Herdbound! Breaking the habit...

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Herdbound! Breaking the habit...

Postby Juliane on Thu May 03, 2007 1:41 pm

I have been at my wits end with Buddy's sometimes crazy antics when he gets herdbound or insecure because another horse has left him. He is sometimes absolutely crazy and dangerous as he loses his little pea-brain. I have asked Ally for help with this - and she pointed me to a John Lyons article (that can also be found on the SAFE site, but I'll post it below), which describes how to work with herdbound horses:

HerdBound Horses.....
This is a fun problem with our horses because it’s an easy one when we know how to work with it. First, let’s define some goals and what we want to teach.

Our goals are two-fold. Number one: We want to ride away from the group or buddy horse without our horse becoming upset or the other horse becoming upset. This means we will need to set up this situation of riding away from the other horse many times. Repetition is going to be the key to achieving these results. Riding away from the other horse once or twice a day will not get the job done.

The second part of our goals is to stay away from the other horse for as long as needed without either horse becoming upset. This is a time factor. In dealing with any time factor during training, always start with the shortest time and work to longer time limits. For example, ride away from the other horse for only a few seconds at first. Extend this period to 10, 20 then 30 seconds, then on to minutes until we reach the point that we can ride away for hours.

Two factors we have working in our favor during these training sessions are: Our horse is going to become excited, and our horse is going to be calming down on his own.

When we ask our horse to move away from the "buddy" horse, he is going to become excited in anticipation of leaving his friend. The other horse, at this point, is doing two things to help us in training our horse. One is giving our horse a distraction and two is helping us work with our horse’s emotions.

A distraction is something that takes our horse’s attention off us and onto something else. Distractions come in all different levels, from a leaf on the ground, a barking dog, a "buddy" horse, or even a bear. Distractions are nothing more than pop quizzes for our horse.

In other words, when we come across a distraction, it allows us to give our horse a test. The test is simply a question: will you (my horse) listen to this cue with this level of distraction? If the answer is yes and he responds correctly to our cue quickly and quietly with his mind and attention to us, he passes the pop quiz test. If the horse does not respond to our cue in this manner, then he fails the pop quiz test.

If the horse fails the test, we should return the horse to an environment where he will listen to that cue and begin to re-practice that cue. We will need to move our horse closer to the buddy horse or maybe not ride quite as far away. We might even want to return quicker to the area of the buddy horse.

The second area on which we are working on are the horse’s emotions. All horses become excited at different times and at those times we still need our horse to listen and respond to our cues. Set up the situation in a controlled environment to work on emotions. Get him just a little excited and then let him calm-down. The buddy sour problem can become an excellent opportunity for us to recognize that as we ride away and return, both horse’s emotions are on roller coasters. When we start to ride away, the horses become nervous, upset and excited. When we turn around and start to ride closer, they see the other horse is not leaving so they begin to calm-down. Believe it or not, this is extremely hard on a horse’s system, as it would be on our system. Soon, after putting their emotions through this kind of roller coaster of getting upset and calming down, the horses start to get a grip on themselves. They begin to realize the "buddy" horse is going to come back so they do not get quite so upset. It’s easier on a horse to become upset and stay upset for an hour or so than it is for him to become upset and calm down 50 times in that hour.

By riding away for 10 seconds, then returning and staying close to the other horse until both horses calm down, the rider is putting the horse’s emotions on this roller coaster. After a while, the rider will be able to go farther and farther away and stay gone longer without either horse getting upset. When the rider returns both horses will calm down quicker. This is a great opportunity for the rider to work with their horse’s emotions. Continue with this pattern of going away and coming right back until neither horse becomes upset by the leaving or returning.

At the same time you have been solving the buddy sour problems with your horse, you have also practiced hundreds of times asking your horse to turn to the left, turn to the right, pick up his lead, etc. By doing so you have concentrated on the parts of your horse’s training you wanted to improve and you were able to do so positively. Again, remember to ride where you can get the responses you want from your horse, not where he is doing things you do not want him to do.

With this method of training, you have determined your goal and developed an easy starting point for your horse. You may put steps between your starting point and your goal, with each of these steps being easy for your horse to attain. Both you and your horse have been safe throughout the lesson and it’s even been fun for you to ride and your horse to learn. Because of the approach you took to solve the buddy sour problem, you not only solved that problem but improved other areas of your horse’s training and performance as well.

Happy Trails, John Lyons

This method seemed to make sense, so Ally and I implemented this with Buddy one afternoon. First, she took him to the round pen by herself and did some light groundwork exercises with him, as well as loving scratches. Then, we took him and Dandy (who he is VERY herdbound to) out onto the driveway.

We started with having Buddy walk back towards the barn, with Dandy staying still. Ally would bring him back before he could get nervous. Sometimes, she was only able to go one or two feet, before coming back. We did this over and over, with Buddy leaving Dandy, and then Dandy leaving Buddy, until Dandy and I were able to leave Buddy standing in the driveway without getting worried.

When it seemed like he was responding well to this technique, we walked both Buddy and Dandy to the arena down the street. Ally took Buddy inside and started doing some familiar groundwork exercises with him. I started walking Dandy in and out of the arena, going further with each try.

Within about an hour, I was able to walk Dandy all the way home, leaving Buddy and Ally in the arena. Buddy continued to pay attention to Ally and after 10 minutes or so, she walked him back home herself.

This method seemed to work incredibly well, but does seem like it would work best if two people were working on it together, rather than me just trying to take Buddy away from the herd/Dandy.





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