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Herd-bound: Understanding and Coping with Equine Separation Distress

You can see family and friends, but electric wire prevents you from touching them. When you call out you are punished and further isolated. If you make a friend, that person is permanently removed. As your insecurity increases, your case is discussed among experts to deal with your problematic "herdy" behaviour. Horses, like humans, are hard-wired to be social; separation elicits distress. This is normal behaviour – and it is adaptive. For social animals living in a herd, survival is dependent upon sticking together. Horses that were vigilant about the location of their herdmates were less vulnerable to predators and more likely to pass on those “herdy” genes, and distress, to their offspring. The very behaviour we consider a pathology has been critical for horses’ survival and woven into their genetic fabric. The horse who arrives at a show and flies about in his stall, screaming for his friends that he…

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