I have a lovely but sensitive 15 year old OTTB, whom I've owned for 11 years. For the past three years, we have boarded at a private farm with a couple of other horses. I do self-care, so I am there multiple times every day and spend a lot of time with my mare.
During the past year, several of her equine buddies have come and gone (2 were oldies and passed away, and one moved). She seemed to adjust well.
Two weeks ago, the third horse in the herd was sold and moved away. (So she and one other horse were left.) A new (third) horse moved in on Saturday. Since then, she seems to be having a difficult time adjusting. She seems to like the new horse but is also very nervous.
She is fine during the day, but when it is time to come in for the evening, she won't come into the barn unless the two others are already in. She gets into her stall and starts panicking if she cannot see the two others at all times (one is across from her and the other is outside in a paddock that she can see from her windows). She paces, paws, whinneys, circles, you name it - doesn't want to eat, etc. This carries on for about 20 minutes, after which she settles down and is ok for the rest of the night. When I come to check on her later, she is quiet and is also fine in the morning.
I would like to know if anyone has any ideas or advice. I hate to see her stressed, even for a short while.
I have a TB mare who is about the same age, and also gets very stressed if there's a lot of change in terms of horses moving out (especially) and in.
I think the only thing that will help is time and consistent handling, and it sounds as though you're doing the consistent handling part already.
You could try adding one of the calming mixes as a supplement for a couple of weeks and see if that helps. I've found that an herbal mix with valerian works, and you can stop it when the situation stabilizes. (Valerian tests, though, so you shouldn't use it if you're showing).
"The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky
When one of my horses was younger he didn't handle change well. Any time we moved to a new barn, or if he even changed turnout groups, it took about two weeks for him to really settle in. Give her time. If she still hasn't returned to her normal self after a couple weeks, then I'd worry.
I had a mare that got just plain loopy last year at the age of 22. Her whole personality changed. Her friends that shes been with for 8 years were no longer who she wanted to be with. She would stand all day, not grazing and stare off into the distance. I finally put her out with the other group of mares and that is what she wanted. Very weird.
she is fine now.
I bet your girl is upset at all her friends leaving. Hard to control when they are not all yours.
Any possibility she is now lower on the totem pole relative to the new horses? When my horse moved into a herd where he suddenly became low man on the totem pole he had to be led into the barn after all the other horses were stalled. He also was very anxious to see where everyone was. It looked like he needed to know where his "friends" were, but I know him, he was scared of them. It can be very subtle. He'd ever so slightly lean into me when we passed their stalls.
Thanks, everyone! She was much more settled last night - almost 100%. She only paced for a few seconds and then began eating her hay. She actually slept laying down for the first time in 3 days. So hopefully she is getting used to the situation.