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Nervousness outside the pasture and cribbing


I have had a 12 yr old Arab-cross mare for a month. We were told she had no bad habits except that she did not take the bit well. Also that she was a good trail horse as we were looking for a family horse.

I think we have fixed the problem with her not accepting the bit as I had a vet float her teeth (very over-due) and have tried putting molasses on the bit so that now she does better. However, she becomes very nervous when I take her outside the pasture. She side-steps and doesn't want to walk. She looks all around and doesn't listen well to commands. Inside the pasture she rides much better.

It did take her a couple weeks to get used to being here. Also she has always been with another horse and she is the only one we have. Which brings me to the next question. I noticed today that there is quite a bit of bark off the 3 trees inside the pasture. I am assuming she is eating it. When she came the pasture was very lush and she has eaten all of the "good" stuff down. I am giving her pellets in the amount suggested by the vet. She does not eat hardly any of the hay I have given her, just will pick through it. Is she cribbing because she is bored without another companion? Or is she hungry? Nervous? Also what would you suggest about getting her acclimated to riding outside the pasture?

Obviously this is my first horse.

Thank you for your time. I have enjoyed reading many of the articles on your website.


Hi Chris,

Your new horse is probably used to being with other horses. They are extremely social and form attachments much like humans. If you were kept with friends and then suddenly yanked away and kept on your own you might exhibit some nervous or neurotic behavior as well. She definitely needs more time to adjust to her new environment. She is very insecure, perhaps lonely, and understandably so. Arabs are hot blooded, as opposed to Quarter Horses which are cold blooded, and tend to be a bit more nervous in general. Her cribbing is from stress brought on by loneliness and the insecurity she is feeling.

I would suggest considering a companion horse for her. There are many folks looking to retire an older horse. You might get one very cheap or even for nothing, if you'll give it a good home. The second thing to do is to spend a lot of time with your doing ground games and exercises. There is so much more to the horse's life than the human riding the horse. Our focus is so much on riding that the horse is objectified a lot. This prevents well meaning humans from even considering the other 'emotional' or psychological needs of horses. So I thank you for reaching out.

To begin to take her out of the pasture I would hand walk her around. Forget riding for a few weeks and spend the time on the ground leading her around and introducing her to the new areas. Wear gloves always. Get a relationship going with your horse. You can fill some of the void in her life if you begin to really connect with her and this can be done by spending a lot of time moving with her on the ground.

Her anxiety may be preventing her from eating much. If she was on good pasture before and now has little pasture and hay, she will take some more time to adjust to the new feed. Any anxiety will take her 'off her food'. Even just a change in diet can put a horse off its feed. Where was she before and were there other horses she was with? If she was raised with other horses around and now there are none, that is a huge loss in her life. Please consider how you would feel suddenly being isolated from people if you were used to having folks around. I always recommend people consider two horses rather than one. A horse alone in a pasture or anywhere is a sorry critter indeed.

Again, thank you for reaching out. Good luck and let me know if I can be of additional assistance. I offer telephone coaching in 'horsemanship' if you may be interested in a session or two, just to get you rolling. Please let me know if you are interested. Let me know how it all goes.

Sincerely, Franklin

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