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'Potty training' horses and herd bound behavior.


Dear Franklin,

Your kind wisdom has helped me so much since my horses Tom & Henry arrived in November. It seems like ages but they've only been with me 2 months, and I love them to bits! You may remember Henry didn't like his stable, but now I let him take himself in, it's all fine.

I would like some advice regarding the best, (and by best of course I mean kindest, nicest way) of training Henry not to go potty in his stable while I ride Tom out. So far I have only ridden Tom down the driveway and back a few times, and for a short time in the road outside the house, where Henry can see, and if not see certainly hear Tom. But only for a few minutes at a time. Henry goes so bonkers. I am worried he will hurt himself. Tom is fine, and ready to explore his surroundings. I am really worried, I don't want to mess this up and make Henry upset.

Please, please help. There is some information regarding this on the net, and advise ranges from, shut his top door, drug him, just do it and try not to mind, but I cant, he's a little creature, obviously frightened about being alone, makes me just want to forget riding and just hug them both a lot!!!

When they first arrived Henry went wild when I was taking Tom to and from the field. Now he is calmer, and when I'm with him relaxes right down, so I know he can do it, he just doesn't want to be alone who does??

Do you think maybe a stable mirror might help? If I put it up in Tom's stable where Henry can look through the bars and see, do you think he'll think it's another horse?

You see, I'm all over the place with this problem, I just want to get it right for Henry. I love him so much.

Thank you (again), Shelley,
England.

Hi Shelley,

Trying to potty train a horse is one of the more challenging trainings to undertake. Miniature horses used as guide animals frequently simply wear a diaper. Carriage horses frequently wear some sort of collection bag to keep their poop off the roads. Horses can chose where they poop and control bowel movement a little bit. However, due to the animal's proclivity to colic, it is always best to allow a horse to poop where and when it needs to. The stress of trying to control the 'bowel movement' can create a colic situation. So I would abondon that desire on your part for medical reasons. Let a horse be a horse and not try to have it become a puppy.

As far as the herd bound behavior goes the proceedure is to separate the horses initially for brief periods of time and bring them back together. This has to be repeated over time and have the time of the separation become gradually longer and longer. There is no quick fix. You have only had the horses two months. It can take 6 months or more, of steady, consistent training using the process of gradual separation, to resolve this issue. You are expecting too much too fast from the horses. Sure you can try a mirror in the stall, apple flavored roller toy mounted to the inside of the stall, etc., etc.. However, I would bet that nothing will work short of the process I have described. Please try to remember that we are attempting to keep horses in a very un-natural way. By making it more and more un-natural and artificial (potty training, small boxed areas, rushing herd bound behavior remedies, rushing anything) we set up very stressful situations for our horses causing all sorts of neurotic behavior and physical problems. Please, let them be horses as much as possible, let them have as much natural behavior as they need to have and address issues that come up appropriately as opposed to forcing an issue or going to somewhat extreme remedies to alter their natural behavior (potty training). I am here to assist in steering you in ways that are safe, appropriate and have the well-being of the horse first and foremost. Good Luck.

Sincerely, Franklin

Dear Franklin,

Thank you for you reply, I think our different use of certain words has confused your answer, by 'potty' we (us Brits) simply mean crazy, nutty, anxious. Henry has no problem in this area; in fact he has very nice poos perfect for the roses! Strange that people might want to potty train a horse (what are they thinking). Well, back to my problem. I am very glad you have said take it slowly, because that's what every bone in my body says is right, but those 'experts' I keep referring to think I've waited too long already, and I should just get on with it.

I will continue to let my boys lead me. I'll know when I can take it a step further. I have already made great progress already with bringing them in from the field.

Thank you.
Shelley

Hello Shelley,

You are very correct. I really did think you meant toilet train the animal. LOL! My mistake. Miniature horses used as guide animals have either been trained to only go outside or do wear a diaper. Interesting I think.....

Learning to 'feel' when it is the right time to take the next step is important. You and your horse will thrive if you do. Sounds like you are definately on the right track. Let me know how it all goes, please.

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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