Thursday, October 3, 2019


I need some hive mind thinking blogosphere.

Eli has been doing well in his new turnout group, not bonding overly strongly to any one horse... he's bonded about equally to all of them. 🤦‍♀️

I'm not sure what to do here. We can't keep shuffling his turnout because we're going to run out of fields and it's bad to keep disrupting the herds. He's fine when he's out with them. I can go get him from the field (he's starting to walk towards me when I'm close enough), and he's well behaved in the barn as long as I'm with him. I check his leading manners sporadically when I'm bringing him in/ turning him out/ walking to the indoor/ walking around the indoor in hand, making sure he's actually paying attention to me and not searching for his  friends. 

In the cross ties, I've taught him he is to stand without fidgeting or pawing, and for the most part he's pretty good and listens to the word "stand" when I walk away. It's been pretty effective for personal space when the cookies are out too.

Not intensely watching as I disappear around a corner, which is good.

Problem: He screams and worries, a lot, when he thinks he's "alone." I put alone in quotes because very rarely has he actually been alone. When I go out of sight, whether he's alone or not, he'll call for me. I had him call for me when I walked away to get his fly sheet and there were two people and a horse standing right in front of him. One tried to give him attention but he had a head tossing tantrum instead. He also screams for several hours when the horses come in. He'll look out his window or scream to herd mates who are in the barn (thankfully none of them answer). He is in a barn full of horses, yet he feels alone. He's starting to stall walk. Every few days, he's a spooky shit coming in from the field and at 17.1, a handful of the staff won't handle him (mostly the ones who don't have a ton of horse experience).

Eli is pretty insecure. He's happiest turned out with his herd or with me. I'm not sure what to do here, aside from keep going with his schedule and hope with time, he'll figure it out. Putting him on field board isn't an option- he'd spend half the day 1:1 with a single horse and become super attached to that horse. It's having a minor effect when riding him. He's become spooky and nervous, however when I remember that I can in fact ride properly (thank you Mary Wanless), he settles right down and relaxes and swings through his back. I've been riding him alone and long lining him so he continues to build confidence being alone. Food doesn't seem to prevent it- he comes into a stall with grain and hay and screams anyway. He's happy one on one with me.

Maybe he needs his own critter. Like a cat. Not these cats though, they're my confir creatures. Maybe a goat.

Ideas? Has anyone had this kind of attachment issue?


  1. That is super annoying, unfortunately I have no help for you. In california our horses stay mostly stalled or solo turnout so this isn't that much of a problem.

    1. Yea, and around here, solo turnout isn't really a thing... and when it is, it's far from ideal. They spend 20 hours in their stall and 4 hours max in a paddock. I know that's not much different from CA, but most stalls there have at least a run to give them more space.

  2. UGH! I'm sorry you're dealing with this! Q was like that when I brought her home. She'd dance and scream and fuss and worry whenever she was "alone". Fortunately, time and miles put a stop to it. I didn't do any one thing to help prevent it beyond always giving her grain when I brought her in and then keeping her brain busy when we rode.

    Her living situation was 24/7 turnout with a herd of 10 though, so that differs from Eli's. :-\

    Tough spot!

    1. If he could be in a herd of 10, field board wouldn't be a bad option. I'm curious how his early life shaped him now. When I toured the farm, the breeder had older foals (yearling, 2 year old) still turned out with the broodmares. He knows how to speak horse, but I'm wondering if that was his turnout group (which includes his mom) that he was with 24/7, and he's never truly been on his own.

  3. Annie was/is kinda similar. When I first got her, if I walked out of view, she'd snort, paw, neigh at me, etc. After making an error in giving her attention vs ignoring it, I started to tie her to a "tree of knowledge" and walked away. She had a few good tantrums the first few times - one of them where she lathered herself up into a pretty good sweat. She also started to figure out the "game" and that when I came out to collect her, she got to be untied so when she saw me, she'd prance and lift her front leg slightly, as if in anticipation of being loose. So we've been working on me coming up, petting her, and walking away (she had a pretty good tantrum the first time I walked away LOL).

    She also is "buddy sour", but not in the traditional sense. When she is at a new place, she tends to buddy up with other horses and while I can ride her away from them, if I tie her and leave her without her "buddy", she loses it. Again, I've practiced just tying her to a tree and work with the other horse (ie. I tie her and lunge Spud just a few feet from her, and then slowly move away). She has had a few good tantrums, but I stand my ground and let her work it out.

    I've also had to tie her to a tree at Trainer K's place before, as she objected highly to being tied to the horse trailer alone (even tho I was with her). She got left there for 2-3 hours until she got her shit together. And it might sound mean, but she deserved it. She wouldn't stand, was trying to paw the trailer hub-caps off, and even tried to walk into the fucking tack room bc she was being a complete idiot. So instead of her ruining my friend's trailer, she got tied until she settled her ass down.

    It can be hard tho, bc sometimes they flail and try to hurt themselves when you do this. Annie has tried to sit down, has bitten bark off of the trees, has kicked out and broke branches behind her, she's dug to china, she's pulled back... she's done it all.

    I will say that time and miles will be your best friend - just keep working with him. And invest in a rope halter when you tie him to a tree (if you choose this method) and the first few times I did it, I tied her with two halters and leads to ensure she would not get loose. I mean, it sounds mean, but I'm kinda in the camp of Too Bad So Sad.

    But I know this is not just a tying issue - have you considered ulcer medication or some kind of "calm" supplement? I know a lot of them are smoke and mirrors, but something might help him take the edge off so he can concentrate.

    1. He definitely isn't the traditional buddy sour!

      He could benefit from a tree of knowledge (I'm not opposed), but there isn't a safe one where I am. There's plenty of trees and a thousand ways to hang himself and scrape off an eyeball or two. I think he'd have a screaming pawing meltdown but not make an honest to goodness effort to break free. I already have a rope halter and I've used it on him already.

      I think he's pretty good at tying and he'll respect being tied. I tested what he would do if he stepped on the end of his lead rope by stepping on it myself- he worried but didn't flat out panic.

      When he came home and was a pawing nudging tantrum disaster, I'd stand close to him but out of reach and he'd completely melt down. Pawing, fidgeting, throwing his head around. I'd ignore him until he was not in motion for a few seconds, scratch him on the face and tell him good boy, then stand out of reach again. He also learned that if he wants a cookie, he absolutely cannot turn his head towards me. That's led to some creative begging positions, but here very clearly turns his head away from me while keeping his eye and ear focused hard on me if he wants a cookie. The barn has wifi cameras, maybe I can ask for the password to log in to them and sit around the corner and wait for him to have a meltdown and stand quietly again (I won't come back until you simmer down sir). I've been doing my best not to come scratch him when he's melting down because I don't want to reinforce it.

      I started him on a 28 day course of ulcer treatment about 3 weeks after he arrived. He got nice and quiet but is ramping back up. He'll finish it this Friday. I did toy with the idea of putting him on Total Calm and Focus because Penn struggled with being in the barn. He wasn't buddy sour, he just seemed to be so incredibly worried about being in the barn. I have some left, so I can give it a try just to help him make new brain patterns for when he's "alone".

    2. It's tough when they don't follow the hard and fast rules of "buddy sourness".
      Like Annie for example, hacks out alone JUST fine. Is fine to be ridden solo in the ring and have horses come and go for lessons without batting an eye.

      But, take her out with another horse to a show and she can't even stand tied at the trailer.

      I think you are on the right path - the most frustrating things usually take the most time

    3. Eli is definitely happier when there's another horse in the ring. But I know he'd be a screaming panic mess if I hauled him with another horse... so we're not going anywhere.

      I may extend his ulcer treatment to make sure he doesn't worry himself silly while we sort this out.

      I think we're on the right path too, taking our time and giving boundaries and rules and holding fast to them. Just frustrating!

  4. I was going to suggest a month of ulcerguard and put him on magnesium. I use Animed Remission, its cheap, has good stuff in it as well as the magnesium and seems to help a bit.

    1. He's already almost done with a month of ulcer treatment, which I can happily extend. I liked the stuff I saw in remission, so I'll toss it into the mix of total calm and focus and quiessence that I'm considering, thanks! I've used those two in the past, but I prefer pellets.