Michigan 7 year old Paso Fino owned by novice.

Question: This is not a training problem but it is a huge hurdle we will be facing in the next couple of months.  My mare has always been with a herd or boarded at facilities with several horses.  When I first stared working with her she would work herself into a lather in her stall, rearing, pacing, the whole bit.  She has improved and now doesn't mind being worked by herself or even being in a pasture by herself as long as she can see another horse.  However she still paces her stall or the fence if the other horses are out of site.  I am preparing to move her home and there are no other horses here.  I don't know how she will react to being an only horse.  Will it make a difference that there are no horses within sight, smell, or hearing distance?  What can I do to make this transition as comfortable for her as I can?



From Panelist Erica

You just answered part of your question - from your description it will only be natural that she will have a hard time adjusting at your place with no other horses. If you have the time prior to moving her, I would keep working with her and getting her comfortable being away from horses for a short time to start out and slowly lengthening it as she becomes more comfortable. If you form a good partnership bond with her you can become a part of her herd and be the company she seeks most - but it will take time and work. Keep her
busy on something the whole time and focused on you and your requests rather than worrying about other horses. 
Good luck!

Erica Frei



From Panelist Jonathan

Well this is a rather pleasant problem compared to most . Of course only if your mare reads this and complies ;) .

What you will need is a substitute pasture pal . A goat , donkey , sheep , I have heard of a llama , pig and even a dog filling the bill . Caution should always be taken when mixing other creatures with horses . My most favorite cat is no longer with me because of a young territorial filly and one of my stallions doesn't care for goats much .
Of course this will not substitute for a lot of quality time with you . In fact this would be a perfect oportunity for me to recommend one of my favorites for instant quality bonding . Spend the first few nights with her . That's right ! I'm sugesting you become /replace her need for company with you . Who or what better ! I see from your submitted data you 
have a arena , a stall beside her's would be safer but a arena is better than open pasture . Try it and  you will be amazed at the new animal you will have ! Ofcourse this is only a good idea if you have a good sense of horse comunication skills , which it sounds like you do .

Good Luck , try it you'll like it !

Jonathan



From Panelist Stella

Check carefully to make sure all your home facilities are safe and sturdy. 
This situation is very similar to weaning a foal, and actually the fact that there are no other horses near to respond in any way is helpful. You did not mention how much you rode by yourself, such as on trails, well away from other horses, but that should give you a good indication of how well or quickly she might adjust.

It may take her several weeks to totally adjust, but not having a response from other horses means less reinforcement to continue to call and act out, have the behavior subside more quickly. Try to plan on being home the first few days,groom her, ride her, walk her to familiarize with the new environment,but not to coddle her every time she acts out; but at least be somewhere you can monitor her, out of sight, just in case....just dont "play 
in" to her behavior.Such behavior usually occurs mostly with an audience, and while you will be the only familiar thing to her, work with her to establish her "new routine." Timing will be everything, go to work with her at a moment of her "being good" as a einforcement, and not "reward" her with your attention when "being bad." Behaviors that dont get any results are usually abandoned, sooner or later.

Whether or not she remains lonely really depends on how much time you spend with her on a regular basis. There are some horses that have difficulty and  do better with even another species, small animal, such as a goat, etc. as a companion, particularly in situations where the horse is not handled  regularly.

Stella



From Panelist Lee

Horses are by nature herd animals.  They have a psychological *need* for companionship of some kind.   When you are present for lessons or general riding, you make up the "herd" for this horse, and she has learned to accept that and work for you. However, you are not going to be with her all the time when she moves home with you.  The fact that there are no other horses around will not make her any happier with her solitary state.  

She will need something to be her herd -- even if it is not another horse.  Traditionally,
race horses with this sort of problem have "pet" goats or other companion animals (sometimes older ponies or donkeys)  kept with them.  I have heard of horses kept happily with "pet" pigs, cattle, sheep or even chickens.  One gelding I knew had a favorite rooster who lived in his stall, perched on his back, and shared his grain. They were very close buddies!

My suggestion would be to find her some hooved animal to keep as a companion --it is possible that  she could fret in her solitude to the point of losing weight and developing stess ulcers, which is not a good thing. 

Good luck with your new horse.

Lee Ziegler



From Panelist Nancy

Have you considered buying a Shetland to keep her company?  They are very 
inexpensive to keep.

Nancy Cade



From Panelist Liz

Hi,
I have found that this can be a very good situation for a horse that tends to be herd bound.
They learn to live with them selves and can hook up to you much more.

I recommend being sure that she doesn't get to stressed at first and would spend a lot of time with her at first and  keep some good grass hay going to her to keep her busy and watch that she continues to eat and drink normally.

I think it is better to have her where there are no signs of other horse than another close by that she may be able to see in the distance or hear.

Elizabeth
 

 

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