Q:My horse recently moved to a new barn for the winter, and ever since moving there he has been a different horse. Since moving to the new barn he has developed an extreme attachment to the other horses and has a completely different personality. He has become pushy and difficult to work with, whereas before he had great ground manners and an excellent work ethic. I'm thinking of bringing him back home, even though it would mean not being able to ride him, just because I don't want to see him or myself get hurt due to his increased excitement. I have had him at the new barn about a week now, which I thought was plenty of time to adjust to his new surroundings. Do you have any suggestions?  

Halley A. Sissom

A:It would be useful to know more about your horse's past, especially where he was and how he did when stabled with other horses before he was alone at home. It would also be interesting to consider how the management--other than social stimulation--might be different among the various environments he has lived. And it would be good to know his age and whether he is an intact stallion or a gelding.

In the meantime a couple of suggestions come to mind. First, if your horse is an older gelding who's experienced fairly drastic changes in his social environments, for example, I would agree that a week should be sufficient to adjust more or less to a new social environment. But in any case, it might be worth giving him a month or more if you can, especially if he is young and less experienced. While he is adjusting I would suggest using some basic groundwork to peacefully re-establish a good working relationship. If you could think of him as a new horse in his new environment, the process of working with him as you would with any new, young horse to establish a focus on taking direction could be a fun and productive way to spend the winter.

About the Author

Sue McDonnell, PhD, Certified AAB

Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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