If your horse has grown attached to a particular companion and struggles to be taken away from them, they could be suffering from separation anxiety. They might call out, plant themselves, or panic if they think they are being left behind. It can make seemingly simple tasks suddenly difficult. Bringing your horse in from the field for a vet appointment or ride can range from mildly frustrating to downright impossible.
Behaviourist Sarah Clark shares her insight on what you can do to help your horse.
As herd animals, horses are highly sociable, so their behaviour is quite natural if they don’t want to leave the group. The good news is there’s a lot you can do to help them and also deepen the bond you share with them at the same time.
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 a horse security.
When they’re with us instead we can give our horse’s the confidence they need by using positive handling techniques.
How to increase confidence
- Find out which particular field-mate your horse is keen to stay with. If it’s safe and practical to do so, bring them in at the same time to decrease any anxiety your horse is feeling.
- 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.
If you are still concerned, it would be safest to seek expert advice.
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.