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Behavior problems of a co-dependent mare

Hi Franklin.

I recently purchased a 17 year old Quarter Pony to help my 2 girls learn to ride. When I looked at her I rode her in halter with lead rope and she listened well to commands and was very quiet and sweet tempered. Since I moved her to a new farm 1 month ago she is suddenly a different mare. She constantly hollers for all the other horses all the time. She has a very loud boisterous whinny...almost masculine. She will tolerate being handled, but if the other horses (also mares) are out of sight she gets very anxious and has actually tried to pull herself out of the crossties twice now. She is disengaged under saddle or working on a longe line and only pays attention 75% of the time. The other 25% of the time she is looking and calling for the other horses.

My intent was to present this pony to my girls 10, and 8 at Christmas but at this point I'm inclined not to. I want my girls to have a confidence builder for a first pony not something they are scared of. I'm not sure if moving her somewhere by herself would help or if this is a personality trait in this mare that is here to stay and I should consider a different first pony for my girls.

Any advice you can provide in regards to this behaviour would be appreciated.
Thanks, Trina

Hi Trina,

Sorry it has taken a while to respond. This is a very busy time for me.

Your situation is quite common. Any change in environment is upsetting to a horse. They are very relationship orientated and can't be expected to be moved from a home and friends they have known for some time, go to a new place where everything is new and no good human associtations have been formed and have everything be calm and serene. There will need to be a period of adjustment. How long that period takes is up to you. I do not knwo how much time you have or your horsemanship skills. But, what the horse needs is a human to connect with consistently and appropriately with the human as the 'great leader/parent'. You (or someone) has to bond with this horse as the only bonds she is forming are with the other horses around. This is why she is herdbound so fast. Good 'ground skills' with horses would be invaluable to you for this. I do not know your skill level. Your new horse is actually behaving quite normally for a horse. It should not be expected that all be just perfect after removing all the horse is familiar with. As with a child, a period of adjustment is to be expected. If this were a child, as the parent you would take some time to help your child adjust to his/her new home environment. Perhaps you would personally take the child around and introduce it to new neighbors and not just throw the kid in with a bunch of strangers. In the case of horses, a human spending a lot of time with a horse in this situation is really paramount and much overlooked. This would help the horse bond to you as much as it is to the new horses. I do not know any history of this horse. They have personalities. Some are more confident than others. This is a factor as well. She'll need more reassurance if she tends to be insecure. Check with her previous owners for information. We humans don't realize horses have such a wide range of feelings, emotions and relevent responses to changes in environments. This can be worked through. But it does requiresome skill, time and patience.

So, whether or not this mare will be all good and ready for your children depends on how much time you or someone else (trainer) can put into helping acclimate her to her new home and being handled by humans (and children) a lot. It can be done easily with the right person, time, skills and patience. I hope I have not detered you from keeping this pony. Almost any horse will go through a period of adjustment to this sort of radical change. Check with the previous owner and get as mcuh information as you can. It will help you to know and understand this horse's behavior. Good Luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

Hello again Franklin.

I just wanted to let you know how impressed I was with your professionalism and was very appreciative with how much time you spent to write me back when responding to my dilemma last November. I wanted to let you know how it turned out. I took your advice and called the previous owner for information. After talking about her behavior with the previous owner I decided to move her yet again to a location closer to my home so she could begin to bond with us on a more regular basis. It cost us some money and a couple of weekends stringing up a lot of new fence on our neighbor's property but it was worth it. Since I moved her away from the horses that were causing most of the problems for me with the pony she is a completely different mare. We gave her to our daughters for Christmas and she is working out very well. She is no longer penned next to other horses but shares a large pasture with our 3 goats and seems to be very calm and content. The human/horse bonding process is just beginning between the pony and my kids but I'm confident that it's off to a great start. Every time they show up at the pasture the pony stuffs her nose in the halter!

Thanks again for all your words of encouragement and for the outstanding website you provide to horse enthusiasts! Happy New Year!


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