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Extreme herd bound - What to do?

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  • Extreme herd bound - What to do?

    I just started leasing a new horse about three weeks ago, and he is extremely herd bound. If a horse leaves the arena i am riding in he will literally not pay attention to me(i've tried leg yields, circles, straight into canter, etc.) He also puts his head straight up and drops his back, if i put my leg on it just seems to get worse.
    Two weeks ago i was doing canter sets in a field and his pasture mate walked by with it's rider and he bolted to the horse.

    My barn manager wont put him alone either...

    I have no idea what to do at the moment and would really appreciate some advice!! This is one of the most frustrating things in the world...
    Why walk when you can ride?

  • #2
    How old is he?
    Horses that are herd bound feel insecure and vulnerable when they are not with the buddies.
    It is a long slow process but the horse needs to be handled so that he eventually feels secure and comfortable and doesn't need the buddy any more to feel safe. You have to fill that role, and become his herd. Spend time with him, and go out into the field with him, just hang.
    When he gets anxious and runs to the others and blows you off, talk-talk-talk to him. Keep your voice in his ears, keep asking for obedience, allow him to see the friend then walk him away, turn him back to see him again, walk him away, etc. Slowly but surely gain his attention back on you, but keep talking and petting and keep your leg on, and keep contact. Don't punish, don't yell, just keep reminding him you are his herd, too, and if he will let you, you can be his buddy and then he won't have to be anxious. Reassure him with your voice, and you'll feel like an idiot yakking your head off to your horse, but I worked with some mustangs who were very herdbound and hardwired to be herdbound, and I just talked them to death until they realized I was a herd member too. It took a while. I tried not to keep them together but couldn't keep them separately, not enough paddocks, so I switched their partners a lot.
    Keeping a herdbound horse by themselves is extremely stressful to the horse and with some horses is really a bad thing to do. Switching the partners is better, I think, as it keeps them from forming bonds all the time.
    I have no idea if this might work with your horse -- herdbound stuff is really hard to deal with, one of the hardest things -- and I am anxious to see what others do and what works for them. Good question.
    Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
    Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


    • #3
      I've been slowly sorting through the same (though it seems like less extreme) version with the Youngin all winter. She can come and go, but heaven forbid one of the other horses leaves (even if she still has company).

      The big thing for us is to keep riding through it. She will try to use every trick in the book to get her way, and my job is to stay on and get her mind back on track. Also, not to rush her... just ride what she gives me. Not an easy task sometimes, trust me sometimes I am dripping sweat by the end of the ride, but (knock on wood) it is getting easier every time.

      Also, I have found that a standing martingale helps her from getting above the aids when she has her little temper tantrums, so I tend to keep that on right now.


      • #4
        I had a terribly herd bound mare, so I understand your frustration! She was a nightmare on the ground, didn't even know I was there when trying to tack her up and would throw her body around and run me over. When riding, she would have moments when she'd pay attention, but most of the time it was pretty ugly and she'd even try to throw herself at the rails of the arena at times (scary!). I found the best thing to do was just ride forward through it, and stay as relaxed as possible. Getting upset and riding defensively just made it worse. We had a lot of tough schooling sessions, but the mare was a total saint at shows, so I realized that although at times it seemed like we weren't getting anything accomplished it was somehow getting through. Good luck!


        • #5
          My horse used to be extreme as well, but is getting better. Two big things helped:

          -His reaction undersaddle was to scream his head off, curl behind the contact, and throw his shoulders around. Riding him FORWARD and STRAIGHT when he starts to get in a tizzy has really helped a lot, but took more bravery than I thought I had--I have a tendency to get tighter and want to slow him down, because that helps me feel like I'm in control. But it was counterproductive. Forward and straight scared me, but it really helped.

          -I taught him to tie. For real. No it's-ok-to-dance-but-please-stand-in-this-general-vicinity-for-5-minutes-while-I-brush-you, but SERIOUS, you-will-stand-there-for-two-hours-or-until-you've-quit-being-an-ass-no-matter-where-your-buddies-have-gone-or-what-they're-doing. Lots of people have different methods for this, for my horse I felt it was safest to start in his stall, secured with a short, solid tie and a rope halter. Hanging out at the barn (never leave them alone and keep something sharp on hand to get them loose if needed) for hours watching him work himself into a dither (and eventually calm himself back down) wasn't fun, but it really did help him figure out on his own that a)he'll live without a friend in sight and b)he doesn't get to throw a fit in order to get his way.

          Best of luck.