Natural Horse World

Separation Anxiety

I have a problem that I would like your advice on – you may remember that I talked to you a couple of months ago about the two horses that I have and them not wanting to be separated? Well this situation has become much worse since I haven’t been able to work with them over the last couple of months.
The young gelding, is just terrible when he is away from the mare, it used to be the other way around. The last couple of weeks when I’ve been working with him, he just keeps turning to me and rearing up all the time – even if I’m not asking him to do anything! I kept thinking he’d get used to it and persevered, but if anything he’s getting worse, so the only way I can work with him is if I go into the paddock where they both are as I can’t tie up the mare as she gets very agitated and always has done. What do you suggest?

Firstly, with your problem of separating the horses, you need to understand why they are doing this – it helps to know so we don’t blame them or get frustrated.
The 2 of them depend on each other for their survival in their herd – that’s how nature programs them.
The gelding is probably worse because the mare is his alpha horse and he feels unsafe when he leaves her.
The only way around this is for you to become is alpha horse so he feels safe when he’s with you.
This will take savvy and time!
Think about the number of hours he spends with the mare – its a lot more than the hours he spends with you so therefore the programming to be with her is a lot stronger.
She’s playing the games with him all the time and therefore he respects her and trusts her.
If you do the same, he will be the same with you.
The problem is compounded by the fact that you’re also taking him outside of his comfort zone (the paddock he’s used to) – areas he doesn’t spend a lot of time in are scary and therefore he relies even more on his alpha horse for safety.
So, what I’d suggest you do is the following:
Only play with him in his paddock until you have all 7 games up to Level 1 standard.
Then start to take him just on the other side of the fence from the mare and play the games, gradually increasing the distance you can go from the fence. This may be only 10 metres in the first few days! Increase it very slowly and use approach and retreat to go further away but come back to this comfort zone before he gets stressed.
That way you’re rewarding him for trusting you and increasing his comfort zone.
If you need to play with him in an area away from his paddock (like in a yard), bring the mare with him – put her in a yard next to where you want to play with him or if you don’t have a yard, make one with electric tape.
If you wanted to play with him in a new large area (paddock) and have her there too, let them settle in that area together for a few hours before you try to do anything constructive.
I think once you have the Partnership Pack, you will find it a lot easier to make progress with him at home. It will give you a good guide for the games to play with him in his paddock and tell you when you’re ready to progress further. I hope this helps, Cynthia.

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