How do you deal with a horse that suffers from extreme separation anxiety?
My question pertains to Patrick, my Saddlebred Gelding private rescue. He loves us and he appreciates his home, his buddies, and everything he has here. However, he bonds so remarkably with the other horses that he just about loses his mind when one or all of them are separated, moved, worked or out to pasture. If he cannot see them, he freaks out. He will poop, stomp, fly around the stall, rear, get his foot into the manger or water bucket, and become a wild boy. He repeatedly calls with distress. It is his one not-so-pleasant behavior that remains.
Obviously, I don’t want to punish or reprimand him too forcefully for this nonsense because he has become such an outstanding and well-behaved horse in all other ways. I’ve tried different remedies. For instance, I have put him out with just one little friend. The next day I will put him out with another friend. Then there is the day he goes out by himself and so on. When he goes out to play by himself, eventually he settles to an uneasy calm – I don’t leave him out of my sight too long and I’ve cautiously increased the time he spends by himself.
This does not work when he remains in his stall. He never really calms down at all. Before much time has passed, he starts to heat up and will go into a full lather if left to “tough it out.” Needless to say, I only did this once for any length of time even with manger and buckets removed in the stall.
His behavior makes it difficult to get much done with the miniature horses, and I’m breaking one to harness and cart. So, my horse friends in horse blog country, any help, suggestions, lightbulbs, and comments? Please send them my way cause I surely can use all the help you can give!
This is the exact problem I have with my horse. We have a border now and when my horse has to leave and the other horse stays in the stall, my horse goes nuts. Really, he freaks out. He’s tough to ride and all he wants to do is buck and run back to the barn. What can be done?
I understand so well. Patrick does he “don’t leave me behind” routine every time. They get a bit irrational when they carry on. In the stall, we have removed anything he can climb on or throw around when the little boys go out and he has to stay in. In your case, though, it’s more troublesome because you are riding the horse, and if he gets too aggressive such as bucking, refusing to respond, balking, or bolting than there is a danger of someone getting hurt. In the stall, you might have him on a tie while you and another person groom him. Be careful because he will try to misbehave. Here’s the important part – stay calm no matter how anxious he gets. Talk up a blue streak to him. Work only on his body – no feet, legs, tail, or head. In this way, you can be prepared to get out of his way as he shifts and fidgets around. If he acts OK on the cross ties, then that is good. But if he gets so bad as to want to turn around in the ties, you’ll have to snub the cross tie up to the wall.
By no means do I think I have the answers for this one – it’s a behavioral problem that I haven’t been able to cure in Patrick. He’s better but we have a long way to go.
At some point, if I don’t get any other answers, I’ll publish what we have done thus far, and then maybe someone can add to it. I do know that you have to remain calm and don’t make matters worse by hitting on him or yelling.