How To Get a Horse Used To Being Alone

Mar 05, 2024 | Super Equestrian


Let's talk about my dear horse Willow and his newfound passion for freaking out whenever I leave the barn for two seconds. Yes, you read that right, “two seconds”. 

This wasn't always the case, but lately, leaving Willow alone feels like abandoning a kid in a haunted house. The whinnies, the pacing, the gnawing at the stall bars—it's enough to make a grown man weep (and question his sanity for choosing to own a horse, but that's a story for another day).

So, as I went on this quest to cure Willow’s separation anxiety, I discovered that it wasn't just me facing this drama. Turns out, a lot of horse owners out there are battling the same battle. From sudden changes in routine to the lack of a buddy to hang out with, the reasons for anxiety are endless.

But hey, I am a resourceful man (at least, I would like to think so), and I wasn't about to give up on my furry friend. Through research, trial and error, and the occasional hilarious ( also slightly scary ) meltdown, I started to find ways to help Willow feel more comfortable when I wasn't around. Want to know what I found out? Let's skip the drama and get into it….

Why Do Horses Need to Be Comfortable Alone 

We all love spending time with our horses. But let's face it, we can not be there for our horses all the time. We may go outside of our stalls for day-to-day work. Horses love being their companion and its handler close by. 

When you can afford to keep one horse, it will be difficult for you to give your horse another companion if it is not able to be comfortable on its own.

But you can teach your horse how to be alone.Its a super skill for your horse to keep it happy and confident. It's a step by step process but with the right guidance,you and your horse can totally master it. 

1)Creating a Safe and Secure Environment

When you are trying to teach your horse to be comfortable being alone, you must ensure a safe environment for it. It's like home is our comfort place more than any place in the world, your horse should feel the same. You can follow the steps below:

Selecting the right space for solo time

You need to find a suitable place for your horse. Before choosing the right space, you need to know the types of places where you can keep your horse. Each space has its own benefits.

I) Stalls: It is an enclosed place within the barn where horses stay at night.Stalls provide shelter during bad weather conditions. Stall is small, typically one horse can stay here. Horses do not have enough space to move freely and exercise here. Older horses can get care and protection.

II) Paddocks: Paddocks are built near the stable or pasture, for staying horses at day time. It has more space than a stall, so exercising and movement of horses becomes easier here and also the best option for horse turnout who are not ready for turnout in pasture.

III) Pasture: Pasture is a fenced, large area covered with grass. It provides horses a natural environment for grazing. Horses also get social interaction from other horses here.

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Ensuring safety and eliminating hazards

Any insects, flies, and dampness can irritate your horse. So, keep the place dry and insect-free. Remove any sharp object from the space that may hurt your horse.

Any predator or animal entering the pasture can be frightening for your horse. You have to keep this in mind as well. Strong fencing in the pasture will prevent your horse from escaping.

Providing familiar objects and comforts

It is comfortable and relaxing for horses when they see their comforting object around them when they are alone. 

Keep your horse’s paddock or stall clean and organized daily to give it a familiar feeling. By doing so, your horse's favorite blanket or toys in the space allows it to feel less anxious.

2) Gradually Introducing Solo Time

You can not expect results from the sudden isolation of your horse. We recommend that you increase your horse's solo time gradually. You must keep patience and you will see success in the end. 

Starting with short periods of separation

You can start by leaving your horse in the stall for a few minutes. For the time being, give a quick visit to your other horses and get back. You can repeat the process for a week or months.

Increasing time gradually while monitoring your horse's behavior

When you see your horse is behaving normally with a few minutes of separation, Increase the time for 5 to 10 minutes each time. You have to observe if your horse is showing any sign of discomfort. 

In case your horse feels scared or uneasy, lower the time of your absence. Handle your horse with patience and gradually increase the time that matches your horse’s comfort level.

Utilizing positive reinforcement and rewards for calmness

When you see your horse doing good while you are away, consider this as an achievement for both of you. After you return, cheer your horse with positive words. 

Give your horse's favorite treat ball for his relaxed and calm behavior. This way your horse will learn to be alone with a positive experience.

3) Providing Activities and Distractions

Engaging your horse with some activities and distractions while being alone can be effective in reducing stress. Some of the ideas are:

Engaging toys and food puzzles

Give your horse engaging toys like tall balls, and chew toys. These will work as a boredom buster for your horse. You can give your horse any type of food puzzle like a hanging hay net, puzzle feeder, etc. This will hold their interest and increase your horse's mental stimulation.

Access to fresh water and hay

Nutritious food is needed to keep your horse healthy and hydrated. You can keep fresh water, and high-quality hayat your horse's space. This will keep your horse hydrated and provide nutrition to your horse while you are not around.

Mirrors and other visual stimuli

Placing a mirror inside your horse’s space provides visual stimulation to your horse. Your horse will feel its existence while watching itself in the mirror. You can also hang any flag or moving object.  These will grab the horse's attention and provide entertainment.

Companionship from other animals (when suitable)

Usually, horses are companion lovers. You can introduce your horse to other animals like sheep, goats, or other horses. It will provide companionship and remove anxiety. 

4) Addressing Anxiety and Stress

When you are training your horse to adapt to the process, It is crucial to monitor your horse’s behavior. Any changes in your horse's behavior are a sign of any underlying problem. These steps will help you identify any issue affecting your physical and mental well-being.

Recognizing common signs of discomfort

  1. Changes In behavior: If you see your horse pacing, whining, and not showing interest in food intake, these are the common signs of discomfort and stress.
  2. Physical changes: When you see your horse is not focused on training, showing self-destructive behavior such as kicking the stall, or constantly pawing consider these to be abnormal behavior.

Consulting a professional trainer or behaviorist if needed

When you see such panicky behavior in your horse, it's better to consult a professional trainer or a behaviorist. They can correctly address what may go wrong with your horse and give treatment accordingly. 

Implementing stress-reduction techniques like calming supplements or aromatherapy

If your horse is in a tense situation, keep the training session aside. You can give your horse any calming supplement to decrease the nervousness. You can also play the radio with some calming music to remove the stressful situation.

5) Building Confidence and Independence

Building confidence and independence in your horse is extremely important for it to tackle any hard situation on its own. It also contributes to forming a strong bond between you and your equine friend. You can apply these strategies-

Offering solo outings for grazing or exploring

Take your horse buddy to a safe pasture for solo grazing. Your horse will get an enclosure in a new environment. Increase outing time as your horse is comfortable.

When your horse is comfortable alone in the paddock or stall, give him a solo turnout starting within a short period. It will gain confidence through exploring.

Introducing groundwork exercises for building focus and trust

Some groundwork exercises are lunging, leading, and target training. You can start practicing these exercises with your horse to build trust between the two of you. These exercises will boost your horse’s focus and it will gain confidence in its abilities.

Celebrating your horse's progress and achievements

Show a positive attitude towards your horse when you see any progress. Your horse will progress more when you praise its achievements even if it is small. 

You can encourage your horse by giving it treats or petting it on the neck. This is how you can motivate your horse to show your desired behavior.

6) Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips and tricks you can follow to help your horse be fond of alone time:

Utilizing cross-tying for training and comfort

Horse owners often utilize cross-tying for effective grooming. You can start with your horse with a small session time and gradually increase the time. Use comfortable cross-tying tools and tie your horse gently.

Give your horse positive reinforcement if your horse shows relaxed behavior while training. Stop the training if your horse shows uneasiness.

Building a routine and consistency

You can make a routine for your horse of its daily activities. Regular feeding, grooming, and exercise within a fixed routine can help your horse be predictable.

Try to make the routine consistent for your horse’s well-being. Make a consistent bedtime routine for sound sleep for your horse.

Recognizing the individual needs of your horse

Every horse is different in terms of their preference and needs. While training them, pay close attention to your horse’s body language and behavior. Understand your horse's comfort level and proceed ahead.

If you have a young horse, you need to be more patient with it because young horses process the training slower than others. Some horses are more social by nature, So you have to give your horses more companionship if it requires it.

Conclusion

Training your horse to get used to being alone is an easy process. Starting with giving your horse solo time, ensuring a safe environment, checking on it if it's having any anxiety, building confidence in it, and making a consistent routine for your horse. From

the above explanation, you must have overcome the worries about your horse and understood how it can be on its own while you can focus on your other liabilities.

You can share this article with anyone concerned about their horse being alone on its own. You can also comment below if you have any queries.

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