Drummer.“Stacy, this is Drummer. He has such a great personality and is very willing to learn…our issue is that he is herd bound. If he cannot see his 2 buddies, he gets filled with anxiety and it seems like he loses his brain! How do we get through this? We are working on ground work, but as soon as his friends aren’t around he wont pay attention. I’m worried about our safety. I am 5 months pregnant and I am not riding at the moment. Just lunging and doing those simple things for now.”-Victoria H.

I recently wrote a blog answering the question, “How long did you ride while you were pregnant?” but I didn’t go into detail on the groundwork side. You are dealing with two separate issues here; a herd bound horse and pregnancy.

The short answer on your herd bound horse is that he isn’t viewing you as a leader, at least not under pressure. The issue may seem like it is the buddies but what Drummer is telling you is that he isn’t willing to listen to you at that time. This could be happening because Drummer needs more training. If he doesn’t really understand the groundwork cues then he will seem to ignore them. If you go back and watch Episode 3 of Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac you will see an example of a horse that didn’t understand the groundwork cues…and wasn’t very interested in sticking around to learn them…which brings me to the next part of my answer.

In your question you mention that you are ‘Just lunging and doing those simple things for now.’  As you can see by watching Episode 3, the horse will play a large part in how ‘simple’ the groundwork will be. When I am training a horse I consider myself to be the teacher and the horse to be the student. Some students ask tough questions and the teacher needs to be able to answer them. Many problems horses have can be traced back to a time when they were accidentally rewarded for bad behavior. For example, if a horse almost runs you over because it is frantic about being separated from his buddies and you move, to avoid the possibility of injury while you are pregnant, the horse may learn two things. The horse learns that you don’t have a clear plan and he also learns that when push-comes-to-shove, he is able to shove you out of the way.

Your horse likely needs much of the groundwork that I show in the Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac, early episodes. If you watch the Video Diary you can see how much Jac changes as he learns the groundwork. The difficulty is that even groundwork carries a risk of injury. I wrote a blog titled, “How dangerous are horses? Injuries, accidents and ranking against other sports” and in that blog I shared the following:

Here are some interesting statistics;

  • one in five injuries related to horses happens before mounting up
  • most dismounted injuries are more serious than mounted injuries
  • dismounted injuries tend to be kicks
  • mounted injuries tend to be falls

The herd bound issue is one that can be fixed, the question is…are you the best person to do it at this time? If it were me, I would stay safe and make a plan to get in shape after the baby is born. Needing to train your horse will be the perfect excuse to go to the barn for a break!