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Herd Bound Question

These two new horses I have are very buddy sour and barn sour. We can't get them to leave the front yard--even when they are being lead with a lead and halter (opposed to being on their back)--We have taken your approach and are patiently taking our time with them as they learn to trust us--they have been neglected and I'm pretty sure abused to a certain point. We take them out, let them graze outside the fenced- in pasture, brush them, just plain spend time with them. I have noticed gradual changes such as the pony's temperament is a little better, and the paint is now starting to come to the fence opposed to stand away. What are your suggestions as to what else I should be doing? Is there a secret to rid them of being buddy and barn sour? Or is it just a matter of time? I know they were given to me for a reason--I need them as much as they need me--and I know it's going to be a good lesson for me and patience and understanding--just need some tips. Thanks so much!


Hi Stefanie,

Herd bound horses are some of the most common challenges humans can have with their equines. There is no quick fix. Every method takes time and is done gradually. Gradual separation, gradually lengthlened time, plenty of reward for more and more trust and compliance are some of the basics of that process. The ability to provide a consequence of movement for unwanted behavior is very good as well. Leg yields and specifically hind quarter yields (turns on the haunches) seem to be most effective. But the horse needs to have reached a certain level of trust and compliance before a consequence can become appropriate as a learning technique and not merely become a 'punishment.' Never punish as everything you don't want is probably fear based. Set up learning situations by setting up the situation you know you will see the fear come out. Have a plan to implement on the spot. That way you can better control the situation and be ready to teach as opposed to punish. Also, do a lot more on the ground than hanging out and grooming and feeding. You will develop a bigger, stonger bond by playing and dancing on the ground with your horse. This will help the 'herd'bound' behavior better than anything else. You need a bigger, stronger, more developed relationship of trust and respect with your horse than you currently have. Hanging out is fine but accomplishes little as far as teaching and developing a relationship with any horse. This is done though activity and interaction that is successful for you and your horse ON THE GROUND! Do it with horse in the field with other horse around, no problem. Eventually, walk him away and you will be amaized. Your abilities to direct movement and have mutually successful interaction and directed action is the key. Understanding when the horse is trying to comply and rewarding that 'try' is most important. This helps the horse want to learn. Do you understand? Can you visualize yourself playing games and dancing with the horrse on the ground? This is what it takes.

Until you become as important to your horse as the other horses in the herd, you will have the same problem. Makes sense doesn't it? Get really good with him on the ground. Be able to do this immediately and anywhere. Eventually, your horse will not want to leave your side. If you do not fully understand this process let me know. It won't take long once you really understand and know what and how to do this.

Sincerely, Franklin

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