Your horse “sticks” to his herd – what is the reason for that?


July 22, 2021


Maybe you have already thought about what makes your horse tick.

Why does he behave one way or another – and whether he has a reason for it?

Only when we learn to really understand our horse can we work on the causes instead of always just fighting the symptoms with our training.

So it’s incredibly valuable not only to understand your horse’s language and speak a common language.

It is also super exciting to get familiar with your horse’s instincts – because in our modern world, these are usually the ones that cause us the biggest “problems” 😉

So, for example, if your horse has a hard time separating from his herd or is attached to a certain horse buddy, the blog is just right for you today!

The horse herd

Horses are herd animals. But what does that actually mean?

First and foremost, it means that horses need other horses to feel comfortable.

They need social contacts.

Not because they feel lonely without other horses (like we do from time to time when we have a day off or live alone), but because they really need other horses to feel safe.

Because horses naturally think differently than we do, they are not rational – that is why for thousands of years it has been their instinct that warns them that they are at the mercy of predators alone without a protective herd.

For a horse, “no herd” is almost the same as dying.

For it is only with the help of the herd that the horse can relax and sleep, because another horse is watching over it during this time. In addition, more eyes and ears simply see and hear more – and perceive the impending danger earlier.

And even if a lonely horse would no longer be threatened by danger in the stable today, this instinct is simply deeply rooted in every horse – more so in some, perhaps less so in others.

Not to mention their “only purpose in life”: The preservation of their species – which they are not allowed or able to live out with us.

That’s why it’s so important that your horse gets a new “task” that motivates it, even if its herd may not always be around, but only the familiar two-legged friend.

The needs of your horse

First of all, in my opinion, it helps enormously, especially with the issue of “sticking”, if you understand where this behaviour comes from – and what your horse does not want to give up if he does not want to leave his herd:

His security, his task (especially if your horse is a very high-ranking animal) or his access to resources (food and water).

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Perhaps you have heard of the so-called pyramid of needs?

It applies not only to us humans, but certainly also in a similar form to our horses.

This means that first and foremost, your horse’s physiological needs must be met: Like food, water and sleep.

Once these basic needs are met, the next level of the pyramid becomes important: the need for security.

In the case of our horse, after bare survival comes the protection of the herd – because the feeling of safety, as described above, goes directly with the next level of the pyramid of needs: the social needs.

These are therefore the basic pillars that should already be present in the husbandry in order to guarantee a harmonious coexistence with your horse. And to have a horse that is as balanced as possible as a partner.

The next two levels – individual needs and self-realisation – are not as essential for horses as they are in human psychology, but horses also strive for recognition and appreciation – they often really want to please us humans.

In the area of self-realisation it could be about special talents of your horse that you can specifically promote, but we are digressing from the topic 😉

So why does your horse stick to his herd?

Let’s start with a little stock analysis. The first point: physical needs.

Does your horse perhaps not want to leave the herd because he is hungry at the moment?

Even though hunger is (hopefully!) usually not so great that the horse’s body would suffer if it couldn’t eat anything NOW, this phenomenon is often observed when horses have just been allowed to go out to pasture and have been eating for a few minutes.

Many horses have learned that they can no longer eat as soon as they are caught by humans and therefore run away until the (very individual) basic need for grass is covered.

Most of the time, the problems start at the next two levels: The need for security and the social needs.

In simpler terms, your horse does not really feel safe with you or is not convinced that you are in control of the situation and therefore makes his own decisions, e.g. he breaks away and runs back to his herd.

So you have to make it clear to your horse that you have good leadership qualities and that it is worth paying attention to you.

Trust and respect are of course the key words here as well.

This means that in order to be able to separate your horse from the herd in a relaxed way, you have to make sure that he has confidence in your decisions.

This means that there are fixed rules that have to be followed, e.g. a certain distance, not jostling and pushing or biting, not overtaking when leading etc.

But it is important that you defend these rules clearly, but not with harshness or pent-up emotions!

Because dominance is often confused with harshness or assertiveness and punishment – but horses appreciate clarity and predictability – and both don’t have to and shouldn’t be negative!

So when you fetch your horse from the paddock, radiate calm and go with him to a protected setting, i.e. to the arena, the indoor arena or the round pen.

Now start to work on your “problem” in this protected setting – you can be creative!

The goal is always to make it as easy as possible for your horse to do what you want him to do.

For example, if you have a very nervous horse, don’t ask him to stop at the beginning.

It is better to give him a task that corresponds to his nature, for example, various hoof-beat figures or side movements in motion, so that he can reduce his nervousness through movement, but at the same time be challenged in his head.

If you have a lazy and leisurely horse, it helps to train in very short “work units” and to reward him with a break after only 3 successful steps sideways.

If you have a fearful horse, it can help if you make sure that you can master challenges together under your guidance – and your horse’s confidence in you and in himself grows with every training session as you conquer “controlled dangers” such as tarpaulins, flutter band curtains, pole mikado, tyre jumps or umbrellas together.

There are no limits to your imagination in horse training – you just have to use it!

And you will feel how you grow together a bit more with every success.

The most important thing is that you are confident in what you are doing.

That you radiate calmness and confidence but also self-confidence – especially internally but also externally through your body language.

Imagine that you simply know exactly what you are doing and have everything under control – then the success with which you can (and always should) conclude the training positively will come in any case.

By the way, it doesn’t matter how long the training took or whether you even got to the protected area.

Your feeling tells you when your horse is about to lose his nerve and where his limit is.

You can only shift this limit through regular practice, practice and more practice – even if your horse can only move 10 metres away from his herd in a relaxed manner at the beginning.

The next time it might be 20 metres, the next time 30 metres and so on. Routine makes the difference!

It is important that you end with a success that strengthens your horse’s trust in you – for this, the situation does not have to have escalated first and you have to have asserted yourself.

It’s all a question of character – on both sides! – and a short but successful training with a halfway relaxed horse can be much more valuable, especially with this issue, than 2 hours of stress for all involved.

Listen to your feeling – and listen carefully <3 Where understanding begins, respect and trust are not far away!

All the love,

Your Kenzie

Circensic Seminar by Kenzie Dysli

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