Lear and Bastet

Lear (left) and Bastet (right) with The Equine Behaviorist Jennifer Williams

Lear was 19 and Bastet was 25 when they were both donated to a rescue organization. The children who had ridden them when they were young had grown up and moved away from home, and the two horses had not been ridden in years.

Lear was Bastet's foal and the two had only been separated for a few months when Lear was young. They were so bonded that it was apparent that the few month's separation had not mentally or emotionally weaned them.

Lear was more bonded than Bastet - likely since Bastet had been with him his entire life - he never knew a time when she was not there (with the exception of their very brief separation).

Because of their bond, they were impossible to separate. Whenever anyone took Bastet out of Lear's sight, he would whinny, pace, and bolt from his handler in an attempt to find her. It was dangerous to handle Lear when he was separated from Bastet as he would run over anyone in his path while trying to return to her.

These two had to be weaned from each other so that both could be placed ni new homes where they could be ridden, cared for, and loved without fear of injury to their handler and themselves.

First, Jennifer physically separated Lear and Bastet by a barrier. Bastet and Lear were stabled in neighboring stalls. They could hear and smell each other, but they could not see each other. Bastet quickly adjusted to her stall and spent her time eating, drinking, and sleeping. Lear did not adjust well. He stopped eating and rarely drank. Initially he paced the wall that separated him from Bastet. Then he pressed his nose into the corner of his stall where he could glimpse Bastet through a crack in the wood. After the first 24 hours, he began eating - snatching a mouthful of grain from the manger and spinning around to return to his corner while he ate. He ate hay only if it was placed in the corner near Bastet.

After about two days, Lear was beginning to relax so Jennifer took Bastet out for exercise. Lear began pacing and whinnying to Bastet the second she left her stall. Bastet occasionally whinnied back to him, but for the most part she kept her attention on her handler and worked quietly on a longe line. After 10 minutes, Bastet was returned to her stall. When Jennifer entered Lear's stall to halter him and take him outside for exercise, he ran into her in his attempt to get to Bastet. He was not removed from his stall as he would not listen to his handler or lead quietly.

A week after Jennifer separated Bastet and Lear by a stall wall, Jennifer moved Bastet out into a paddock out of site of the barn. She placed a quiet horse in the stall next to Lear and one in the paddock next to Bastet. The goal was to give both horses equine companionship during their separation.

For the first six to twelve hours, Lear whinnied almost constantly. He refused to eat and drank sporadically. Bastet settled into her paddock quickly. She whinnied to Lear occasionally but she spent most of her time grazing and socializing with the horse next to her.

Lear continued to whinny periodically for the next three to four days, although the whinnying decreased in frequency. Eventually, he began to settle into his stall. After another week, Bastet moved to a new home. She quickly adjusted to her new life and was later adopted as a child's riding horse.

Lear adjusted to his life without Bastet more slowly. After she left, Jennifer turned him out with another gelding. They never became "friends" but seemed to get along. After settling down, he was adopted by a family as a pleasure riding horse and is doing well.

Some people questioned separating the two horses after they had been together for so long. However, while they were bonded Lear was a danger to himself and to his handlers if Bastet was out of his sight. He would run over handlers or run into them as he panicked to get back to Bastet. He would run into things and go without food or water when he couldn't see her. He could not be ridden or worked with. The rescue organization decided to separate the two in a safe, controlled environment that minimized the risk of injury to horses and humans.

If Lear and Bastet had not been separated, it would be impossible to ride either one without the other present. If Bastet had become ill and needed to to be taken to a veterinary clinic or hospital, Lear would have panicked and possibly injured himself - especially if he did not have a safe, sturdy stall to contain him (he may have run through a fence trying to get to her). Now both horses can be safely handled and worked, and both seemed to easily adjust to their new homes and families.

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