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.

Mystic Horse Photography

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.

Pleasant Surprises

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!!



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Laura - a couple of months ago Reply

Thanks so much for your advice on heard boundness I can’t wait to try this. I just introduced a new mare to my gelding and can already see signs of her becoming herd bound when we ride down the road she wants to turn around and run back home. My gelding is very herd bound when she or he leaves the pasture. Wondering if there’s any advice I can do with the one left in the pasture? I think if the horse left in the pasture can have reduced stress then the one im out riding will also have deduced stress leaving. Thanks!

Marla Hinners - a couple of months ago Reply

I just became the owner of an awesome 14 yr old Tennessee Walker, we’ve gone on all 3 trail rides with one other horse from his new herd, and all rides were awesome. Nothing seems to bother him at all! He can patiently follow, or lead on, and away from the other horse.
But I tried to take him out on a solo ride yesterday, and there were, 5-6 horses on the trail about 15 minutes ahead of us, and the ride was horrible. I never lost control, but he constantly was trying to go faster to catch up to them? Took me completely by surprise, the ride lasted about an hour and a half, and he was like that the whole way.
I have done ground work with him, he will gladly follow me around the pasture and away from the herd on his own, so I am at a loss what to do here?

    Carolyn Resnick
    Carolyn Resnick - a couple of months ago Reply

    Dear Maria, What I have done in the past with horses that want to catch up the herd is turn them around and ride in a other direction that takes the horse further away for his goal. When the horse is relaxed I then turn around and head back to the horses he want to catch up with. You might need to do this for a week or so until you figure out how to get across to your horse that he needs to relax to catch up with his friend. Let me know how is works out for you. Carolyn

Sally Adam/South Africa/IC/Garlic - 4 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn

When I first got a horse two years ago, I thought the point of horse-ownership was to go out riding. Since following your advice and suggestions, I’ve discovered that there is so much more!

As I jogged the 400 yards home this morning, a happy horse trotting along beside me (we’d had a pleasant wander through my neighbour’s fields together) I decided that I must tell you how well your advice re the herd-bound horse has worked for me. I’m now enjoying walks with both horses and the two donkeys and it’s a complete delight!

Thank you

karin kozlowski - 4 years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn,

Checking in and thank you.


Tracy Litle - 4 years ago Reply

Thanks Carolyn for sharing what you do with us. I have learned so much from you. God’s peace be with you.

carrie eastman - 4 years ago Reply

Excellent simple suggestion. Thank you!

Crissea Grovenor - 4 years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn,

As ever I enjoyed your post. My problem is that Ransom the horse left behind gets upset not the horse I am leading away.
So I will push a bowl of tasty treats under the fence to Ransom as I pass by with Andre and stay in sight. I also tend to take Andre from his paddock to a treat bucket down the drive away because he gets excited and nervous when he is not certain of the surroundings. Now we have progressed to the grassy patch and then if he starts pulling I walk back towards his paddock, stand for a while and then try again, now we are aiming for the round yard. (still in sight of Ransom)
Every time I pass Ransom I will push treats under the fence. So with both horses
I am working on different issues. I loved the photos of Sonador.
I am sure you had a wonderful weekend/
warmest wishes

    Diane Reynolds - 4 years ago Reply

    My question is do you all lead your horse away from the herd while you’re in the saddle, or walking beside him, or does it matter? Thank you.

Tamara Blits - 4 years ago Reply

Happy thanksgiving!, It was a wonderful time. I got to see my lots of friends and family, that I haven’ seen for years. My son Jeff invited eveyone to his house, we live in Apple Valley, CA. He has a nice big house on two acres. I went to see my horse in the morning,he is so much fun. I love taking him for a walk. He loves to stop and eat grass, and leaves. He is so friendly. Then I turn him out in a big corral to play. He runs off, but always comes back to me.I think he enjoys being with me. He will follow me anywhere, yet his idea of following me is a freedom to move, where he wants to go. If I move, and call him he is always right with me. He is very smart. He knows what I say to him., because I talk to him all the time. He always wants to check out other horses, he is so curious. He lives in his stall most of the time. When he is out walking, he likes to see other horses, and he is just to friendly. I think he is showing them how happy he is. My hat; is his hat now. He used to jump away from it, when it fell off. Now it’s his hat too. I let him eat out of it , I rub him all over with it, and put it on his head. He has been very head shy, so I lower his head and , rub him all over with it. The hat is the best, he lets me put it on his head now.

Wilma (IC) - 4 years ago Reply

Happy Thanksgiving, Carolyn.

Lisa Hill - 4 years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn, Great post! Being that this is a Thanksgiving Post. I want to thank God for bringing you and your method into my life. My Magnum just started to have this problem of herd boundness. So this post is something I needed to hear and use. Thank you and God Bless~Lisa & Magnum

Phyllis Whitlock - 4 years ago Reply


This information is wonderful! I cannot wait to try this with my horses. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving and enjoy the coming days!



Anna-Karin Hägglund (In a box) - 4 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn,

This will be a good thing to do with my horses. Last winter we did some practise of this game and it worked out well. The horse that I leave in field get more upset than the horse I take with me. So for me it is importent that the horse in the field has something tasty to chew on.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Andrea Schwiegel - 4 years ago Reply

Happy thanksgiving!
Unfortunately my mare Clarence has no herd she can share a pasture with, as the owner of the place does not want to keep the horses together. So she can communicate with her neighbours only over the fence. I guess, I’m her herd, and when I come she always arrives at high speed, eager to go for a walk or a graze.
Warm greetings from Italy.

    DianeUrsch - 4 years ago Reply

    Hi Andrea,
    I just came across your email, and I wanted to tell you about the expression that I use for this…you are a “herd of two” with Clarence. I have just begun my journey with Carolyn’s program, but I learned that from Parelli. It is an expression I love, because it just seems to wrap mental arms around the relationship.

Grace - 4 years ago Reply


Happy thanksgiving everyone.

I’m really excited to try this exercise with my herd bound mare, Marsan. I’ve taken on walks before where she got to graze along the way and I found that doing that consistently helped a lot. It’s fascinating to me the way our whole herd will get upset if I take a horse just behind the barn, but they don’t worry at all if I take a horse all the way down the road because they can still see us.

I also wanted to tell you Carolyn, how much your suggestions from last post have helped me. I went down the other day to play with Gingy. In the beginning it seemed like we had a pretty good connection going, but when I let him out of his run into the main corral he went off and completely ignored me. I started to assume that he was grumpy, but then I remembered what you said about looking for the horse that wants to connect. When I actually stayed in the moment and looked at Gingy without any assumptions it seemed to me that he was leaving me mainly because he has lost interest in what I was doing. So just like you said I used the eye contact ritual with him and the connection improved a lot. I’m beginning to see the simplicity of connecting with a horse by looking at what they want from you. In my case Gingy wanted me to grab his attention.

Best wishes,

hannah - 4 years ago Reply

Very interesting post. I live on a ranch with my family and we have a small herd of horses.
My 14 year old Morgan mare was extremely herd bound to one mare named cowgirl. Cowgirl didn’t care but the Morgan Kickapoo did.
How we got her over her herd boundness was by riding her away from cowgirl and giving her big jobs to do. Like when we moved cows from one big pasture to another I would work away from cowgirl. Leaving Kickapoo to work by herself with no other horses around her. And when we weren’t moving cows riding her by herself. Also by bringing her in and tieing her up or putting her in a pen out of sight from cowgirl to work it out. It took a while but slowly she finally relaxed from being so herd bound. I can now ride her anywhere with or without cowgirl.
Good ideas from Carolyn I will have to try some of them.

Deborah - 4 years ago Reply

I really appreciate this solution to herd boundness.
It’s seems so simple, yet the more common solution in the horse community would be to simply separate the parties until they “get over it” , causing unnecessary stress and maybe hurting the horse/human relationship.
Thanks for sharing …

Lila the Horse Coach - 4 years ago Reply

Happy thanksgiving wishes Carolyn and staff. It is truly a blessing to receive your blogs and support in this grand adventure. I LOVE LOVE LOVE ALETHIA of Mystic horses PHOTOS! thank you for sharing them with us.

I started thinking and wondering if this kind of method would work with people that have anxiety about new experiences, or kids. What is the first day of school was more like how you described or if parents worked up to helping us to accept new experiences in a kind and thoughtful manner.

Looking forward to seeing you in a week! All my Best Lila

Laura Kerley - 4 years ago Reply

Happy Thanksgiving Carolyn (and all)! 🙂

As I work more with my stallion with your WH rituals (even though it’s just ST and Leading from Behind currently and not on a consistent basis!) and the more I read your words of wisdom, the more I know in my heart that the WH rituals are such a blessing!

Thank you Carolyn for sharing them with all of us on this blog and elsewhere! One day I shall be able to afford to take your clinics and to get private instruction from you!

My dream is to dance with my magnificent P.R.E. stallion…

With love and appreciation,

stina - 4 years ago Reply

wawu what a beauty to get to work with on a clinic

kamille - 4 years ago Reply

Happy Thanksgiving Carolyn!! :o)

Kristine - 4 years ago Reply

Thanks Carolyn for another great post!!!

Happy Thanksgiving :))

Marja van Run - 4 years ago Reply

Checking in, and thanking you for sharing this approach on herdboundness.

Carolyn Bourchier U.K. IC 2010 - EC Spring2011. IC 2011 - 4 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn
Checking in and thank you
Carolyn B

Sabina van Duijvendijk - 4 years ago Reply


Just checking in thank you for the tip I also have such a horse so I will try this at home… Have a nice thanks giving day.

Kind regards, Sabina

Elodie Belz (ICC Spring 2011) - 4 years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn,

Happy Thanksgiving to you too! (although I am a bit late). I really like this post! Herd boundness was a “problem” I had with Bonito. When his friends were on the pasture away from the stall, I could not take him alone back to the stall to work in the arena because he was completely hectic. It was also impossible to go on walks together, although I would have really loved to. I would have loved to try the method you describe with him. It will be for the next horse in my life I guess, I keep it in mind 😉

Have a nice week-end,

Susan garvin - 4 years ago Reply

Checking in, and thank you Carolyn for this very timely blog entry. I will make this one of my christmas holiday adventures! Since finally realising his dream of being free in a herd, Miki quite natrually is rather herd bound, and in particular is very anxious when leaving his beloved girlfriend, Mer. We will both enjoy doing this.
happy thanksgiving to you and all the team,
warmest wishes
(IC, Italy)

Geerteke Kroes - 4 years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn, thank you for your Thanksgiving wishes. We do not have a day like that in Holland. Perhaps we should introduce that. Being thankful for every day with or without horses given to us is something to be grateful for.
Lovely pictures of Sonador. I am looking forward to meeting him. Warmly, Geerteke

Linda - 4 years ago Reply

This really works and is much less stressful than other”forceful”methods that I see recommended. Thank you for caring.

Toni Farrell - 4 years ago Reply


Checking in.


Pat Lawrie - 4 years ago Reply

Hi Carolyn,
Checking in and want to thank you on this Thanksgiving Day for all you have shared and continue to do. I have learned so much from you.

I have finally found the field of my dreams to rent, close to home, and will be developing it into a horse play/training/agility park. I feel I can move positively forward and implement more of your teachings with my own horses and will see what interest it generates in others when they see the strong bond I share with my two horses, Dakota and Magnum. And it has the perfect Sharing Territory tree, yeah!

That second photo of Sonador above is fabulous!!!

Pat in Mexico

Christine Schetter, EC, horse: Noema and Romeo, New Zealand - 4 years ago Reply

Dear Carolyn,

happy happy Thanksgiving to you! Your weekend ahead sounds lovely!
What a great article! I am definitely going to give this a go! I have never hacked out my gelding on his own because he is extremely herd bound and just a few days ago I thought I want to do something about that.

warm regards,


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