Horses now won't go in the barn...after living here for years
I have two normally sensible and low maintenance geldings. They've lived here for 2 and almost 5 years. All of a sudden, as of yesterday, they won't go in the barn. Their stalls open to 40 foot runs which open to their sacrifice paddock, which is about 3/4 of an acre. We have 10 inches of fresh snow.
I noticed yesterday they weren't going in the barn to eat. Just standing in the far corner of the paddock. Hours passed. No change. Their hay was in their feeders in their stalls, but they wouldn't come in. I got one and led him in, as he snorted and was very tense. I took off his halter and he high-tailed it back out to the far corner.
I'm assuming something happened that scared him big time, and now he's convinced the devil is in the barn...or something....evil.
This was the alpha horse, and his little buddy is following his lead.
I gave them their breakfast and lunch outside their stalls but in their runs, and they ate it, but the hay from yesterday is still in their stalls.
WWYD? Make them figure it out? Feed them outside and just be glad they're eating? As I said, they're normally so easy and love their routine. How would you convince them that the barn is safe?
We have some mountain lions that at times run horses thru fences.
This one time, this gelding was so scared, he would not go out in the pasture at all with the others after one of those runs from a lion one night.
He was one of our more steady ones, used to "help" me when I was running the tractor working on fences, was thinking of teaching him to drive it, he always had his nose into everything.
He stood in a corner of the pens and if you tried to pony or lead him out, so he could go with the others, that were leaving to go graze, he became dangerously agitated and would run over you to get away and back in the pens.
We finally gave up and sold him to someone in town, where for years he was their nice trail riding, pasture ornament and grand kid ride, without any problems anywhere.
That is the only horse from many we had over the years to act like that.
Guess that something can scare even a steady horse practically to death, where they just take looong time to get over it, if they ever do.
Now, I sold not long ago an old type watchy ranch horse, that was super gentle to handle and ride, but turned out he became somewhat feral and spooky and at times would not come to the barn from the pasture, even if the others did.
We even had his eyes checked, but he was fine, just a suspicious sort when not with humans, that seemed to give him confidence all was well.
I would guess snow sliding may have scared them, but they should have been over it and back in there eating in a bit, not still scared to death.
It's impossible to know with any certainty what the specific "trigger" was to set off this behavior.
Reviewing the barn for the possible "suspects" is a good idea. If nothing turns up then you'll just have to "wing it."
To remedy the situation I'd start by taking the dominant of the two horses and just do a standard "booger desensitization" drill (using whatever techniques are consistent with your regular method of training). It may take a couple of days to get them to settle down. Once the alpha gelding is reasonably quiet the second horse should go more easily.
In the meantime they still need feed and water. That means some hauling.
Over time "greed will overcome fear." Some training will help that process along.
This is a real longshot but could it be the older, alpha guy has had a bit of a stroke? I've had a lot older horses all of a sudden decide a bucket is going to strangle them. Or maybe something happened to the alpha guys eyesight and he's not seeing correctly and thinks there's a meany in the shadows??
My guys have a barn and I can barely get them close to it. We've had close to 14 inches of snow. I've noticed their hoofprints aren't going around to one side at all. They have to pass it to get to the water tank and it's a single trail, they don't step off of it. Instead of staying up by the barn, or in it, they prefer down in the pasture in the trees, wind whipping by and snowing sideways at times. Their hay is sitting out...just sitting. Last nite, we noticed some jackrabbits who've taken up residence and 'go to the barn' with us. But my guys have seen JR all over.
So, the upshot is, it's not just your horses. For whatever reasons, mine are avoiding the barn too.
Are there any trees or bushes up against the barn that could be making scary noises when they move? I had this happen to a run in shed, and couldn't figure out why the horses wouldn't go in there...until it was windy, and I heard the branches making a racket on the wall/roof. Cut them back, fed the horses inside so they knew there wasn't anything scary, and voila! Problem solved.
"On the back of a horse I felt whole, complete, connected to that vital place in the center of me...and the chaos within me found balance."
The good news is this morning they were both in their stalls, happily eating hay. I don't have any idea what happened, but apparently it took three days to get over it!
Thanks for the suggestions, though. There aren't any bushes or trees next to the barn. I'm leaning toward maybe snow sliding off the roof since we had a big storm and last year we hardly had any. Maybe they forgot what it sounds like?