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Friday, 14 March 2014

He Sure Can Jump! Exploring Irrational Fear In The Horse

Whitty enjoying the sun...

It became apparent from early on that Whitty  needs to be with the herd. 
It is more than simple desire. 
This is survival.

I discovered this need the first time I put him in his stall where he has a walkout to a paddock. 
I'd brought him in before bringing in the mares.
I led him in through the stall door and he immediately bolted out through the walkout door and promptly and effortlessly jumped the paddock fence and returned to 'his place' near the mares. 
He didn't attempt to jump in with them. 
He could have easily done so, the ring fence being a full foot lower than the walkout paddock fences.

He wasn't upset or worried.

He had a simple desire to be near the herd.

In order to address this I decided to build a higher and stronger fence and so secured the services of my neighbor to come plant posts the following day.

The horses went out early, Whitty to the round pen and the mares to their paddock nearby where he could see them at all times.

Pounding Fence Posts

Fence posts in...Les and I nailed on the fence boards and I felt confident that the new enclosure which is one paddock further from the mares' turnout and the ring would hold him.

I'd placed extensions on three sides of the pipe rail paddock and added electric tape well over 6 feet in total height. I had done some research on the internet and found this to be one of the most effective ways to deter athletes such as Whitty.

When the time came to bring horses in I led Whitty to his stall / paddock with the fortified fencing and watched in disbelief as he once again jumped to freedom, this time clearing two fences with a 'bounce' between.
I yelled WHOA !! which surprising even to me he obeyed. He stopped and waited for me to snap the lead on his halter and I took him back to his stall closing the outside door as soon as I could. 
He called and spun around in his stall until  a mare was brought in and placed in the stall directly across from him.

He settled instantly.

From this 'soother' (the mare) I was able to determine that it didn't matter which horse was keeping him company...he simply needed company.

He remained locked inside during the night.

The following morning I fed early and erected more extensions with electric tape on the new fence. I turned Sirius Eclipse into the walkout next to Whitty.
I chose her specifically because she had been the one to put him in his place during turnout the day before.
Of all the mares (in my mind) she would be the least likely for him to willingly leap over the fence to be with.

I haltered him and snapped on a longe line.
I opened the door to the walk out and we stepped out.
He eyed the white electric fence tape as we walked the perimeter together...he showed interest in Sirius and quickly adjusted his excitement when he remembered their last words to one another.

Temporary extensions with electric tape

This is not a pretty picture for me....this shows worry and 'interference' from the electrical field

Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate electric fencing with horses. The two do not do well together.
The energy field of the fencing interferes with the telepathic communication between the horses in essence making them seem more vulnerable and more alone. This is a temporary solution to a temporary issue.

Whitty made no attempt whatsoever to get close to the fence let alone jump it.
The mares stayed in today.
My thought is to give Whitty all the time he needs to know he is home.

He'll be the first to go out to his round pen in the mornings. 
That seems to work well so far.

He will be second coming in at night so that there is always a mare next to him for company.

His stall guard to his walkout will be up and in place during turn in.

The mares will be rotated so that he doesn't become dependent on any one at this time.
I am certain he will choose his favorite(s) in due time, but for now we'll switch things up. 

My apprentice Ren rewards Whitty with a good grooming..

I spent the better part of the day in and near the barn watching. 
He remained calm and settled so I turned the electric fence off.

His stall door is closed for the I can sleep. 

I feel for this horse.
I understand what is perceived as 'irrational fear'...once having jumped from a moving vehicle to find shelter in a stranger's garage when I thought a tornado might be imminent.
I'd been in a tornado in 1979 and the triggers were real and lasting.

I feel for this horse.
I understand his fear of separation.
He's been moved who knows how many times.
He's been owned by many different people and formed bonds only to have those bonds broken.
His lack of 'herd social skills' says it all.
He needs his own kind.
He has missed his own kind.

I intend to give that back to him.....and will give it my best shot!
Cheer us on!

 Slow Feeder Nets keep the girls contented ...

A Calm Whitty chooses to stay inside..