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Helping a Pet Horse with Serious Separation Anxiety

Horses can look rough and tough on the outside, but they’re really gentle farm animals who can get very attached to their herd or to a buddy horse. In fact, there are terms for these horses: “herd bound” (horses insanely attached to their herd) and “buddy sour” (horses who doesn’t want to be separated from a buddy). Trying to remove these horses from their comfort zone can spell a disaster to you and to your pet horse. But, sooner or later, you may need to wean them from their buddies, so you need to help your pet horse mend its separation anxiety.

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What Could Happen If You Don’t Help Your Horse

Separation anxiety can be detrimental to your horse’s psyche, which could manifest in different ways in different horses. Some could be depressed enough to eat; others could become dangerous. You or your pet horse itself could seriously get hurt as it tries to escape to find its buddies. A horse behaving badly when separated from the herd is definitely NOT able to take a rider.

Fortunately, there are techniques you can follow to help your pet horse mend its separation anxiety. The techniques are not too time demanding; you can do them in scheduled time with your pet horse.

Give Your Pet Horse Security

The reason horses don’t want to be separated from the herd or from buddy horses is their need for security. A horse understands that there’s safety in number, so being alone is frightening to a herd bound or to a buddy sour. Use this knowledge to help free your pet horse from its separation anxiety by providing your pet horse security. Make it feel secure around you or in its barn.

By visiting your pet horse often, grooming it calmly, speaking to it with a low, reassuring voice, and keeping sudden loud noise from its stall, you’re slowly going to gain your pet’s trust. When it’s more willing to move when you ask it to, you can slowly progress to retrain your pet horse.

Helping a Buddy Sour

Having a pet horse that’s dependant on its buddy to function properly is embarrassing. So if you see signs that your horse is getting too attached to its buddy, make a move to break the unhealthy bond. What you can do is to remove the other horse from your pet horse’s side while it’s eating. Horses feel vulnerable when putting their head low on the ground to eat; that’s when they need their buddy to look after them. So feeding is an opportune time to free your pet horse from its separation anxiety.

What you can do is paced the other horse back and forth while your pet is eating, gradually increasing the distance away from your pet. If your pet horse gets anxious, stop and wait for it to calm down. When it has calmed down, move the other horse a little closer. Do this every feeding time, increasing the distance until your pet horse is confident to eat alone. It’s also good to change stall neighbors regularly to prevent a horse from being too attached to the other animal.

Helping a Herd Bound

Sooner or later, all pet horse needs to be separated from its herd. And it needs to still function properly even if it’s living alone in its barn away from its herd buddies. Here, a little – or a lot – of bribe isn’t bad to help a herd bound eliminate its separation anxiety. What you can do is separate a herd bound little by little from the herd. Make each separation a very pleasant experience for your pet horse by giving it treats or doing what it loves to do. Make it feel secure and happy in its new place, too.

But of course, don’t expect your herd bound to cure its separation anxiety over night. Make the separation gradual. A few minutes, increasing to few hours each day until your pet horse is okay being away from the herd is better than leaving it dysfunctional for the rest of its life.

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