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University Suggestion Box

separation anxiety guidance


I would love to see a video diary by Monty on how to help a horse overcome separation anxiety (is there one?) Step by step, showing before and after progress in bite size chunks. (Reading the snippets here and there is not so helpful) I used to have a lame horse and a pony I could ride, in same paddock together. When I rode the pony my horse got so worked up that no one could reason with her so she would sometimes hurt herself and was always covered in sweat when I return home to the point I couldn't ride the pony out at all. It was very frustrating and not fair on the pony who was happy to go out riding alone. I have since sold the pony and moved my horse somewhere with lots of horses, and a proper round pen ;-) , but although she has not really bonded with anyone special yet, now she is sound and ready to get fit I have this same issue too and I don't want her to hurt herself, so it's easier just to leave her with horses than try to do anything. I really want her to feel safe with me but when I tried to do join up she ignored me and was fixated on the herd.What do i do?

Hello! 100 lessons completed

Please do not underestimate the amount of stress your horse undergoes with separation anxiety, or how frantic they can become to get back to their buddy. This can be a very dangerous situation, which I learned firsthand. Mr. Roberts gives complete, detailed instructions on how to deal with this in his book, "From My Hands to Yours." The horse learns to accept separation on the trail with his buddies in a very calm, non-threatening environment.

vicci - UK (North Wales)
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Sound advice from horsegal Laura - it is a slow process but it can be done.

Mel - Ramsgate UK
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Laura, you need to take this nice and slowly, she needs to feel safe when she leaves the herd. A little at a time is all that is needed. we have the same issue with our new guys they've been together for a good 2 years that we know of and are glued to the hip with each other. We've had them 4 weeks and have slowly started to separate them.
Important whilst you do this, no mobile phone and do not take a friend out with you. Clear your mind of anything that will lose that contact with her and live in the Now! You and your horse and nothing else.
Whilst she is so fixated with the herd, it would not be safe for you to take her out straight away and attempt join up. You will need to make a bond with her in the field so that she willingly comes with you, knowing that you'll return her afterwards.
Remember you have all the time in the world when with your horse there is no deadline to keep, have that mentality when creating a security for her and as Monty says... Slow is Fast! Once she fully understands she's not alone it will change her anxiety.
First become part of what she considers her herd, so go out with her make a fuss, but do not take her away. If she at first walks away from you when you approach, respect that and just hover. She'll let you come to her when she knows you're not just going to take her away. Every now and then as you hover, give her a gentle look and smile with your eyes and mouth, then slowly look away and hover again.
Try this for a week everyday until she's happy for you to just be nearby.
When you think she's happy for you to hover without expecting to be caught, catch her and start to lead her away but only take her 10-20 feet way from the herd, make a fuss and reward then return to the herd. If you can't get 10 feet away, do as far as she is comfortable with, 1ft, 5ft it doesn't matter. What you're trying to say to her is that you know she's with the herd, but you'd like her to be part of your herd, 2 makes a herd :D,
Each day continue this: catch, reward, walk her away for a bit, reward, return her to the herd. Try and take her a bit further each day, but as soon as you feel her adrenaline going up, stop and turn her around to see the herd. Make her stand with some love n fuss, then return her to the herd again. You'll find when you've stopped and make a fuss her adrenaline will drop more each time, when you get licking and chewing you'll know you can take it that one step further. When you walk back to the herd make sure you do so slowly and keep your adrenaline down. When you've taken the head collar off, just hover for a few moments before leaving the field.
Keep us updated how it goes.
Mel x

Mel - Ramsgate UK
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Hi Vicci, same time again lol..

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Hi. I agree with all the above. Donkeys are even worse; if they loose their best pals they can die from the distress! Work out a plan where the separation is in tiny, baby steps. Be gradual in your approach. Be quick to congratulate any effort she makes to be calm & do not work unsupervised ( you never know when a second pair of hands could be really helpful ). Follow the Uni lessons. You'll find they give you a great base of ' right thinking ' so you appreciate the problem from the horses point of view. This cannot be fixed from the stance of ' I want you to do this '. You need your horse to want to do this. You need join up & Monty's road map. Good luck. If we on the forum can help you more, just ask. Jo.


Hey thanks everyone for your support, I had been doing a little of that by brushing her a little further away each time. Then I just found your recommendations here so it's confirming to receive such guidance. I love that Mel "slow is fast" I think that is really key because I felt like I was sort of pandering to her and ought to be more of a "leader" so we could make faster progress with her feeling safe-I was thinking maybe I was being too flappy for her to want to be with me. I'll drop all that nonsense-and go for love instead! Thanks for the clarity!

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed

Hi Folks: I just wanted to jump into this conversation because I have the same issue with two Paso Fino mares I have owned for a month now. They have been together for five years. My question is this ... in a herd of two :D do I practice baby steps of separation with both of them, or focus on the alpha who reacts more intensely with separation? The younger five yr. old has surpassed the fifteen yr old as alpha apparently upon coming to our farm. We have no other farm animals at this time.