Increase your horse’s confidence Should you be his leader or his friend? Understanding equine body language
QMy four-year-old gelding is very attached to the horses he lives with. He cries when others leave the field or if I take him away. How can I make him less dependent?
When your gelding calls out, he could be showing confident, territorial behaviour, or anxiety about leaving a field buddy. As herd animals, horses are highly sociable, so his behaviour is quite natural. The good news is there's a lot you can do to help him and also deepen the bond you share with him at the same time. From what you’ve said, it sounds as though your horse is whinnying. This is a loud, long call that begins high and ends in a low frequency. All calls are social behaviour and the whinny roughly translates as “I’m here, where are you?” As with people, every horse is different. Some are naturally self-confident, some get assurance from being with others. As a herd animal, just being within sight of other equines can give a horse security. When they’re with us instead, we can give our horses the confidence they need by using positive handling techniques.
How to increase confidence
Find out which particular field-mate your horse is keen to stay with. If it’s safe and practical to do so, bring them in at the same time to decrease any anxiety your horse is feeling. Give your horse confidence by leading him shoulder to shoulder, so that your shoulder is in line with his. When you turn a corner, put yourself on the outside. By leading him forwards positively this way, you’re putting yourself in a natural driving position, just like another confident horse would. Essentially, you’re mimicking his innate body language. When you’re leading, make plenty of walk-halt and halt-walk transitions, wiggly lines and changes of direction to make things interesting and keep your horse’s focus on you. If you are still concerned, it would be safest to seek expert advice. Find a local SEBC professional at societyofequine behaviourconsultants.org.uk.
Being left out in the field with no company can be upsetting for many horses