HANDS ON

EQUUS - - Contents - By Chris­tine Barakat with Melinda Freck­le­ton, DVM

• Emer­gency sep­a­ra­tions • Re­duce scar­ring risk • Lower the hay

Two horses with an un­healthy emo­tional at­tach­ment to each other present daily man­age­ment chal­lenges. If one or both of the duo get up­set when they are sep­a­rated, the vo­cal­iza­tions, pac­ing and gen­eral fret­ful­ness can be disruptive and even dan­ger­ous. Most peo­ple try to keep the pair within eyesight of each other and make sure en­clo­sures are safe and se­cure when they can’t be.

With work, a tightly bonded pair can usu­ally be “weaned” from each other over the course of weeks or months. But what hap­pens when one of those horses must leave the farm sud­denly for a med­i­cal emer­gency? You don’t have time for a grad­ual sep­a­ra­tion, and an abrupt one could make an al­ready stress­ful sit­u­a­tion much worse for the horses and humans.

Here’s what might be the eas­i­est way to han­dle that predica­ment: Put both horses on the trailer and ship them to the clinic to­gether. The com­pan­ion­ship dur­ing the ride will prob­a­bly be ben­e­fi­cial to the sick or in­jured horse and you’ll be able to solve the sep­a­ra­tion prob­lem later. Once the sick horse is be­ing tended to, ask the hospi­tal manager about op­tions for the sec­ond horse. A few clin­ics, if they have the room, might let you sta­ble the horse on the prop­erty. Ex­pect to pay ex­tra for this ser­vice, but con­sider it a worth­while in­vest­ment.

If the clinic is un­able to ac­com­mo­date the sec­ond horse, ask if they can rec­om­mend a nearby re­hab fa­cil­ity that might be able to take him. Mov­ing the horse to an unfamiliar lo­ca­tion may dis­tract him enough to tem­po­rar­ily for­get his miss­ing friend. Plus, re­hab cen­ters are usu­ally staffed around-the-clock with han­dlers ex­pe­ri­enced enough to man­age a horse with sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, al­low­ing you to fo­cus on the sick horse and not have to worry about the up­set part­ner back at home.

Over a few days of sep­a­ra­tion, the horses may adapt to be­ing apart. Use this to your ad­van­tage and take steps to keep them from re­sum­ing their un­healthy re­la­tion­ship when you all re­turn home. If pos­si­ble, sta­ble them on op­po­site ends of the barn, pair them with dif­fer­ent pas­ture­mates and sep­a­rate them reg­u­larly for trail rides and trips off the prop­erty.

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