Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day 123 Separation Anxiety

Little Love is in heat.  When I came to the barn today she was standing in front of Col with her tail to the side.  This is nothing out of the ordinary, she's a mare and has been in heat a million times, so I didn't think anything of it.  She wasn't even peeing every ten seconds.  So I didn't think it was a problem.  Well, at least not until I tried to walk her away from the barn.  Emphasis on the word "tried"... She stopped every two steps or so, growing roots as if she had never ever left the barn before.  And mind you, this was just about crossing the parking lot (20 yards...). Once we got to the arena (after a bit of negotiation), she kept turning around, trying to look towards the barn.  Obviously she had brainspace for only one thing and that was Col. 

It was really muggy and normally this sort of weather would have had her half asleep, but nope, not today.  If she wasn't staring at the barn, she was running around me with her head in the air, screaming for her boyfriend.  Mind you, she has never called for him yet from the arena.  But I guess there is a first time for everything. 

My initial plan had been to go for a long walk.  Little Love needs exercise for many reasons, but most importantly because of her feet.  The way she was behaving in the arena, however, didn't encourage me to take her off the property.   I tried working her in hand, but she had absolutely no focus, nor did she find it even remotely interesting.  I let her run around for a bit, which she did quite frantically, hoping she would perhaps calm down.  Nope. 

So, I started from the beginning.  I went back to the barn, let her say hi to Col, brushed her for a bit and then set off again.  This time we went out the gate. Little Love followed me out (which was progress) but started Stopping and screaming the second we were off the property.  Call me crazy (Or stubborn.  Or  - stupid?), but despite her antics, I walked her down the driveway.  I didn't dare cross the big road, so I took a right and walked up the small road that leads to the neighbors house.  This wouldn't really take me anywhere (about a 5 min walk), but I wanted to see if there was any sense going further.  There wasn't.  If it would have been up to Little Love, she would have turned and cantered home, dragging me behind her like a waterskier.  I had to be quite "animated" (swinging a rope in front of her face, for example) to keep her from leaving me point blank. 

We went back home, me walking and Little Love jigging next to me.  Every so often I would ask her to stop and back up a few steps.  I don't think I would have done this otherwise, but if I didn't, the situation escalated to the point where I wasn't sure I could hold onto her anymore. By the time we were going up the driveway,  she was listening to my requests enough not to drag me up the hill.  I tried to see this as a good thing even though I wanted to scream from frustration.  By the time we were past the gate, she calmed down a notch.  We walked back to the barn to say hi to Col - once again.  But, something in me could not give up, so we went back to the arena.  When she realized where we were going, Little Love sighed and that was it, she snapped back to the horse she was yesterday and the day before.  We worked for a good twenty minutes on alignment and ended on a good note.  Phew. 

But, then it all started again when I took Col out to groom him and oil his hooves (by Becky's request, she is gone).  While he was gone Little Love screamed and screamed in her stall, even though she had to know he was just around the corner, tied to the side of the barn.  It is not like this was the first time someone ever took him out (usually she just eats hay and is fine, even when Becky goes off on long rides).  Finally, since she was so stressed out that she was working up a sweat, I let her out of her stall into the paddock area, where she stood behind the back gate 9 feet (3 m) away from Col, staring at him.  But even this made her uneasy and she kept walking back into the barn to check if she could get through to the other side and ultimately closer to him. 

I don't know what is going on, but it has to be the hormones.  I have never seen her this herd bound before.  The two horses have always called out to each other when they are separated, but this was something completely different.  Col was normal, calling to Little Love, but not in total panic.  But Little Love... jeez.  I don't even know what to do with her when she is like this, it's as if nothing else exists for her than Col.  Perhaps I should just leave her be?  Or will that just make it all worse in the long run?  Or should I insist in small increments, like today? 

Anyone else out there with advice on how to handle a mare in love? 


  1. I've been in exactly this same position. My mare is very hormonal during her heat cycles and she'll do this exact same thing- which is lose her mind when she's away from the boys.

    I remember trying to trim her feet last October, not realizing right away that she was in heat. It was very frustrating, she couldn't focus and kept yanking her feet away from me. I tried to do some head lowering exercises with her to calm her down but it wasn't working. Finally I tied her (loosely) and stepped away before I lost my temper. I then watched in amazement as she tried to lower her own head to calm down and couldn't do it.

    At that point, I turned her loose and walked away. If she couldn't calm herself down I didn't stand a chance. I went back two days later and she was a doll about letting me trim her feet.

    Now when she's in heat I try to just leave her alone or only work with her right next to the boys. Two to three days later she's perfectly fine again. It's only a few days and, knowing how awful my own cycles can be, I can empathize.

  2. Thank you! You gave me hope that this is TEMPORARY. Of course I sort of knew this, but still... when she was so out of her mind today, I felt really desperate. I wonder... In Finland at our new home Lilo will be living with three other mares. Since there are no "boys" in sight, is she going to continue to be hormonal or is this totally triggered by this new situation of being with a male (even if not a stallion)?

    In any case, now that I've had time to reflect, I know it will be easier for me to understand her tomorrow (today I wasn't exactly the picture of understanding). I think we'll just play it by ear and see where she is at. So no big plans of long walks :-)

  3. I'd say you let her get away with it, it's out of her (and your) control. And I bet it will be easier in Finland, at least it is so with my mare. She is awful in heat, now that she lives with a gelding. I let her be. Too stressful for both of us and kind of like picking your nose too deep. It will blead!

  4. I think doing what you did is best. Lilo has only one way to tell you how she feels, and her telling will just get bigger if you don't listen, and listen you did! It was obvious Lilo was stressed ( really stressed) about leaving Col, and you honored her by not pushing... ( asking and making are two different actions).