The one left behind - Don Jessop

The one left behind - Don Jessop

February 02, 2021 5 Comments

THE ONE LEFT BEHIND

DON JESSOP

The last couple of weeks we've talked about how to manage herd animal behavior and separation anxiety in horses. And just like last week, I'm going to reiterate how important it is to view this anxiety when separated as an instinctive behavior in a horse. Horses are family creatures and when they get separated they get nervous. Luckily it can be changed for the better. Horses can learn to relax when separated. Read last week's article to find out more about how to keep your horse's attention in a positive place. 

At the end of the article I hinted I would write about the one left behind. We've talked about how to solve separation anxiety in the horse you're working with but didn't really get into solving it for the horse left in the field. It's often much harder for him or her because when you leave him alone, you leave him with no leadership. 

There are however, a few things you can do to make his/her life more comfortable. 

Here are you options:

Number one: Don't leave him behind. Take him with you. Or if you do leave him behind, leave a friend with him. I know it's not ideal, but it is one solution many people explore.

Number two: Give it time. Time heals all wounds. If your fences are safe, you can trust he won't hurt himself. In time he'll realize that you always come back with his friend. In my experience this will take lots of time. Maybe a year or two (some horses are even more extreme) before your horse starts to realize that his friend leaving, doesn't mean staying away.

Number three: Stay in sight. Slowly increase the distance at which you can separate the horses. First, play with your horse inside the same space. Then, begin to slowly increase the distance at which you play but stay in sight. Soon, you can leave his sightlines, but quickly return. Think of it like "approaching and retreating" from a certain distance until your horse left behind is trusting you'll always return. Eventually, you'll be able to stay out of sight for longer without upsetting your horse too much.

Number three: Leave something behind for him to enjoy. If you have a third horse that can stay back as a friend that's ideal, but even that isn't enough sometimes. You can leave food behind. If you leave food every time, your horse left behind will start to associate food and relaxation to separation instead of anxiety. Especially if you combine a few of the above strategies.

I want to highlight just a few concepts here before I go. First... make sure your fences are safe. Sometimes you can't help the horse left behind, you just have to trust he'll be okay. Second... spread the distance slowly. Third... don't get frustrated! You're dealing with instinct. Every time you deal with instinctive behavior you've got a long road ahead. Be patient, calm, and carry the demeaner of a leader. Don't carry the demeaner of a worry wart. Plan ahead for success. You can do anything if you plan like a leader. 

To your success with all your horses,

Don Jessop

PS. I want to hear from you. Comment below. Ask me questions. I'll respond.



5 Responses

Dawn
Dawn

February 04, 2021

I recently had to say goodbye to my pony who was the pasture partner when I had to take horses off the property. So now, I am having to deal with separation issues from the ground up. I have found that if I remove a single horse that they are less anxious than those left behind. So it is a curious pattern. I appreciate your article validating what I am currently doing in working to build comfort with slowly increasing the distance when I ride away. Thank you!

Susan
Susan

February 03, 2021

I recently bought a mare that has anxiety when she can’t see the gelding(Chester). Wasn’t going to buy her but due to her living conditions I had to as to remove her from a very small area and every square each was covered with 2 feet of poop, including stall. She was left behind when the other horse was taken away while she paced back and forth in this cesspool environment.
I knew it was going to be difficult convincing her I would protect her. It’s been awarding journey with Lari. She has been doing quite well with a lot of spending time and just asking her to just be with me. Playing with her and long walks not in saddle.
I’m a veteran with PTSD and I sure get it. The anxiety and fear is strong at times with in me that I do understand. As time has gone by she gives me more and more. Trust is a slow process but we are moving forward with great results.
I so much appreciate your articles. You have so much wisdom. Lari knows that I’m there but as a leader that understands her issues but I’m firm with her and with this being said she needs to get pass this so she can recover to be her best self as a horse. I’m not a trainer and have much to learn. This is my second horse that has had this issue. But, after 2 years with the other horse I took from a bad situation he was the best but died cause of injuries from a freak accident. My heart was so broke losing Chase. Lari came along a few months later. Its why I love your articles you have such a heart and so much good information. I thank you so much.

Susan
Susan

February 03, 2021

I recently bought a mare that has anxiety when she can’t see the gelding(Chester). Wasn’t going to buy her but due to her living conditions I had to as to remove her from a very small area and every square each was covered with 2 feet of poop, including stall. She was left behind when the other horse was taken away while she paced back and forth in this cesspool environment.
I knew it was going to be difficult convincing her I would protect her. It’s been awarding journey with Lari. She has been doing quite well with a lot of spending time and just asking her to just be with me. Playing with her and long walks not in saddle.
I’m a veteran with PTSD and I sure get it. The anxiety and fear is strong at times with in me that I do understand. As time has gone by she gives me more and more. Trust is a slow process but we are moving forward with great results.
I so much appreciate your articles. You have so much wisdom. Lari knows that I’m there but as a leader that understands her issues but I’m firm with her and with this being said she needs to get pass this so she can recover to be her best self as a horse. I’m not a trainer and have much to learn. This is my second horse that has had this issue. But, after 2 years with the other horse I took from a bad situation he was the best but died cause of injuries from a freak accident. My heart was so broke losing Chase. Lari came along a few months later. Its why I love your articles you have such a heart and so much good information. I thank you so much.

Sandy Stanway
Sandy Stanway

February 03, 2021

Firstly thanks for your words of Wisdom. I LOVE reading your blogs every week, you have so much knowledge, understanding and skill and I always get something from them. Re this article, I appreciate your thoughts and have found by trial and error exactly what you are saying to be true, its simple, not easy and a constant work in progress with some horses. Thank you so much for all the time you devote to writing these articles, very much appreciated.

Lisa
Lisa

February 03, 2021

Working on this with my quarter horse. She is a challenge. She has a great deal of anxiety. You worked with me on this at Judy Hills. It seems the best solution for me is to pony her with us. If I make her the lead then she becomes Mariah and attempts to kick her mate. She is mostly happy to follow but recently has begun to stop. Judy Hill helped show me a technique that kept her next to us and using a whip as a guide to help her understand her job. This worked very well. Now she has taken to lying down for the 1st time. Initially I thought she was colicky but then once I was off and walking her she was fine. I’m somewhat convinced there a discomfort or shift in the saddle that may have motivated this behavior. She was quite a handful that entire ride. Judy will attest to this lol. She is the most sensitive mare. I’ve had her x rayed and there is C5 arthritis. I ride her in boots to support her sensitive soles as I grow a stronger hoof. Diet is timothy, 1 lb soy meal,l
Per day for the last 4 months per my vet Geoff Tucker, alfalfa hay (1 flake per day). I will take her off soy meal in the next two months now that she has good hoof wall growth. She’s suffered with sensitive soles, poor rear hoof support and diminished internal structure support of the collateral ligaments. Currently, she is showing good concavity and development of her internal hoof structures and with boots (easy care for rear and renegade for the front) I am hopeful to improve her comfort riding. The saddle was made to her by Schleese saddles so she has ample shoulder movement and decompression of the sensitive areas of the spine. With all this mentioned I have narrowed it down to a mental issue and I don’t have the tool set to address. I am planning to work with you privately when you are down here in February at Judy’s. I’m hoping we can take a short ride together with Judy’s, jazzy so you can see the behaviors manifested. Thanks for reading and look forward to our time working together in February.

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