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Franklin Levinson's

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co-dependent/herdbound gelding

Hi Franklin,

Very nice website! I have an 11 year old gray warmblood gelding that has been with me for the past 4 years. I also have another bay QH gelding which I've had for approx 7 years. They each have their own pen (24x24) which is side by side. They both get daily turnout, grooming and are ridden 3-4 times a week. My question is about the warmblood horse - he was 7 years old and not broke to ride when I got him. He has since become a great riding horse and has good ground manners. The problem I am having is that he gets very upset if he is left in his stall while the other horse is out. I have tried taking the WB out first and either putting him in turnout or on the walker, but it seems to have only made the situation worse. He will whinny constantly, and get himself all worked up until his friend returns.

They are at a boarding facility and do have other horses within sight. The bay could care less when I take out the WB, at most he will greet him on his return. I'm wondering if you have any suggestions on how I can work with the WB to get him to be comfortable with his buddy being out. He doesnt seem to believe that his friend will always come back! The WB is fine if he is taken out without his friend - I can trail ride him by himself and he does not call out or get worried at all. Seems that he just doesnt want to be left out of the action. Any help would be greatly appreciated!


Hi Jill,

What you are seeing is simple herd bound behavior. One way I have had a lot of success with to overcome this behavior is for me to become more of the leader of the dance when the herd bound horse is with me and away from his buddies. For instance, last trip to the UK a lady brought two horses to my clinic. One was very herbound to the other. I brought them both into an arena with a rope halter and leadrope on the herdbound horse. I began to do some easy and basic ground schooling with the herbound horse to get him warmed up a bit. I then had a person lead the other horse away. By that time the herbound horse had been moving appropriately for me. I simply kept up the movement (circles, stopping, directional transitions, backing, etc.) until the horse stopped reacting to his buddy leaving. As soon as the herdbound horse relaxed with me just a little and stopped the calling and nervousness, I allowed him to rest as a reward. If he called again, or showed any nervous response, I put him to movement to get his attention back on me. It took about 15 minutes for all herbound behavior to stop. I actually began this with these horses while they where in stalls next to each other before the program. I had the 'easy' horse removed from the next stall and taken around the corner. The other horse started spinning around and getting very nervous in its stall. I then had the horse haltered and on a lead, in the stall, quickly and began to ask for hind quarter yields (simply bending the horse) in both directions the moment the horse showed nervousness. The movement was not abusive, difficult, or a punishment. It was a consequence for its nervousness. The moment it put its attention on me, I gave a rest and praise as a reward. It took about 5 minutes for the horse to settle with me when its buddy was taken out of sight. This process should cure the behavior if done over a period of a few weeks and very consistently. Become more of the good, active leader of your herd of horses (more than one individual makes a herd). You will deepen your relationship with them.

Sincerely, Franklin

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