Friday, September 2, 2011

Herd Bound Mare

I received an e-mail question from Darlene on her buddy sour/herd bound Arab. ”Hi Functionalhorseman, I just purchased my first horse a little Arab mare 12 yrs. She's been a rental trail horse for 6 odd years, I have been taking lessons on her for about 8 months and she's a sweetie. She is still at the same facility but is now stalled and not in the rental pen with her herd mates. Hence our problems...the first time we saddled up she got to the front of the ranch (by the trail head) and saw her rental buddies and the brakes went on. I rode that horse in circles figure 8's and every which I could think of and she was not budging. We're going on week 4 and it's not alot better. I'm a novice rider and she knows it. She taking advantage and I want to get it back before it gets out of hand. HELP!! Any advice would be gratefully appreciated, I want to do right by her and it's early so I don't think I've ruined anything yet and I don't want too. Respectfully, Darlene”

Hey Darlene, thanks for writing. You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders and understand that the more your mare gets away bad habits with the harder it is to correct. That is a common problem on rental or lesson horses as they have learned they can get away with imposing their will on new riders. The good thing is that your Arab mare is probably fairly bomb proof because of it.

I think you understand that your mare is buddy sour or herd bound because she is a herd animal and finds safety in a herd. She is only wanting to get to her herd mates because she thinks it is necessary rather than doing it because she wants to disobey you. She needs to trust you and recognize you as the leader.

I would basically start her over like she’s a two year old before her first ride. This will also allow you to see what is missing in her education and teaching her the correct way because the correct way is the easy way. It’s that old saying from Ray Hunt “making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy”. Some time in the round pen would probably do her good. You are going to have to be firm with her, insisting that she listens and obeys you. This is going to be hard to do with if you are a once a week recreational type rider. So use every chance you get to create lessons. Make feeding her a lesson,...ask her to drop her head, disengage her front and/or back end,..backup,..whatever. If you only have a few minutes, put a halter on her and ask her to lead up correctly. 

Always ensure that there is a release in anything you ask her to do. The timing of the release is important so she relates to the doing what you ask with the release,.... this is the “right thing is easy” part of it. The idea is for her to build respect for, and trust in you.

It may benefit you to ride with someone else so your Arab mare has a buddy to go out on the trail with, reducing her anxiety being away from the herd or barn. If you can get out on the trail, you can separate the horses, first by a little then more distance as their comfort level grows. You'll be allowing her to teach herself that she's okay when alone or separated.

To tell you the truth, one of my primary horses is fairly buddy sour to this day. I can ride him out 20 miles or so and never have a problem, he's always willing to go. But ride with some else, then ride away, he's start looking and sometimes calling for his buddy. I just give him something to do to take his mind of it and we're okay. You can to this point, just settle in for the long haul - it will be worth it. Good luck and Safe Journey Darlene.

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