Herd-bound to mares, but not acting like a stallion, how to help him?
A friend of mine sold a 4 yr old greenbroke gelding about a year ago- super sweet, very willing guy. She did all the work on him herself, and he was a very fast learner, easy to start. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, she got a call from the owners, who said he's nuts and she has to take him back. So he came back to her farm. She currently has too many horses and is trying to downsize, so I offered to take this little guy and put some miles on him to help her resell him faster. I'm giving my horse a break after a busy show season, so I have the time, and would like to keep riding. I remember him being sweet and docile - and it sounded like his issue had been developing bad habits under saddle.
So when my friend dropped him off, she showed me what she thinks his problems are- he's a bit girthy - no biggie we can deal with that. He seems a bit unsure about being tied... again, totally equipped to handle it. She said when she picked him up at the owner's place, she had a terrible ride on him, but that in the few days back, he's been fine, back to his same old self. Sure enough, at my place, he was just fine- same old easy going guy- green but uncomplicated w/t/c. It looked like a textbook case of bad habits from bad riding, and easily fixable.
Turns out, that's not his problem at all. I board my horses at a facility with 20 horses. Well, overnight, this guy had bonded to his next-door neighbor, a very strong willed mare. Great. He loses his cookies when she's taken away from him. When I take him away from her, he's nervous, looking for her, but still does his job.
Turn-out, though, is a different story. There is a gelding pasture, and a mare pasture. This horse wants nothing to do with the geldings, who are nice to him. But he runs over to the fence and paces the mare pasture- his stalled neighbor is NOT in that pasture - it is a completely different set of mares.
He's not acting like a stallion - he's acting incredibly insecure, and seems to think being with mares is where he needs to be. And when I asked, at his previous owner's place, he was there with 1 other horse, a mare. Prior to that, at my friend's place, he was with his half-brother and a herd of mixed geldings and mares. I'm guessing he developed this insecurity at his previous owner's place. I can also see how this behavior would scare someone, especially if he escalates under saddle, which it sounds like he did with them.
I can manage working with him under saddle- no issues there. What I'm concerned about though is his general feeling of insecurity, especially during his down-time when he's not being worked. I'd like to help him out so he can be successful in his next venture in life...but unsure how to go about it. Is this something he can grow/mature out of with time? Is there something we could be doing to help him?