Connecting With Herd Bound Horses
To all of my readers my Thanksgiving is more enjoyable because of you. I wish each and everyone of us the greatest Thanksgiving ever!! I am having my Thanksgiving with my mother, Apollo and many close friends at Windy Stopnitzky's ranch. Some of you may remember that Windy is my friend that owns the Pre horse Sonador who is going to be teaching us during the "Beyond the Waterhole Rituals" clinic on December 1-8, 2011. Here are a couple beautiful photos of Sonador taken by Alethia Saladino of Mystic Horse Photography. We have one space open created from a late cancellation. If you want to attend this clinic and you have worked with me online or in person, email me.
Herd Bound Horses
Here is a game to help your horse give up being herd bound. When working with horses at liberty, herd boundness needs to be removed from your horse to help him focus on you and allow the bond to grow. This game is a fun way to train the unwanted behavior out of your horse. A herd bound horse is hard to deal with if you force a horse to separate from horses he does not want to leave. An herd bound horse has extreme underlying anxiety that affects his well being in a negative way when having to leave his friends. For this reason alone it is important to help a horse to get over the overwhelming need to be with the herd for his or her own well being.
This exercise is fun because it takes little effort while being a nurturing and enjoyable interaction allowing your horse to discover that he does not need to worry about being with the herd. It is certainly more enjoyable to a horse to play this game rather than having to accept his conditions of separation by forcing him to. Over the years, I have given you many approaches for removing herd boundness, this is a new one that I think my new readers will enjoy along with my regular students.
Set Your Horse Up For Success
To start, set up the conditions that work best for your situation. There may only be one horse that your horse does not want to leave or you may have a horse that lives with a large herd. It is important that you create an environment where you can take your horse away from his friends and his friends will not follow. If the herd will stay put, you can work with your horse in the same field or you may need to get the herd to move close to an exit gate by putting food down by an exit gate. When you take your herd bound horse out of the field ensure that he can still see his friends.
Now that you have your environment set up, you can start by taking your horse away from his friends to a bucket of carrots or really great sweet feed to a place close enough that your horse would not be so upset that he would not want to eat. For some horses this distance might be just on the other side of the gate, for others it might be a short walk away that he can still see his friends. Always choose what is the easiest on the horse because the horse will give up its herd boundness easily when he does not feel too concerned. When a horse is overly concerned it stops his ability learn and he will hold tight to his need of the horses he is bonded to.
Take your horse to the bucket of treats and let him eat only enough to really enjoy the food you have offered him. As soon as he is very pleased with his reward take him back to his friends when he would rather keep eating. This way your horse will experience a loss of the food and wish he did not have to leave. He will begin to think, “I do not what to go back to my friends, I what to eat my treats.” This will start your horse to see that his friends are nothing he needs to be concerned about so he will be happy to do without them. Repeat this exercise everyday for ten days. Everyday put the bucket a little further away, if you can do that without getting your horse too nervous. Never put the bucket where it would create anxiety for your horse. As your horse begins to enjoy the trips to the bucket, you can then take him on walks after he finishes his reward bucket. On these walks hide yet another bucket of treats for him to discover. Your horse will start to relax enough that you can take your horse out of sight of his friends.
Another surprise you could have waiting for him, if your horse is living with a herd, is to have a horse he likes waiting for him at a place where he can no longer see the herd. Let them eat together and then lead them back to the herd and let them go. This method has always worked for me. After your horse seems to be over his herd boundness continue this exercise to keep his courage growing and you will have a horse that is herd bound no more. What you want your horse to know is that your leadership will always offer him a good deal and well-being if he just trusts in your leadership. From this point you can invent different games to continue your horse’s acceptance of being separated from other horses. You might like to share some other games that you have used.
What many equestrians do not understand is the effort and care that is needed in the training of horses. Don’t expect that a short effort will change your horse forever or overnight. When you leave your horse in a herd, and do not enter his life but on occasion, your horse will need a refresher course to win the connection back. Remember to watch out for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you on this Thanksgiving Day!!