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How to Resolve Herd-Bound Behaviors

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How do I stop my horse from being herd-bound is one of the most frequently asked questions I get from my blog readers and students. Because of this, I wanted to share my personal experiences of dealing with herd-bound horses.

My goal is to help as many horse owners and enthusiasts as possible overcome this vexing issue.  

There are three types of severity that I have seen in herd-bound horses and I have developed easy-to-follow protocols for each. My approach when facing any issue with horses is to always ‘Push the Easy Button’. So I am confident that the solutions I will be sharing with you will work for you and your horse as well.

Herd-bound behaviors in a horse can range from annoying to dangerous. So let me give you a quick overview of my definition of the three levels of herd-bound behaviors that I have dealt with:

Mild Cases

Your horse may not want to leave his buddy but will once you have him haltered. This could be classified as an annoyance. It means your horse is hard to catch, hard to halter, and isn’t always reliable when you have him on a lead rope. He may stop and start, whinny to go back, not pay attention to you, or pull on the lead rope. These behaviors can be frustrating and can get in the way of training.

Is this where you are?

Medium Cases

Your horse may exhibit all the above behaviors but be more aggressive. So the pulling on the lead rope can turn into bolting and running back to the other horse. Your horse may start pawing the ground. Since he’s not paying attention to you, he may accidentally hit you with his front leg or step on your foot. This now goes beyond the point of frustration and moves to being unsafe. This becomes more of a roadblock when it comes to training.

Sometimes the aggressive behavior gets worse as the horse is taken further away. I’ve even seen horses bite their owners while being groomed because they left their buddy. 

When he sees you with a halter, he might decide to run around the pasture to keep away from you. I’ve seen horses strike out or try to kick their owners while tacking up. 

In medium cases, riding might even become dangerous. I’ve seen horses grudgingly do what their owners want when haltered but then immediately act out once mounted. I’ve seen horses throw their owners off because all they wanted to do was to get back to their buddy in the pasture.

Perhaps you have experienced some of these behaviors from your horse.

Severe Cases

If a horse has a severe case of being herd-bound then he may run around full blast in the pasture to try to get away from a halter and may end up hurting himself. Without a care for his own safety, he can damage his stifle or even fracture a leg. If you are in the pasture with that horse, he may not hesitate to run you over if you get in his way. So in a worst-case scenario, both you and your horse could be in danger of a serious injury. 

The stress and anxiety caused by a severe case of herd-bound behavior can also lead to colic. If any of these injuries happen, then emotional trauma and fear memories will be created right before your eyes as well. This can turn into a serious issue and be hard to resolve except for the most experienced.  

Here are some more signs and symptoms…

(We are only talking about a situation where two horses are in the same pasture together.)

In a mild case, your horse may do some or all of these things:

  •     Whinny and constantly look for the other horse when he is taken out of the pasture.
  •     Walk along the fence line watching the other horse as he leaves.
  •     Stop grazing and wear a pathway down in the pasture waiting for the other horse to return.
  •     Paw at the gate to get out to be with the other horse.
  •     Continually stand at one location where he can see the other horse and whinny to him intermittently.

Or, when you take him out, your horse may do some or all of these things:

  •     Pull on the lead to watch where his buddy is in the pasture.
  •     Try to turn around and go back to the pasture a few times.
  •     Stop and whinny to his buddy still in the pasture.
  •     Not pay close attention to you but still do what you ask, kind of.
  •     After a short session/lesson, he will stand at the arena gate pushing on it telling you he is done. You can tell he wants to go back to the pasture with his buddy. He will then continue the session/lesson when you ask but then go back over to the gate over and over.

In a medium case, your horse may do some or all of these things:

  •     Whiny all the time and push on the fence or the gate to try to get out.
  •     Trot constantly, going back and forth along the fence line and whinnying to the other horse.
  •     Run around the pasture looking for the other horse and working up a sweat.
  •     Come over to you (when the other horse is gone) but then trot away. Then he will come back over to you as if to ask you to take him out too and then run off again.
  •     Let you halter him but then trot quicker than you can walk and get ahead of you, trying to get to the gate in a hurry.

Or, when you take him out, your horse may do some or all of these things:

  •     Pull away from you and bolt back to the pasture to be with his buddy.
  •     Continue to pull on the lead and shake his head in frustration.
  •     Stomp on the ground and snort as you try to lead him away from the pasture.
  •     Not listen to you in the arena during a session/lesson and ignore you as he is looking to find a way to get back to his buddy.
  •     Do what you ask in the session/lesson but then go over to the gate to say, “Okay, we’re done,” and refuse to continue the session/lesson.
  •     Shake his head, act up, crow hop, and not listen to you while riding.

In a severe case, your horse may do some or all of these things:

  •     Run constantly back and forth along the fence line and whinny to the other horse.
  •     Have no regard for anyone or anything else in the pasture with him.
  •     Be frantic, panicked, white-eyed, and/or work up a frothy sweat.
  •     While trotting or running, shake his head, kick out, and/or rear.
  •     Not let you halter him, touch him, get close, or calm him down.

Or, when you take him out, your horse may do some or all of these things:

  •     If you can catch him, he won’t stop moving around you and circles you at a trot.
  •     Rear up or crow hop as you try to take him to the arena.
  •     Kick out at you while you’re leading him.
  •     Pin his ears and try to bite you while you’re leading him.
  •     Not give you his attention in the arena and run around the arena with no regard for you, just trying to get out.
  •     Rear up or buck to throw you off if you are riding in order to get back to the other horse.

This is only a general overview of my signs and symptoms list. If your horse does any of these things or more, he is showing signs and symptoms of being herd-bound. Whichever case you and your horse are in now, I have a solution for you. 

I just finished a new video course and a new book discussing these solutions.  These have all worked for me and my clients for many years. They are my tried-and-true fixes for this specific problem. I sincerely hope that one of them works to resolve your herd-bound issues with your horse as well. 

I am sharing these solutions because I want to help you. I’ve heard people say that they’ve just given up and sold their horse due to herd-bound issues. I don’t want to see that happen for both you and your horse’s sake.

If you are having any of these herd-bound issues with your horse I have two options for you…

  1.   You can read all three of my solution protocols in my new book titled, “Herd-Bound To You!” by clicking the links below.

“Herd-Bound to You!” – Paperback Book    OR     “Herd-Bound to You!” – Kindle Version

 

  1.   If you think you have a medium to severe case, you can see how I resolved this case with my horse, Apollo, in my new Self-Study Program – 

Herd-Bound Video Course

 

No matter which option you choose, I hope you find it helpful and are able to resolve these herd-bound behaviors in your horse.

Until next week, Happy horses!

 

Please Share


  • I love your book, Teddie. It has many tips in it. I love that you have some examples of working through issues your horses but also with clients horses. What amazing changes with your clients horses. Very inspiring.

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