Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common behavioral problem in horses and ponies. Lots of stables have a horse who is anxious about leaving the yard or panics when his/her friend is removed. Why are some horses affected more than others?

They depend on other herd members to alert them to potential danger and to watch over them while they are sleeping or relaxing. They need equine company to feel safe. Naturally, horses do form strong attachments and will often form  a close relationship with another horse, often of a similar age, height and size to themselves. A horse on his own is in a dangerous situation and must be constantly vigilant  any lapse of concentration in the wild could be a matter of life or death.

If your horse is becoming overly attached to another horse or pony, start a gradual training plan to practice short separations of a few minutes at first, then gradually and with care increase the length of time they are apart in subsequent sessions. Ensure both horses have calm, well-socialised equine company and they have a good experience when separated as in a feed, or grooming rewards.

Never force your horse to leave others, leave him on his own or punish him if he is anxious. He will never get used to his fear. Leaving him alone and distressed will only reinforce that he should be frightened when he’s on his own and this is could possibly make matters worse.

If your horse will be alone for a specific situation as in a vet or farrier visit and you think they may struggle, make sure you have another calm horse present. If that isn’t possible, ensure your horse has access to plenty of food  or carrots to occupy him or her. This will result in a better behavior should your horse need any treatment.