Here is a game to help your horse give up being herd bound behavior. When working with horses at liberty, being herd bound needs to be removed from your horse to help him focus on you and allow the connection between the two of you 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 other horses that he does not want to leave. A 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 the conditions of being separated by force. Over the years, I have given you many approaches for removing herd bound behavior. However, 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 where he can still see his friends. Always choose what is the easiest on the horse because the horse will give up his herd bound behavior easily when he does not feel too concerned. When a horse is overly concerned it stops his ability to learn and he will hold tight to his need for the other 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 want to go back to my friends, I want to eat my treats.” This will start your horse thinking that his friends are nothing that he needs to be concerned about and 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 another bucket of treats for him to discover. Your horse will start to relax enough that you can take your horse out of sight from 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 bound behavior 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. I would like to hear about other games you may have created to help with being herd bound.
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!!
Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.
Here are a few more pictures of our last clinic: