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Three horses - unavoidable herd bound issues?

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    Three horses - unavoidable herd bound issues?

    Just pondering....my last horse property fluctuated between having two to three horses. All geldings, never had an issue with any of them being herd bound, However, whether in the pasture, stalls, or arena, they could see the others.

    Our new property is much larger and I have two mares and a gelding. Pasture and arena are far away and completely out of sight from the barn. When I initially moved them home, my more dominant mare was fine going out first by herself, and then I'd grab the other two and turn them out. Now, she stops several times on the walk down to the pasture and starts screaming and bucking once turned out until her friends join her.

    Riding-wise they are all fine since the pasture adjoins the arena, but there's no way I could ride one if the other two were up at the barn. Annoying because I have to tack up down in the pasture, would like them to get over it and be okay with being in the barn by themselves.

    Since this is brand new, today I spent about 30 minutes with each of them just working on leading them down to the pasture alone. They got to graze for a minute on the way down if they walked nicely with me as a reward. My alpha mare kept stopping, so I'd back her up then ask her to walk forward again. When she'd walk forward, I'd reward by letting her take a bite of grass. Finally got her down to the pasture by herself, gave her a treat, and brought her back up. My gelding went down happily by himself, but once in the pasture heard the mares calling and then started getting worried. The third mare is a bit neurotic, she's already had a broken leg from going through a fence when left alone, so I don't really want to push it with her (and she's not mine, so definitely not going to take chances!) so she gets led out with my gelding who is her BFF.

    I think I'm on the right track, but if anyone has advice I'd love to hear it! I am wondering if maybe I should add cross fencing so they aren't all turned out together? They were all on private turnout at my trainer's barn.

    I feel like I've read SO MANY threads about 2-3 at home horses developing herd bound issues. All three of these horses have been in a show program the majority of their lives and are used to being around lots of other horses. I have the space for more horses, so if that's the easiest solution, I'd consider that too! Just wondering what others have experienced and how you've dealt with it given it seems to be such a common issue!

    #2
    That’s how I ended up with four horses- when two left, there were still two to keep each other company, lollol. Three were not allowed to go unless I had a fourth rider because I was not buying more horses

    If one left, nobody cared, including the one I took out because I did not allow that carrying on business from the horse I was on

    Comment

      Original Poster

      #3
      Originally posted by walkinthewalk View Post
      That’s how I ended up with four horses- when two left, there were still two to keep each other company, lollol. Three were not allowed to go unless I had a fourth rider because I was not buying more horses

      If one left, nobody cared, including the one I took out because I did not allow that carrying on business from the horse I was on
      You're telling me exactly what I'm suspecting is the case - pairs are always easier!!! My poor husband...

      Comment


        #4
        I guess I'm lucky. I have had to downsize to 2-3 horse for the last few years and I can take 2 or 1 away, any combination and the one left or the one gone doesn't fret. They are all pretty bold and seem to have no trouble on their own. One is a former mustang stallion, not herd bound at all. The other is my 18 year old pony who will literally go, come, be by himself, have others taken away and just doesn't care. My 6 year old who was weaned off with my pony also can come go and be left, no issues. I now have 4 horses and suspect I'll have few issues; but, one big advantage that I have at both of my horse properties is that my neighbors also have horses and every one can see each other.
        Ranch of Last Resort

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by walkinthewalk View Post
          That’s how I ended up with four horses- when two left, there were still two to keep each other company, lollol. Three were not allowed to go unless I had a fourth rider because I was not buying more horses

          If one left, nobody cared, including the one I took out because I did not allow that carrying on business from the horse I was on
          Same.

          I have three now and they're a little more tolerant.
          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

          Comment


            #6
            It just really depends on the horses, IME. I have a small farm where the turnout is somewhat removed from the barn and arena. I do think the small farm environment brings out herdbound tendencies in some of them.

            On the one hand, I had an awesome pony mare who was totally happy being turned out alone while my others were on stall rest. My retiree gelding might stand at the gate if left alone outside but never calls or panics, and is fine alone in the barn.

            But I’ve also had those that would panic and threaten to run through a fence if I took just one horse out of the field to ride, even if they still had another buddy. The behavior sometimes moderates a little as they settle in, but I’ve never had one turn totally trustworthy.
            Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm: http://thesmallhorsefarm.blogspot.com

            Comment


              #7
              I am currently battling it with 2 at home. They were together for 2 weeks and after dangerous behavior while ridden by the older of the pair were separated and have remained completely separate since (about a week now). I plan on keeping them separate for a month while working on reinforcing the ideas that 1. They *MUST* behave while being handled/ ridden alone or not 2. Friends will always be just around the corner 3. They are always safe with me. There has been dramatic improvement already and most of the week + apart was spent with me out of town (so no training sessions).

              I will say neither was ridiculous/ desperate when left alone in the paddock. There is and was some calling (typically 2-3 whinnies) and maybe standing at the gate or pacing at the walk for 5 minutes, but they go to their hay pretty quickly and I have never worried about them going through our (not very robust) fence. Our property is small and they can see each other if one is in the paddock and the other in the barn if they stand just right, but I am aware of that so have been closing the barn door that they can look through.

              Comment


                #8
                I have 4 horses, 3 is the ideal number for me. I can take one away and not worry about the other 2. The gelding is dominant. I don't give him the opportunity to be herd bound. He goes out by himself. I have tried turning him out with others. He chases them until they are galloping like a bunch of crazies- every time.

                My mares all get along well. The boss mare does intimidate my old horse, but they are still buddies. They call when seperated, and I keep them together unless trailering off property. For some reason I only get a few calls when I drive off and everyone goes back to eating.

                When I only had 2 horses, they were very herd sour and someone had to be locked in a stall if I took the other horse anywhere. Not fun. Screaming and pacing the stall. I don't want to go back to that. The issue disappeared when I added a 3rd horse.

                It is dependent on the horse. No one calls for the gelding. No one calls for the bottom of the herd mare. If the boss mare leaves everyone calls, she's the herd favorite. The old mare doesn't go anywhere but they do call to her, so she's definitely the 2nd favorite around here. The old mare likes everyone except the gelding. She crinkles her nose at him in disgust.

                Comment

                  Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by exvet View Post
                  I guess I'm lucky. I have had to downsize to 2-3 horse for the last few years and I can take 2 or 1 away, any combination and the one left or the one gone doesn't fret. They are all pretty bold and seem to have no trouble on their own. One is a former mustang stallion, not herd bound at all. The other is my 18 year old pony who will literally go, come, be by himself, have others taken away and just doesn't care. My 6 year old who was weaned off with my pony also can come go and be left, no issues. I now have 4 horses and suspect I'll have few issues; but, one big advantage that I have at both of my horse properties is that my neighbors also have horses and every one can see each other.
                  I think the fact that they can see other horses from your property probably helps immensely! I have a feeling that's one thing making it harder on my three right now, our property is so spread out that you can't see the barn from the pasture. My last place they could see each other from anywhere on the property and whether I had two or three there I never had issues.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by SugarCubes View Post

                    I think the fact that they can see other horses from your property probably helps immensely! I have a feeling that's one thing making it harder on my three right now, our property is so spread out that you can't see the barn from the pasture. My last place they could see each other from anywhere on the property and whether I had two or three there I never had issues.
                    No doubt it helps the 3 and 6 year old; but, I've had the 9 and 18 year old left alone where they couldn't see or hear another horse. They simply do not care. That is why it's usually one of the two I will use to baby sit others. I know that I can take the 'weaner' away and neither of them adds to the stress of separation. They just keep eating. I've owned a larger property that was spread out where these two acted the same way. Another thing that helps all 4 is that I will ride them out, individually, off of the property for many miles. Those left behind have occasionally whinnied when I've left; but, it's something that each of mine is expected to be able to do - and they do it without drama. Always a true test the first or second ride out; but, so far it's worked well.
                    Ranch of Last Resort

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Just two is too often an issue I think. Surprised the three have issues. Another option rather than a fourth horse is a mini, a donkey, or a goat (with a fence that holds water).

                      Comment

                        Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Tarlo Farm View Post
                        Just two is too often an issue I think. Surprised the three have issues. Another option rather than a fourth horse is a mini, a donkey, or a goat (with a fence that holds water).
                        I really think it's the boarded mare that's causing the drama!! My two (old gelding and boss mare) were here alone and perfectly fine before she arrived. But, I will say my work with them yesterday has already made a difference. My boss mare went out alone this morning and was fine, and my gelding was left in the barn alone for breakfast and didn't care. It's the third mare that screams her head off! So, we're getting there....although I do have a call in for a pony for sale

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I've had 2 and as many as 5 at one time all living together and none of them were in the least bothered with being left or leaving the others. The last 15 years I have the 2 mares and did have a mule and now a young gelding. One mare is a neurotic, herd bound mess if left alone and I really believe her actions rub off on the others.

                          When it was my mares and the mule, I tied everyone up in the barn and took them out to work/ ride individually and they were fine.

                          With the same 2 mares and the youngster, we usually ride the mares at the same time ( although both can be ridden completely alone just fine) and I put the gelding in his paddock while we ride. He does call a bit but is otherwise unaffected. Getting into a routine of sorts seems to help.

                          I really think herd bound tendencies is something a horse predisposed to at birth , if given the right circumstances.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            It will get better. They just have to go through the routine every single day. More horses definitely are easier in that situation though!
                            ​​​​When we first moved into our farm, our barn wasn't ready for clients so we just had our own 3. The first week was rough! They were all crazy and stuck together like glue. Riding one without the others was difficult even right beside the barn. And they were all well trained horses.
                            After a week it was over. They felt secure in the space and I was even able to trailer 2 away from the farm and leave one home alone with no problems.
                            I noticed all of the horses becoming more settled and even less clingy when we increased the number of horses in the barn. Now, with 8 on the property there's always a friend in sight somewhere.

                            Comment

                              Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Goforward View Post
                              It will get better. They just have to go through the routine every single day. More horses definitely are easier in that situation though!
                              ​​​​When we first moved into our farm, our barn wasn't ready for clients so we just had our own 3. The first week was rough! They were all crazy and stuck together like glue. Riding one without the others was difficult even right beside the barn. And they were all well trained horses.
                              After a week it was over. They felt secure in the space and I was even able to trailer 2 away from the farm and leave one home alone with no problems.
                              I noticed all of the horses becoming more settled and even less clingy when we increased the number of horses in the barn. Now, with 8 on the property there's always a friend in sight somewhere.
                              Thanks for sharing your experiences! It is funny to see three show horses, who are used to being hauled to different venues constantly, suddenly feel so insecure in small numbers! Yesterday was super successful though, both my mare and gelding stayed up at the barn by themselves to be tacked up and untacked and bathed. Neither of them cared, and only called when the boarded mare was screaming at them from the pasture (who was fine too, and had a friend with her at all times). My mare ended up staying in by herself for about an hour and was totally fine. A week ago I would have been worried she'd tear down her stall door!

                              Comment


                                #16
                                I have 4. 1 of them isn't mine and never leaves the pasture. I work the other 3 in varying groups. Sometimes I take all 3 out together. They all lose their minds screaming for 1 of them who doesn't care at all about them or take any notice. Whenever that 1 mare is removed, the others pace, run around, call, and in general work themselves up. I ignore all of this behavior.

                                I can take any of the others out and no one cares or has an issue leaving the herd. Herd dynamics are weird

                                Comment

                                  Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Another Poster View Post
                                  Herd dynamics are weird
                                  HORSES are weird

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    If it were me...and it could be done, I'd cross fence/set up 3 or 4 separate paddocks or small fields in your closest area. Just to be able to separate and rotate them often so they are accepting of it as normal. To me, herdbound happens when nothing is alternated and they are always kept together. JMHO! Best Wishes in your new place!
                                    ayrabz
                                    "Indecision may or may not be my problem"
                                    --Jimmy Buffett

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      I had two horses for a couple of years. Two horses + small farm environment = BAD horse dynamics. Especially if one is a mare. Now I have three. It is not good but it is better than just having two horses miles from other equines on a small quiet farm. When I got the second mare I tried turning all three out together after they got used to each other over a fence. It didn't work. My original mare who had a pony gelding as her "friend" kicked him to the curb when she got a new "friend". And the new mare preferred to gallop all over constantly and the original mare had foot problems so she was destroying her feet trying to keep up.

                                      So the new mare went out by herself and the two original friends got turned out together. This was a blessing in disguise since the new mare became a lot less herdbound. I can take her out and over to my arena and work her and she doesn't care that she can't see the other horses. The other horses don't call for her either.

                                      I do have to haul the original mare to the vet to get her feet done and somebody is left behind. If it is the pony - he screams a little and then settles down. The other mare I put in the stall while I am gone with the other two. She screams a little when I leave and when I get back but seems to calm down after the other two are out of hearing distance. I didn't want her to run through the fence or act crazy when we get back so this works best. Four horses would probably work best but that is about two horses too many. I envy people with horses that are not herd bound.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        I think it depends a lot on the individual horses. We currently have 2 geldings at home, and they are buddies but they are not herd bound. One of them is a semi-retired pleasure horse due to a pasture accident a few years ago (at another barn), and the other is a young TB eventer. The TB leaves the property at least once a week to go for lessons or shows, and the other horse is just fine with it. The semi-retired guy is still ridden, and the TB just munches hay in his stall.

                                        When we first brought them home, we planned to get a third, maybe a pony or mini, as a companion/mascot. But so far, it's working just fine with 2!

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