclip it and round him back up.  He, however, was being ornery and rather than let me catch him, he walked away from me.

Then, s**t hit the fan, at least that's how I feel about it.

I had just gotten him turned back towards me when he lit passed me and out the open arena doors.  My mother in law had walked off through the barn with Jiggs' buddy, the mare, and he was running full tilt for the other side of the barn where the pasture was.  I grumbled to the farrier that this was why I had separated them and went to go catch him.

As I exited the arena, I heard my father in law exclaim, and then my mother in law screaming his name.  Jiggs had come dashing out towards the pasture and run head long into my father in law.

It took several minutes of Jiggs running wildly about trying to get to the mare, but we finally caught him.  And now I am in a position where my mother in law wants Jiggs off her property as soon as possible because she doesn't think I can control him.  In my opinion, I blame her -  partly because to me it is common sense to wait for someone to catch their horse or get them under control before leaving with their buddy.  But my in laws are novice horsepeople at best and are accustomed to very well trained, older animals.

However, I know my horse has a problem, and I am looking for any and all advice to help my horse overcome this need to be with this other horse if she leaves his sight!  It might also help to know that he is not the most respectful of horses.  He has kicked me a few times, and when chased always kicks at the air behind him, making for close calls.  However, he is far from a mean horse and is awesome with my husband's daughter who, though afraid to ride him since breaking her arm, loves to lead him around.

Any advice will be appreciated! Thank you!


Posted by: this high speed rodeo is all i know. (runnintowinit)
Posted at: December 24th, 2008 12:12 am (UTC)

Tie him out away from his buddy while you exercise other horses.And also...If at all possible, seperate him from the other horses in the pasture. If not, I understand.
Also, you could try reverse psychology...which always seems to work for me. Put him on the lungeline and work him down a pretty good bit by the other horses....then walk away from the pasture/ buddies and let him rest. Repeat and until he gets the point: "You want to be with your buddies, it's time for work. If you'd rather hang with me, let's rest" It doesnt take most horses a long time to realize if they just cooperate, life is simple.
When you are attempting to catch him in the pasture, grab a handful of dirt clods, or get on a 4-wheeler, and MAKE him run. I had a mare who never wanted to be caught, one day of making her run from me was all it took-she walked right up to me, and never gave me another problem.
Good luck. I know that has to be frustrating! I am definately not an expert, but those are the things that have helped in my situations.

Posted by: Jessie (wrider)
Posted at: December 24th, 2008 12:51 am (UTC)

Thanks for the tips! My father suggested something similar except that rather than me walk my horse away, i have someone walk the buddy away several times as I round pen my horse, or lunge him. He's actually great if he's the one leaving, but not if he's the one being left. Again, thanks for the tips! I'll have to get out and try them :-)

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