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Catching and barnmate separation

Dear Franklin,

I have a 6 year old morgan gelding that has always been a dream to handle and ride. Since he has a tendency to put on weight in the spring I started wearing a muzzle on him which he hates. The last time I muzzled him he fought me a little but I eventually got it on him. In five minutes he somehow got it off and now I can't catch him or get the regular halter on him. I am afraid he is associating me and the halter with the dreaded muzzle. Before the muzzle episode, he was never upset about being away from his buddy. Now he has become so attached to his pasture mate that he screams and carries on every time I take his buddy into the barn. I am afraid he will hurt himself trying to get to his buddy. My barn is separate from the pasture.

Please Help, Carole

Hi Carole,

Isn't it intersting how one false step on our part can set off a set of circumstances with our horses so undesirable and time consuming to change? You are correct that your horse is now habituated to its behaviour and associates you with his fear. I suggest going back to the basics with the horse. But first off, once you get a halter on him again, turn him lose. When you get a halter on him after that, turn him lose again. Once he lets you halter him with no problem again you are ready to move on. Removing the halter and putting him away is the greatest reward you can give him for doing as you want.

Don't use the muzzel. Rather confine him to an area (we call it a dry lot) with less grass. Perhaps a smaller electric fenced in area. Is there a place near his buddy, where he can see his friend but not indulge in too much grass? I would also develop his trust in you again by doing the ground schooling exercises with him yourself. To get him trusting to leave his buddy, begin with a short walk away from his friend and then come back. Gradually you increase the time out of sight of his buddy. Its a simple process but takes a bit of time.

Good Luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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