If your horse is attached to the other horses in their herd, they may become stressed when they are separated from them. This can be difficult for you as their owner, so how can you help him overcome their dependence? Equine behaviour consultant Sarah Clark shares some tips on how you can manage their separation anxiety.

If your horse calls out when he is separated from others in their herd, they could be anxious about leaving a field buddy. As herd animals, horses are highly sociable so this behaviour is quite natural. Whinnying, a loud long call that begins high and ends in a low frequency, is a social behaviour and roughly translates as “I’m here, where are you?”

As with people, every horse is different. Some are naturally self-confident, some get assurance from being with others. As a herd animal, just being within sight of other equines can give your horse security.

When they’re with us instead we can give our horse’s the confidence they need by using positive handling techniques.

Speak their language

Give your horse confidence by leading them shoulder to shoulder, so that your shoulder is in line with theirs. When you turn a corner, put yourself on the outside. By leading them forwards positively this way, you’re putting yourself in a natural driving position, just like another confident horse would. Essentially, you’re mimicking their innate body language.

When you’re leading, make plenty of walk-halt and halt-walk transitions, wiggly lines and changes of direction to make things interesting and keep your horse’s focus on you.

Working as a team

If your horse has a particular field mate they want to stay with, try to separate them slowly. If it’s safe and practical to do so, bring them in at the same time to start with, and then gradually build up their time apart. This will help to decrease the anxiety your horse is feeling.

If you are still concerned, it would be safest to seek expert advice from a behaviour consultant.

Meet the expert: Sarah Clark BSc (Hons) SEBC PTC is a qualified and registered equine behaviour consultant. She is passionate about helping owners understand and improve their horse’s behaviour.

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