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Used to run a stable and live on a farm, now I am back into banking for awhile. Still have horses and love animals.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Separation anxiety and horses

One thing about the life that I live now is it gives me a great deal of opportunity to meet many different animals. I have the opportunity to learn something new about every animal I meet. I love studying behavior and modifying a behavior by working with the environment to encourage the desired behavior or create an appropriate consequence/reward when the desired behavior is presented by the animal.

I've learned to mimic the body language of horses, dogs and parrots. Behaviors I frequently encounter include food/resource guarding or aggression, separation anxiety, and fear responses. I learned the golden rule from a behavior class I took that is simple "all behavior has a purpose"  (or desired consequence),

I have always known that horses are herd animals and need to be with other horses or at least a companion like a goat, chicken, etc. I am learning from a horse we are currently boarding that true separation anxiety can occur when a horses looses a long time, deeply bonded companion. In the case of Polo, he seems to react to the extreme when other horses leave the barn even though he is not alone in the barn. Another clue that points to separation anxiety in this case is the refusal to eat hay in his stall, frequent bouts of head bobbing and standing in the back of the stall (looking depressed).

Although not scientific, the impression I get is that Polo thinks they are never coming back. The same routine every day will help put him at ease and eventually he will go out with one of the herds. Today I put hay in the arena on the other side of the gate so that Polo could stand and watch the other horses in the paddock, he started eating the hay and relaxed. I make sure that when one side of the barn is out, I put Polo in another stall so someone is next to him. He is now starting to finish his hay in his stall instead of just picking at it and is not bobbing his head except at feeding time which is his way of saying hurry up with the grub!

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