Horse Hates Living Conditions But I Can’t Move

What can you do when you know your horse hates his living conditions, is not getting his needs met, is getting anxious and grumpy as a result, but yet you cannot move him elsewhere?

Sometimes we know our horse is not where they should be, or where they need to be – and we dislike or disagree with many of the stable or boarding facility rules. But we don’t have anywhere better to move our horse, or we cannot create a better living environment for him. Then what do we do??

Reader Story: I came across your response to a question about Trust Technique making a horse aggressive – although I don’t do energy work (I don’t know how) it resonated with me in so many ways as I’m often acutely aware that my (sensitive) horse is trying to tell me something and I just don’t know where to start to help her! I try to listen but I don’t know what to do when she says no!

For example, when I hand walk she keeps planting – I’ve been waiting for her to decide where/when she wants to move but is that the right response, I don’t know? And what do I do when I can’t give in to her objections – for example, stomping feet because doesn’t want rug on, but she’d have no turnout at all without it in these conditions! We’re both having a difficult time at the moment as I’m not allowed to turn her out for more than an hour a day (due to weather and ground conditions) and I can see my mare becoming more and more affected by this – she’s becoming grumpy with me and her stable mates and anxious and spooky.

I feed as much soaked hay as possible and minimal hard feed for her vits/mins. I’m not riding as it’s no longer safe and I’m not allowed to lunge in our sand school. She must see me as an awful owner. I can’t move her to another barn. I just don’t know what to do for the best for her at the moment. Any advice would be very welcome.

Kesia: When I first leased my mare, Amalia, I was 17 and brand new to horse management. Amalia was, like your mare, sensitive, grumpy, and even aggressive. She was done to death with humans and their endless stupidities. At the time, it was really hard to be the caretaker of someone who seemed to hate me and everything I did. But now I can look back and see how necessary that behaviour was for her to preserve her own spirit when everything in her life was working to crush it. Stalls, tack, rugs, controlled turnout, restricted socialization, scheduled feeding – this is all considered normal but each factor can be a big strike against the horse’s biological needs and inherent sense of self and safety in the wrong context, or when too many factors combine at the same time.

Amalia wasn’t mine yet, so I had limited capability to change her surroundings even as I learned more about how I might help her. I made her a promise that I would one day get her to freedom. It took 10 years, but we’re here now and she lives however she pleases (and will do for the rest of her life). In the meantime, I took every opportunity I could to ease her stress (and that’s what your horse is exhibiting, signs of extreme stress), by learning about nutrition, horse movement, non-adversive horse handling and training, etc. I worked on my own sense of self and ability to stay grounded, which is a big piece of the puzzle, and I also finally bought her so that I could start making the changes I thought she was asking for.

In your case, ask yourself what part of her life do you have the power to change tomorrow? My go-to would be to get her a haynet and fill it with low-sugar hay and never let it be empty. Horses are designed to eat 14+ hours of the day and an absurd amount of “bad behaviour” is due to this basic biological fact being ignored. Chewing will also help quiet her mind and give her something to do while stalled. Limit processed and sugary feeds (substitute for chaff, hay pellets, beet pulp, etc if you need it as a carrier, but my horses eat their minerals straight from a free choice bucket), and consider adding a loose mineral salt (at least a tablespoon) to her feed and/or give her a natural mineral salt lick (Himalayan, Redmond, etc). She might benefit from herbs, homeopathy, bach flower remedies (none of these are my forte but some people are brilliant with them) – but as a general rule of thumb, free-choice low-sugar hay is the basis for digestive (and emotional and mental) health.

Secondly, can you access an enclosed arena for solo time with her? If so, let her run loose and use the time to watch her, be with her, be curious. Stay away from her or watch from a safe distance outside if she is giving you aggro vibes. Join her when you think she can handle it, but don’t try to interact with her or do anything to her. Just let her be her and you be you. Having a chance to move freely will mean a lot to her, whether she needs to run and blow off steam, or just wander and smell things, roll, scratch, etc. If you need to justify it, call it supervised turn-out – she’s sensitive and needs to move. If you’re not allowed to lunge, then maybe you’re not allowed to do this either. But see if there is any space you can both be where she can have a chance to move on her own terms.

Finally, keep learning, keep researching, and keep letting her know you’re trying. Don’t take her behaviour personally – she is trying to tell you something, or a lot of things, but the stabling conditions are making it very hard to be heard. If you truly can’t move her, then you yourself have to accept the situation and remind yourself this is the best you can do at this time, and all things must pass. Being hard on yourself won’t fix it and will only make your energy more muddy to her. You’re doing your very best, with the best of intentions – and that best will improve as you learn more and find more agency. There is so much more to explore with this being, but right now she needs some physical relief before she can legitimately enter into a more trusting, flowing, intuitive relationship with you. Best of luck to you both!

Jini: YES to everything Kesia wrote, and the other thing I would encourage you to look for (or be open to) is The 3rd Alternative. This is not either/or. It is the outside-the-box, possibly never done before, solution to your problem.

You say you cannot move her and she can’t be happy/safe where she is – that’s your either/or. And neither of them are good.

So open to, and set your intention, to find the 3rd alternative. The solution that will be good for both of you. Stephen Covey has actually written an entire book on this and uses it all the time with big corporations etc:

“You get to the 3rd Alternative through synergy, which happens when the talents of two or more people [or horses!] add up to more than the sum of the parts. Synergy starts when I go to a person I differ with and say, “You see things differently. I need to listen to you.” It’s exciting when you truly hear out divergent views and you start to see how to bring them together for a solution nobody ever thought of before.”

So I would use this invitation-opportunity to dig deeper into where your horse/life/higher self wants to take you. Many times our horses force us into the growth and magic that turns out to be the best thing for all of us.

Horse Hates Living Conditions But I Can’t Move

10 thoughts on “Horse Hates Living Conditions But I Can’t Move

  • March 15, 2020 at 3:11 am
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    Great question and even more gorgeous answer. I was struck by how incredibly lucky this mare is to have such a lovely ‘owner’- so many are unheard. Things will change- our minds and energy are big, powerful engines for change- harnessing it so it’s not like a light sabre with a dodgy handle, has been one of my own biggest challenges lol

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    • March 16, 2020 at 11:49 pm
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      You and me both! “light sabre with a dodgy handle” – BRILLIANT!!

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  • March 15, 2020 at 7:05 am
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    Something that is coming to me very strongly, Kesia touched on and that is to find the time that will alllow you and your horse to be as you are with Unconditional Love.
    When you visit this horse greet him/her and then pull up a chair facing the stall and ‘be still’. If possible sit close enough so that your horse can hang his/her head above you or is able to touch you if she/he wants to. Close your eyes and let your busy mind go; as if your thoughts were floating on top of a stream of water; lazily going down stream with the Water and and you and your horse are standing next to the Stream. If you find you are engaging with thoughts, feel your breathe and be still again; consciously; and, in your imagination begin to see, hear, smell, taste and touch the Stream. The Stream represents The Devine and your horse will recognize it. Let yourself relax into the Water; trust the Water.
    This can be a very different experience for both you and your horse as you learn to sink your breath and heart beats in solidarity. I feel you are both in pain, both feel trapped, and need to connect for understanding in your quest for an answer to this situation. I suggest you build the time up in meditation to two 20 minute sessions each day, beginning with five minutes. I know it sounds like a lot but if you begin, this time together will become precious.
    The experience of being locked up is terrible but is also full of possibilities. The Presence or Love, Devine or Energy (what ever term fits for you for a loving, wise G-d) is always waiting for an invitation to flow within ourselves and into our relationships. You will be pleasantly surprised by how this will change things in unexpected and wonderful ways.
    Be peace, C

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    • March 16, 2020 at 11:50 pm
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      Love this Claudia – I haven’t used this imagery with horses before. Gonna try it out for sure 🙂

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    • March 17, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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      Claudia…This is so positive! I absolutely love how you have outlined a way to make the best of this situation! So This! Also maybe some lovely walks out together! I absolutely love walking with the horses! It presents so much opportunity for conversation and connection!
      ✌🏼❤️🐴

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  • March 15, 2020 at 7:26 am
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    When opportunity and the privilege to share life with Horses first came into my life ….
    my family lived in suburbia! So we boarded first in a stall then out onto a couple of acres! Then I let my house get foreclosed on & with the help of my parents purchased our own acre..so I could live with the horses! After five years that felt so small so we moved to 12 acres! Of course now it feels small but thats another story! All this was done with the horses well being in mind and they were the inspiration! Freedom is everything to me and I just had to find a way to make it happen! I do have the love and support of the best husband ever and he has helped make it all come to fruition! But if you would of told me 12 years ago I would change my entire life for a horse I would of said no! But they came and I did! The amazing part is I am now living my best life and we are all happier then we have ever been!
    Keep putting the energy out there for what you want and I even made a wish Board/paper! Put all the things you want to see happen in your life on it and read it everyday! Life is ever changing and anything is possible! ✌🏼❤️🐴

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    • March 15, 2020 at 8:07 am
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      How lovely, Michelle!! xxxxx : ))))

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    • March 16, 2020 at 11:51 pm
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      How many of us here can echo those words: “Change my entire life for a horse”?? And I’ll bet every single one of us sees the value/benefits in the shift 🙂

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  • March 15, 2020 at 2:41 pm
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    I read with misty eyes the challenge and all the responses. Wonderful suggestions! Accepting the not-knowing is a powerful place to be though terribly uncomfortable at times. It opens the door to what Jini refers to as the 3rd alternative that can sneak into our cognitive minds as a surprise when we aren’t working so hard at finding the solution. I want to reassure you that trying to listen whether or not you think you are successful, please know that you are just by the effort. As Dee said, “…how incredibly lucky this mare is to have such a lovely ‘owner’- so many are unheard.” Many years ago when I was feeling a failure for not providing my horses many of the perks to make their lives more comfortable, my head guy, Apolinaire, cut through my self-railing mind chatter and let me know that what they as a herd valued the most was that I listened (or tried) to them and acknowledged that they are sentient beings. He said that was far more meaningful to them than all of the physical things I wanted to offer. So, Lovely Owner, you are already doing it! Great solutions have been offered here, and more will come as you rest in the knowing that you are already offering your horse a significant part of your journey together, your listening heart and mind. One more thought comes to my mind before I go. When my horses offer certain behaviors that don’t have obvious solutions for them, I view it as charades, or as dream symbols with a message for my own personal/spiritual growth. If my horse were “planting,” it may not be about her, but about a message to me about me that has nothing to do with her. They are so wanting us to reach our full potential as our gurus. For example, how or where am I planting in my life?What intuition am I not trusting, and am planting or resisting maybe out of fear? Where am I being hesitant about moving forward and am planting…there are many ways to interpret, maybe even, where do I need to plant myself and honor boundaries, or where do I need to plant myself and say no to a direction someone else or even myself is taking me! It can be a fascinating journey to allow our horses to teach us about ourselves with their intriguing charades. I wish you well.

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    • March 16, 2020 at 11:53 pm
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      Ooooh LOVE this Beverly! And your questions about ‘planting’ are things I can ask myself… very insightful. Thank you!

      Reply

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