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Old 07-22-2010, 08:32 PM   #1
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Extremely Herdbound Horse! Please Help!

I need help with my 15 year old off track thoroughbred gelding.
He is EXTREMELY herdbound, and because of this, has terrible ground manners.
This is what happens:
You take him out of the pasture and immediately he begins to panic. He becomes "dancy and prancy" and will not stand still. Even when tied. He will tug on the lead rope and yank you along. When you are heading back to the herd, he will take off running back to the other horses before you even get there and does not respond when I pull back on the lead.
I have tried everything that I know to do.
I put him in the round pen and work him until he joins up, then I can perform some amazing work with him on the ground and he will behave PERFECTLY until the moment he steps out of the round pen. Then he's back to freaking out.
I am getting VERY frustrated with him.
He isn't even safe to ride at home anymore, the only way I can ride is at my lessons that we haul to once a week.

What do I do?

I have tried leaving him in an area by himself for a while, and for a week straight he just ran himself around the perimeter and was in a constant sweat. I ended up having to just put him back because he lost alot of weight.

I'm running out of options, and if I can't find a way to fix this problem soon, my parents are sending him to the auction.

Please help me!

And don't just say "be consistent", how can I be consistent if I don't know what to do?
Please provide an actual method or technique.
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Old 07-22-2010, 08:46 PM   #2
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Well, I don't know if this fits what you want as far as answers, but I have a similiar problem ( or should say had), with an 12 yr old OTTB gelding, not quite as bad as yours, but still very bad..
If possible, I'd reduce his companions to just being with one other horse. It's much easier to slowly start seperating from one horse vs. a herd.

The thing that worked best for me was daily Calm and Cool pellets, they helped him with stress/ anxiety and actually increased our bond by helping him being more " calm and cool" ( ha, ha)... I now can take him away and pasture him with others and not have any problems..
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Old 07-22-2010, 09:03 PM   #3
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Honestly I would put him in an area by himself where YOU were his only companion. Put him in the round pen with access to food and water. Keep him separated from the herd until he begins to look to you as his "herd" then slowly introduced him back into the group. Just don't throw him out to pasture and expect it to stay fixed though.
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Old 07-22-2010, 09:26 PM   #4
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So he is when he is gone from property riding at your lesson?? If so that may be a answer to help him can you have him boarded out for a while so he is still around other horses but not his buddies.Having him away & working somewhere away from home can often do wonders.It help you build more relationship between the 2 of you as he learns not to really on his buddies for his security.
Other than that the suggestion from Lovemyhorse of you seperating him with only one buddy is the other option .It may take him a bit longer to come around than if he was off property way but the best other alternative.
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Old 07-23-2010, 06:12 AM   #5
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It sounds like he has a real insecurity issue when away from his herd. Horses are by nature herd animals and gain a lot of their "safe" feelings while with their pasture mates. Have you tried working him in the pasture where his friends are for short periods? Then gradually taking him a little further away each time until you are outside of the pasture? Work him where he can still see his friends but work on distance each time. I had a mare who went through this and this method helped her overcome it pretty quickly. Once she understood she would be safe if away from her natural herd, she gained more confidence in me keeping her safe. Now she could care less if she is in with her buddies or not. Good luck.
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:44 AM   #6
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I have the same issue with a 9 y/o neglect case gelding I got about 2 months ago although he is worlds better now. When I first went to see him, I couldnt lead him 10 feet away from his girlfriend without him rearing up and bolting away to be back with her, this is a huge horse and it was impossible to stop him. I brought him to my place and put him out with a few geldings and he seems to be a million times better. Everyday I bring him in the barn away from the field where he cant see his friends and at first I would put him in a stall for a few hours so he couldnt see or talk to them and he was very anxious. He's stand in there and just scream for hours. Eventually though, they figure out that this isnt getting them anywhere. For the first time the other day I actually took him out on a trail ride completely away from the farm and he was very anxious but was a complete gentleman and I was so proud of him. I also did a lot of work riding my guy in the indoor arena with the doors closed so it was just he and I...he wasnt a happy camper at first but now he's totally fine.

I would def suggest separating them if you can, it sounds like he just needs a reality check...he's so used to ALWAYS having another horse there and once you separate him and the more you work with him he'll start trusting you and not be as anxious when it is just you and him.

Best of luck and let us know how it goes!!
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:47 AM   #7
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Also, what if you separate him from his normal crowd and put him out with a horse he doesnt know (if that is an option)? He needs to de-tach from the other ones, I disagree with working him in the field with his buddies, I think that will give him an excuse to run away from you and it'll be too much distraction (I tried this with the gelding I was just describing and it was a train wreck, he just kept getting lose and was very hard to catch). I wouldnt put him out alone but try putting him out with another horse he doesnt know or maybe one of the ones in his herd that he isnt all that attached to and let them spend time together outside... Just keep an eye on him to make sure he wont jump/run into fences to get to the other field.
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:20 AM   #8
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I hate to say this, but some T.B.'s, especially OTTB's, are persistent "stall runners" or "fence runners" even stalled next to other horses, or in field next to horses, they continue to obsess/fret.....they are not that fact usually if turned out in a herd situation for long enough they overcome it.....even though I have seen a couple that will ignore the pasture full of horses, and continue to run the fence by themselves.

I would, if you have several stalls at home, keep him stalled with others around him, then alternate turnouts, ( even if just to round pen ) if he gets along with everyone, I would not turn him back out into large field. block his running path in stall, and keep plenty of hay/treat balls/etc. in stall, maybe let him have 12 hours in round pen, 12 in, ( with others still stalled, he knows they are in there ) mix it up....times, whos in/whos out etc. he may be able to go out in large field for short periods of time, assuming that his stall mate is still in barn, or going in/out with him, it is going to take more time/commitment, cleaning, maintaining stalls, feeding etc. but as long as he is alone ( in stall/or round pen ) and knows that the others are not with him, he WILL NOT STOP, he will never accept a human as "his herd" when he has other horses around, the only other option I can see is to move him to a boarding facility, and make sure you have stall board, if he just has turnout, he will reattach to his new buddies.

As far as not letting him drag you, walk over you, etc. just use a chain, since he is an ottb, he is used to this ( and needs, that's why it was used ) you'll see a remarkable difference.
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Old 07-23-2010, 11:16 AM   #9
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I'd also work on ground manners even if you have to stay in the paddock/pasture with the other horses so you can get his attention. Then as you build your relationship and establish your leadership you can ask more and more of him, such as more complicated maneuvers, more subtle cues, a greater distance from the other horses, etc.. Building a relationship of leadership based on trust rather than intimidation takes time and how far you will get isn't known, nor how long it will take, but then what are the alternatives? You can't be worse off for doing it.
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Old 07-23-2010, 11:30 AM   #10
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You'll have to change where you lunge him to probably close to where he starts acting up. Use a lunge line with a chain on it and run it under his jaw. Don't yank on it but use a strong pull if necessary. Lunge him near the pasture gate so he learns it means work. Trot him briskly going both directions. Don't let him join up as he'll want to but keep him working. When he's puffing, try leading him away. Keep your lunge whip with you. As soon as his energy level goes up, get him out on the lunge again and make him work. Be persistant. Then try leading farther away. When you feel he's more focused on you than the others that's a good time to put him away as that is a big reward for him. Try to do this several times a day, three days in a row minimum.
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Old 07-23-2010, 12:06 PM   #11
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I don't think separating him from his pasture buddies, putting him in with new friends is the answer. He will just bond with new horses
I think the entire bonding with humans is a bit over done. I rather think on leadership and respect.Horses will learn to trust a rider, but they are not dogs, and will always prefer the company of their own kind, being herd animals, but out of respect, will accept human leadership, which includes accepting that human when worked with, as being the leader in their herd of two
You in turn have to insist on that respect.
This is certainly where the correct use of a stud shank is in order. The horse has learned he can out pull a human, taking charge when led. He has to be convinced otherwise, by whatever means it takes
Stalling the horse is not the answer. Horses need movement, and accept temporary separation from friends, not because they are not allowed herd living conditions, but because you ask them to accept it
Thus, I would tie him in a safe stall for an hour or so daily, turning him back out only when he is standing quiet
When you work with him, you have to insist that his attention is only on you, not on pasture mates. Thus, no allowing him to call out when either handled or ridden
Do you have some enclosed area you can ride him in at home? If you do, you can focus on getting both his attention and some body control without worrying that he can run off. Never let his attention stay to outside of that riding area, no matter what friends are doing in the field. His attention has to be on you. There are many ways of doing this, like really asking for his face when he starts to focus on friends, spur his hips around, make those feet work doing various suppling excercises. As he starts to focus on you, reward with a loose rein. After riding, tie him up again for some time before turing him back out
ASl our young horses when it came time to start them were herd bound to some degree. All spent time in the barn alone, tied in a stall, before work and after work. They soon learn life goes on without friends. You are the one that turns him loose, feeds him, etc
They soon also learn that when worked with, you are their leader, not buddies in the field. You only get this by being a firm leader, controling them both on the ground and under saddle
Working around buddies is not the answer. Assuming that leadership role in their eyes is. You don;t get that respect, no matter how much you think you 'bond' in the round pen. You get that respect, in the old reining motto- to rein a horse is to control his every move.' This can also be applied to ground manners
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Old 07-23-2010, 02:47 PM   #12
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Any horse, but especially an OTTB, that is 24/7, and/or a majority of the time, out with others ( whether in round pen/arena/feed lot/pasture/etc. ) is going to become at least somewhat herdbound, even if only out with 1-2 others, they must be kept in a stall/round pen/etc. by themselves..or with maybe another one or two, but not for long periods, and then they need to be split again to their respective stall/lot their personal "space". ( i.e. stall next door/2 lots/etc. ) it breaks up the "herd mentality" as they are not able to consistently touch/be with another horse, if you have several small lots or round pens, those could be used, as long as your horse has even one other that he can latch onto on a regular basis, he will obsess about it. Ever notice with large boarding barns, like say a 30 stall facility with say 1-5 horses going for turnout 2-6 hours intervals each day, or sometimes every other day....which I've known a few to do, and not one horse out of 30-40 will be herd bound, or have trouble "going to work" cause of a buddy out in field, this is because they are not bonded to another, because they are independantly kept, this is how their brains work.

P.S. you have got to remember that you have got an TB, especially an OTTB, you can't pressure them a lot or expect them to "quiet down" when putting the pressure on, or they will fall apart, and really wig out, putting your work backwards, and possibly hurting you, and the horse....when people treat most T.B.'s, ( and Arabs especially ) like Quarters, and other similar breeds you usually get some really bad results, not always but usually ( and that is what gives them bad names )

Last edited by ahabarabs; 07-23-2010 at 02:56 PM.
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Old 07-23-2010, 05:44 PM   #13
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I'd go for a program of gradual desensitization by incrementally separating him (under saddle or on a lead line) from the herd to up his tolerance to being away from his buddies.
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Old 07-23-2010, 05:58 PM   #14
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A horse is a horse, and TBs, even OTTBs need to be managed like any other horse
True, you need to do some re-training on OTTBs, as they are used to stall confinement, interspersed with periods of high level athletic work, and are also fed accordingly. They need a period of 'let down', and then one needs to start back to basics
Race horses are taught to run on the forehand, leaning on the bit, and know very little about body control and working collected
Because they are kept in stall confinement, and on high 'octane food', they will act accordingly. They are not really taught to be soft on either the ground or under saddle, with a chain shank used to control them outside of the confines of their stall
I know of people that make excellent HUS horses out of ex race horses,
getting them softly in the body, learning to work off of their hind end, learning that legs don't mean go faster,but rather to collect and drive deeper are all key things that need to be taught
Treat OTTBs different, expect less of them simply because they are TBs, and you will have a self full filling prophecy.Get them off of the hot feed, go back to basics,including ground manners and patience standing tied, alone, will go a great way towards making them into an enjoyable saddle horse
A horse will only be as good as you expect them to be
we wean our foals 'cold Turkey', and horses can be weaned from buddies the same way. All you need is safe handling practices and good facilities
OTTBs are not turned out with other horses, although they are kept in barns with other horses, thus the tendency to become very herd bound when they are, as they have yet to learn that they will be returned, once work is over
All my horses live in groups. I can take any one of my saddle horses and ride them out, without them being one bit buddy sour or herd bound.
Can't teach them to accept being separated if you never give them the chance to learn to do so
I never want a horse i have to keep locked up or separated because they will unmangaeable other wise when separated
It's like keeping your spouce away from other members of the opposite sex, to keep them from cheating, but does nothing towards making you trust them
Got to let a horse make a mistake in order to show him what is wrong and what is right

Last edited by Smilie; 07-23-2010 at 06:10 PM.
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Old 07-24-2010, 09:22 AM   #15
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Yes, I agree that it can be done in certain situations ( have horses in herd setting 24/7, and remove one for working without issues ) some friends of mine have 27 head out 24/7, and as far as I have seen any of them can be removed/worked without any kind of major issues, I have many other friends, with only a few out 24/7, and theirs will become monsters if/when separated, I find it highly individualistic horse to horse.....but with the "hotter" bloods tending to dominate the to their sometimes borderline neurotic, "emotional" states....especially OTTB's .

The character that the OP describes of her horse, would be a very long/hard/difficult reform, even with the most dedication and persistence on the part of the owner in which I believe she would probably never succeed in fully, I have never even tried to do this...all horses that my ex. and I owned/trained were stalled/limited turnout......these were all the stallions, my Arab show horses, his T.B. runners....the only time any were out 24/7 was some broodmares/youngsters/retire's, we did not have the time/tolerance for dealing with issues like the OP is having, ( of course this is not the only reason our stall horses were not out all the time, there are many others ) most barns I've worked/boarded/been around did not have 24/7 turnout, or had very limited, so again it was never something that was tolerated, or had to deal with, this goes back to my first barn I started at in 1982, that is why I have a zero tolerance for dealing with such behavior, however I suppose I can understand if a person was limited by facility/time/etc. and Arabs/TB'can be so incredibly frustrating to work with sometimes because of their tendency to become so "emotional" ( sorry I never compare a horses mental state to human terms/emotions, as I know they are not comparable, but that seems to be the easiest word to use at the moment )

Last edited by ahabarabs; 07-24-2010 at 09:27 AM.
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