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Mare is fearful of everything.

Hi Franklin,

I have a 7-year-old paint mare that is just fearful of everything. She didn't used to be this way at all. I bought her 3 years ago and fell in love right away. She had wonderful ground manners and was a complete joy to ride. She has always had a stall and pasture and could come and go as she pleases. She would always come in her stall to eat and wouldn't go back out of it or even lift her head until she was done. She was just an all around wonderful horse. In July of '06 we moved from Oregon where she was born and raised out to Montana and this is when I started noticing the changes in her. After our move she lost a significant amount of weight and has become very jumpy and skittish. Everything from the stall door opening to me throwing in her hay will pretty much spook her out of her skin. I have tried to make everything as much the same as far as her living conditions. She has a stall and a large corral and pasture to roam as freely as she likes. She comes in her stall to eat but will not stay in it, she will run in grab a bite and immediately run out the door looking for something. It now takes me over an hour to catch her, where as before she would walk right up and put her nose in the halter. I have started noticing she will not go out to the pasture; she just stands by the barn. She is constantly on the lookout and I will watch her running up and down the fence line just looking around franticly. We do have a large population of wildlife around here and was wondering if this is what is scaring her so badly. Please help, as she just seems to be getting worse everyday. What can I do to ease her mind that nothing is going to eat her?

Sincerely, Tiffany

Hi Tiffany,

Horses are extremely social and relationship orientated. Your horse has been traumatized by its removal from its known pasture and herd-mates and is basically living alone. A horse by itself is a sorry critter indeed. They require companionship to feel connected, safe, at peace and more. This is at the core of your horse's problems. Please consider a companion animal, even an old retired horse, to help ease your horse's mind. If you do that you will see immediate improvement. However, it will take a bit of time for full recovery from the trauma of the move and separation, but so does everything with horses.

To help the horse you could be doing a lot of ground playing and dancing on the ground with the horse, with you leading the 'dance.' Small steps, easy movement and simple requests made and immediately rewarded will help the horse bond more with you and trust you at a deeper level. Your focus should not be on riding at all for right now, but rather on developing a stronger bond and relationship. This is done primarily on the ground through appropriate and mutually successful interaction and action with horses.

Good Luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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