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My horse paces the fence line

Dear Franklin,

I am boarding a new 18 yr.old, Morgan gelding in my five stall barn. He has one habit that is perplexing. We have six one acre pastures. When I turn this gelding out he begins to pace the fence. I go into the gate to halter and he still paces like he is in a trance. He does this even when other horses are in the acre with him. He does not pace when he is in the five acre pasture with the others. I can walk to him and halter him before he panics but my style is for the horse to come calmly to the gate, put his head over the gate, I halter, and then I open the gate and he is to walk with me. I have tried to just wait him out or leave him to pace until he calms but the pacing went on for six hours.

Thanks for your ideas.

Hi Beth,

I know its been a while since you sent me your question. I travel internationally quite a bit and cannot answer all the questions that come in as timely as I would like. I hope I can offer some insight to your situation and, perhaps, a suggestion or two.

A horse that paces is showing anxiety for some reason. The fact that he paces in one pasture and not in the other would indicate there is something about being there in that particular place the causes him to become anxious. You say he does not do this in the 5 acre pasture, but only in the one acre pasture. So, the size of the enclosure could be a factor. With other horses in there with him, this may even increase his anxiety as he may be in such a position in the social structure that he feels crowded and somehow pressured by the other horses (that they are a threat to him somehow). Even when they are not there, this pressure still exists because of the confinement. As you probably know, horses are naturally claustrophobic. They want to be free to move about and graze in large open areas and feel they can get away from danger if they want. For some horses, when they are in a smaller area, and a one acre field is quite small for a horse actually, they will feel they do not have room to flee a predator or even another horse that may be aggressive (a bully). This would obviously cause anxiety and, therefore, prompt anxious pacing.

Please understand that without seeing the exact situation and the horse itself, I am guessing. I suggest seeing about buddying this horse up with one particular horse (perhaps a sweet mare) and see if that helps. Additionally, a problem could result in your horse passing this behavior on to other horses near it. Like cribbing, stall weaving, etc. sometimes this sort of behavior will be learned by other horses near it. I mention it just for you to be aware of the possibility. Also, consider more time being with and simply playing with your horse. As much as you can spend. Perhaps developing even a deeper bond that may give your horse more confidence and a stronger sense of security.

Please keep me posted as to developments. Thanks for your patience with my response taking so long.

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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