Jenny Pearce

Fixing separation anxiety starts with the heart and desire to help our horse

Photo by the very talented Marie Richards in New Zealand

I’ve picked up a comment that recently came into an old post about separation anxiety and brought it up here for attention, because I think my reply (which is below) is a really big deal for ALL horse people, not just the lady who wrote it.

I have sympathy for her.  My heart and desire to be good with horses was my own personal motivation that moved me from similar to where this lady is, to where I am today.  Other people will have a different motivation, some a lot more heart centred than mine was originally. 🙂

And it’s SUCH an important part of fixing separation anxiety in the way that has both horse and person feeling good.

The really big deal here is, that the very foundation of being REALLY good with horses  comes from an awareness of the horse as a living breathing feeling sentient being.  And no matter what our motivation, anything less than that foundation, is merely the mechanics of good riding and thus is empty.

And thus is empty…

I took on a 5yo mare a year ago, that did not show any signs of anxiety at the time. I got it home and it commenced mild fence walking. She behaved well otherwise, at home at at pony club, and out riding. Until I rode out recently with a friend, and her horse walked quite quickly. Mine jogged to catch up and became an absolute nuisance. It wasn’t a pleasant ride. She carried on when the other horse continued on and we turned for home. Since then, the fence walking has increased. I sent her out on trial to some people with another horse, thinking this would help. It made the situation worse and she was returned. Her fence walking increased. I acquired another, hopefully more suitable for beginners horse, yesterday. I took the filly out of the paddock after a couple of hours, to see if any of my saddles fit etc. The mare went nuts at being left behind. Reports from when she was on trial was that she would go silly when asked to leave the paddock mate behind. I don’t have the time or resources to fix this problem, and I’m finding it difficult to offload his horse to someone who doesn’t mind. I think she’s going to have to be put down as she’s becoming dangerous.

My reply:

Precious lady (name removed)… Your story is so far away from what I know to be true about horse behavior that I had to go away and allow the best way to help you and your horse to come into my mind without time pressure. You have a distressed and frightened horse who is trying to communicate in the only way she knows how – her behavior.

If you don’t have the time to listen to her or to learn HOW to listen to her, if you don’t have the time or desire to learn how to find mutual understanding with her, then sell her. She certainly doesn’t need to be put down over that behavior, no matter how dangerous it is for an inexperienced person. In a sale, your job would be to find an experienced empathetic new owner for her who WILL have the desire to listen to her, understand her and support her to find her confidence – all of which is perfectly do-able.

Most people find themselves going to extremes like you’re talking about because they don’t understand how powerful it is AND HOW GOOD IT FEELS, to be able to listen to and understand their horse. I’ve always thought that this connection to our horses and how good we feel when we understand it, is WHY we have horses in the first place, even if we didn’t realize that consciously. It’s certainly something that people in my program talk about over and over again – they talk about how they never knew how wonderful it could feel to be with a horse like this.

I never knew how wonderful it could be either, back in the days when I was wrestling with them trying to dominate them to my will.

I have a feeling that this is a serious make or break time in horses for you – a time to find a path to being with horses in way that can be a wonderful experience with a live, thinking, feeling being or a time to get a motorbike instead. And I promise you I’m not being a smart alec about that.

I have sympathy for the frustration that you’re feeling, but if you REALLY mean it that you don’t have the time or desire to learn how to fix it, then a motorbike is looking like an attractive alternative – much less dangerous for you and better for the horse.

If the idea of solving this problem and on the way, developing a beautiful relationship with your horses as feeling, thinking beings appeals to you, then I would love to support you on that journey. Contact me on the contact form at the top of the page and we can have a chat about the best place to start. Much love to you as you work your way through your decision process.

Here’s another important article about separation anxiety in horses.

The next article in this series will be a success story or two or ten… 🙂



  1. Suzanne 09/14/2018, 11:09 pm Reply

    Your words are well said. I think too often people take horses for granted and they are bought, sold and traded like cars. Few of us would do this to a dog, so why do we do it to horses? And horses, just like dogs, can develope severe fears of having their lives changed drastically.

    I noticed this exact thing in my gelding this spring. Our personal herd of 4 horses in one pasture was slowly reduced to only 2. Horses that had once been comfortable going out alone were suddenly panicked at the idea. My gelding (who has bad memories of his first home anyway) was especially shaken, and when we bought our own horse trailer he was panic stricken just looking at it. I could just read his mind that he was convinced that either he or his mate was about to leave forever.

    The mare n this story has the same fear. A valid fear. She’s reached her breaking point and feels her life is falling apart with no hope. She needs someone who cares enough to show her the road to peace.

    • jennyp 09/15/2018, 7:20 am Reply

      When people haven’t been shown what the connection to a horse feels like, it’s all too easy to think that horses don’t have feelings and they don’t think or reason. I’ve actually personally heard one of the top, very respected behaviourists in the world say that horses are dumb creatures of habit and routine – and a whole heap more say that horses don’t feel love for humans. They’re so busy trying not to not anthropomorphise that they’ve missed how special AND sentient they really are.

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