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Separation anxiety? Uncurable?

10 replies

Mayandbump23 · 03/04/2011 15:05

SIL(-to-be) is having terrible trouble with her pony. Said pony was moved to a new place three weeks ago where he lives out with another pony and a couple of sheep as company (there are not other horses nearby). SIL's pony has never been fussed about other horses leaving the field/yard in any of his previous yards, even if he's been the only one left behind, and is generally a laid back guy but now gets very, very anxious if the other pony is taken away from the field, whinnies and races round the field, would jump the fence if could. SIL is worried as his behaviour doesn't seem to be getting any better and currently the pony cannot be taken away from the field to be ridden as he just goes crazy and just wants to go back and rejoin his friend in the field. The other pony isn't fussed and is ridden several times a week (they moved to the new place at the same time, didn't know each other beforehand). If anyone has any ideas on how to deal with this (other than giving it time) or any positive stories, please share!

OP posts:
MitchiestInge · 04/04/2011 00:22

Just marking place on thread for later, have pair bonding problems too.

elephantpoo · 04/04/2011 09:42

This may not be a very technical answer, but it's worked for us.
When I got my pony the lady who owned him said he forms very strong bonds with his field mates. We have a little Dartmoor and they soon became firm friends. He behaved in exactly this way when they were separated.
All I did was bring him into the yard each day away from his buddy, but only for short periods. First I'd just give him a quick brush and pop him back out. Then I just gradually increased the time he spent away from our Dartmoor (eg. a groom and a walk down the lane). Alongside this, we'd also leave him in the field for similar periods of time. I appreciate that this may not be so easy to achieve for you, as the other pony isn't yours. Maybe the other owner would be willing to play along for a couple of weeks? Or could you plan to be there when her pony goes out and do something with yours so he's "busy" when his friend goes out, and then turn him out for a bit before hers rejoins yours?
It is very frustrating. I was really worried about mine doing himself some damage.........apparantly he'd cleared hedges before he was cut to get to his "friend"!!

elephantpoo · 04/04/2011 10:04

sorry, just re-read the last bit If anyone has any ideas on how to deal with this (other than giving it time). My option took a bit of time, but was the softly-softly approach that he needed. Your SIL's pony sounds very similar to mine-very stressed at being left.
When you say he can't leave the field, what does he do?
If it's viable your SIL could try being very firm and adopt a no-nonense approach. Ie- you are going out of the field, you are going for a ride. But not knowing the pony or how he's behaving, it's very hard to say if this would work. It may just create a battle that adds to the pony's stress.

Mayandbump23 · 04/04/2011 13:44

Thanks. They have been trying the softly, softly approach by taking SIL's pony out of the field for a minute or so, every day, but as soon as he's out of the gate he goes mental, rearing, charging, tanking off, generally just trying everything to get back to his mate. He's a chunky ~14hh so dangerous when he gets like that, no-one can hold him and he could easily hurt someone. The other pony goes out regularly and isn't fussed in the slightest, even when SIL's pony calls and whinnies from the field. So far they've only tried in hand as SIL is, understandably, reluctant to get on her pony the way he is at the moment. I think they're going to get a friend of theirs to try and ride the pony out of the field to see if he behaves differently under saddle, when he's in 'work mode'. Do you think that's a good idea?

OP posts:
LowRegNumber · 04/04/2011 20:20

what about food? Literally get a handful of food in a couple of buckets. Lead one pony out and feed both. Return pony straight away. Repeat every night or morning and night alternating which pony you take out... if it works try increasing the distance/time.

Sorry if that is no help, just a thought!

elephantpoo · 05/04/2011 13:00

Crikey - don't blame your SIL for being reluctant to climb aboard. That's a hefty weight to fight with.
Glad you've expanded a bit.....when you said pony I was picturing a 11 hand pony, maybe being a little bolshy Blush
It's worth a try putting somebody on him.....may be a safer place to be.
They'd need to be a very strong and confident rider though.
Hmmm.....this is difficult. He really does seem to be extremely distressed about leaving his friend. Is the other pony a mare or gelding?
LowRegNumber's suggestion could be worth a go. He'll still be able to see his friend, and you could gradually build up from there.
Beyond that, I'm lost. Sorry.

MitchiestInge · 07/04/2011 09:59

I just think I'm screwed as far as this goes. It's better than it was, in that can leave one with hay and ride the other without jumping out of field but there is lots of plaintive whinnying. Mostly it is safer to bring both in and keep within sight and calling distance, and ideally have both ridden at once but was difficult at show to separate them for classes.

For us it's something to accommodate and work around up to a point, they are and always have been surrounded on all sides by other horses and that helps but in our case it's probably neither possible nor desirable to break that bond and try to override that instinct?

elephantpoo · 15/04/2011 18:38

Mayandbump23 - just wondering if any progress has been made?

Mayandbump23 · 18/04/2011 15:26

A little bit, pony is now ok(ish) being left in the field on his own, still calls for his friend but doesn't race around as much. Pretty bad taken out, though will now follow a carrot a little way up the lane and back. Slowly does it.

OP posts:
elephantpoo · 18/04/2011 19:38

Very frustrating, but small steps are still steps. Keep us posted.

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