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Separation Anxiety


I have a 6 year old Arabian mare. I also own her mother. the 6 year old has never been broken or separated from her mom. Her mom has been broken and has no problem being separated. How do I get the 6 year old to settle down so I can work with her, when I pull her away from her mom or restrain her in the pasture where her mom is- she gets very anxious, stopping, snorting, rearing. She will not stand still for brushing or general grooming. I am not sure what to do to get her to settle down. We bought both horses for riding, and do not want to have to get rid of the 6 year old but if we cannot ride her I am not sure I can justify keeping her She is a very friendly nice mannered horse except when trying to work with her she comes, eats out of our hands, lets us pet her just not work with her I am desperate for help. Please help me.  PS I cannot afford to send her to a trainer 

It sounds like a basic lack of clarity in communication, understanding and confidence with your six year old that is causing these scenarios to happen. Certainly because your horse is young (they take quite a while to mentally and emotionally mature even if physically they look "grown up") there will be a constant asking from them towards you "Do you really mean it?" This is not done in a challenging way, but is rather their way of trying to discover the boundaries of what behavior will "work" and what will be unacceptable. Many times when horses appear "sweet" and want to be near us physically we are interpreting this as affection and care. In a lot of cases it is actually the horse that feels she is "dominating" the person in the situation, even if they do not seem dominant or aggressive towards the particular person that they are near.

Your horse's physical actions are a reflection of her mental and emotional status. It sounds like when you interact her she may be physically next to you, but is still mentally with the other horse. There could be a few different things going on at the same time but it may look to you as if it is one big scenario. Below are a few ideas to think about when addressing your horses.

A.) Lack of respect towards you and/or any other human.

B.) Lack of understanding of personal space and awareness towards people.

C.) Lack of emotional and mental availability to ask a person, "What would you like?" They are rather filling in the answer themselves with what they think is right.

D.) Lack of "try" to understand when working with a person (such as being caught, led, tied, groomed, tacked, etc.) that they need to focus on the person rather than "everything else" going on in life.

E.) When they experience insecurity they need to feel or find leadership from the person who is working with them. If the young Paint was asking your husband for "help" and you did not realize it, your horse begins to show signs of stress and agitation.

Keep in mind that most times when a horse's behavior becomes apparent or "big" there were usually many warning signs of frustration, insecurity, worry, fear, or otherwise ahead of the "dramatic" behavior. Especially when working with young horses, every moment, every step, every thought matters. It is a lot of "work" for a person to be aware constantly of both what they are doing and offering their horse and how their horse is receiving and interpreting this information. You will have to address some of the issues I mentioned above separately and independently before trying to attain the "whole" picture.

You will need to be able to start to offer your the horse the opportunity to gain and build confidence. This can be done in many "small" and "simple" ways. Ideally to have a safe place such as a round pen, where she can be loose in a small area you can help her learn how to narrow down her options without having to manhandle her.

She will need to learn how to present herself to be caught, how to walk respectfully on the lead rope, how to stand quietly anywhere whether she is tied or not while you groom and saddle her, etc. All of this ground work is SO important because it sets the tone and attitude for the ride. If she is showing anxiety while you are working with her from the ground, you are getting a preview of how the upcoming ride will be. By learning how to communicate clearly to help her address what is worrying her, and then helping her learn how to "let it go," you are creating a trusting relationship which will then blend into your aids when you help her from the saddle. If you let the "basics" go from the start, every time you ride her you'll only be "hopeful" in surviving the ride. To me, horses are too strong and fast to be hopeful. I want to know that I have the tools necessary to work WITH them to sort out a situation.

My outlook is that I treat horses emotions and mental stability similar to that of humans. The more I get a horse or person to trust me, the more confidence they gain and the increased "try" they will have when addressing whatever I may present. Their respect will increase as they find that the "risks" they are willing to take in "trying" new things or actions help them wind up in a better place mentally, emotionally and physically.

Think of your time with your horse as the same balance she would find if she were in a herd. There is only one leader in the herd. So you have the option that either your horse or you can "lead." If your horse leads, her priority will be the other horse. Then her priority will be sticking by or finding the horse. But, if you give your horse clear scenarios presented in a "safe" setting such as a round pen, where she can start to learn what behaviors will work and those that will not when he interacts with you, she will start to mentally learn how to "learn" and "try" to address what you are asking of her.

IF you can get your horse to slow down and "think" her way through something (whether it be how slow she steps, stepping in a specific spot, teaching her to stand and wait, etc.,) her body will stay far more relaxed and compliant. But, if you physically try to dominate the horse and push or force her through something you will never change how she feels about what you have asked her to do, and so each time you present the same scenario she will become increasingly resistant. Rather if you change how she feels about what you are presenting, then she will be able to address it and move in with that ideal "warm fuzzy" feeling.

If you try to use force to get your horse to comply, which you may be able to do for a while, over time it will take more and more artificial equipment (open any magazine or go to any tack store and you'll see thousands of "short cut" aids) to get your horse to do what you would like. Although she may not act "huge" or dangerous, there will be an internal resistance and frustration inside of her that will increase every time you interact with her. Finally it may be a month or years later, she will reach the day when she can no longer be "forced" to do what you have asked and will "all of a sudden" freak out or act up.

It will take much more patience, effort, availability and time from you in the beginning to build a quality foundation with your horse, but it will affect her entire outlook of life with humans. Instead of having the teenager perspective of "Why should I?" which is how most horses operate, with trust and respect your horse will offer you a "What would you like me to do?" attitude which will be safer and more rewarding for both of you.
The last part is to evaluate if you have the time, ability and mental clarity to help your horse. If you cannot offer 100% when you work with her, you cannot expect her to participate fully.

Good Luck,

1 comment:

  1. Love this post but you never explained how to get what you want with out any force?


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