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Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde horse

Hi Franklin!

Well I'm feeling pretty stupid right now. We have a beloved and sweet 15 year old Arabian mare, have had her about 4 years. She's lived with other horses, including geldings, and there was never any problem. All the other horses were sold off and we rescued a 6-year old gelding. He was a doll before we moved him, and he's fine when he's with her, but after only one day together, if we separate them, he seems to go through a major separation anxiety. I'm hoping this will calm with time, he's barely been there for 24 hours. Today we worked on walking him on his lead and he did wonderfully when she was within sight, but he panics when she's gone. He was all by himself for quite some time before moving in with her. Now I read on your board that mares and gelding should be separated -- missed that in all my horse books! Tomorrow I want to work on lunging and see if I can get him used to his new bridle (same bit).

Any advice? Patti

Hi Patti,

Well, if you were on your way to being 'killed' (believe me, the horse knew what was going to happen), then you were rescued and put with an individual who was good to you and showed you as lot of attention and you were the only other one around, you might be afraid to leave their company also. His being by himself and now having a companion who treat him well will also cause some herd bound behavior. On the website I suggested mares and geldings be separated if a lot of horses are in a relatively small pasture. There is less bickering and less likelihood of injury when the mares come into their estrus cycles. If there is plenty of room, it is generally no problem. Also, your mare is going through a bit of withdrawal from the loss of her pasture mates and is probably giving the gelding a lot of extra attention and TLC. Here is what I would suggest: You need to become more in the geldings life. Your role in his life needs to be bigger. I would begin by spending a lot of time with him playing games (working him) on the ground. The more the better. Make it fun and easy. Always end your sessions on a very positive note. I have taken on horses that were so fearful they could not be caught or handled or were so herd bound that to do anything away from their pasture mates was impossible. All it took was time. I would spend and hour a day with each horse. You may be able to spend longer as you have fewer horses to deal with. As I said, the more time with the gelding the better. Some time with the mare would be good to as the gelding is her only companion after having a number of other horses to be with for quite a while (I am assuming that your other horses were all together for a good while). Horses habituate quickly and easily. By taking the time you will habituate the horses to having you as their leader and 'best friend'. It works!

Good Luck and keep me posted please.

Sincerely, Franklin

I have found that raising horses is not much different from raising humans -- you can build a relationship with your kids built upon fear (in which case they will obey but tend to be dysfunctional and neurotic), or you can build a relationship based upon trust and respect. The latter might take a little more time, patience and effort, but in the long run it is so worth it as the relationship will be more relaxed and enjoyable.

I know that, with regards to single parenting my children, I have never resorted to force or corporal punishment: instead, I've come up with more cerebral, creative solutions to any challenges that have arose. They are all 3 teens now and are bright, well-adjusted and wonderful young people. This same approach works well with horses and I am gratified on behalf of our animal friends that you are instructing others in this regard.

Thank you for your kind assistance and best wishes to you.


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