Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Anxious, Buddy Sour Horse

I received this comment on a Buddy Sour Horse who gets anxious when separated on the Trail from other Horses,...”Anonymous has left a new comment on your post Horse Training – Spooky Horses on the Trail,….My horse gets really agitated when the others horses ride off and leave us, even when we are separated by just like 100 yards. He wants to run to catch up. How do I correct this? Alice, Fresno, California.”

Alice, Horses are herd animals and find comfort and protection by being in a herd. It is not unusual for a Horse to be nervous or agitated when separated from other Horses, particularly away from the barn. Some people call this being buddy sour.

What I do to prepare my Horses for travel by themselves is first develop as much trust as I can between me and the Horse. I try to give each Horse the opportunities to become what Craig Cameron calls “a Brave Horse” through exposing them to new things, different obstacles and tasks. Always letting them find release in the right thing. Ultimately earning that Horse's trust.

When out on the trail with a Horse for the first time, it is a good idea to ride with other well broke and solid Horses. Maybe not the first or even the second ride, but certainly by the third ride I’ll separate the new horse from the other Horses at increasing greater distances, then have him walk, not jog or lope, back to the main body. This is important,…if you hold a horse back then let him hurry back to the herd you are teaching him that there is a reason to hurry back,...’re letting that Horse buy into his anxiety of being separated.

I increase this separation by placing the new Horse where he can’t see the main body, like behind a small hill. I’ll reassure him and reward him for standing still and controlling his anxiousness then let him walk back to the main group of Horses. If the Horse is agitated and won’t stand still, I’m not to going to walk him off letting him pull at the bit or hackamore, so I turn in tight circles until he finds release in standing still. I don’t spend a lot time here, soon as he’ll stand still I’ll cue to walk off. If he starts to pull on the bridle and wants to move off, then I circle him again.

I have also used the process of stopping a horse and having him back for a few steps, standing still for a moment, before walking back off if the Horse starts to increase his speed trying to catch up with the main body.

It is a mistake in letting the horse catch up and you are fighting him, pulling on his mouth. This just causes more anxiety and you are not solving the problem or more importantly allowing him to figure it out.

Hope this helps Alice, safe journey to you and your Horse.


  1. I don't quite understand your point on "building trust". I know horses are not machines, but aren't we really training them to do what we want by conditioning them through repetition? Almost like a dog knowing when you tell him to sit, he will, then you pet him to let him know it's the right move.

  2. A horse is nothing like a dog, a dog is a predator like people, horses are prey, they seek comfort and release, unlike dogs who seek rough play, chase and have prey kill instincts. Horses are herd animals, they need a buddy and extra eyes to feel safe, if you treat a horse like dog you will fail more than you succeed. Totally different animals. A dog like a pet, horses see a pet as pressure, a horse would rather release (no pressure).

  3. Help! I am new again to horses and the horse I lease is not willing to go off alone. While the info on buddy sour seems reasonable what I want is for this horse to be willing to ride away from the barnand the other horses without balking. I worked with him to move off by walking him to a distance of several hundred miles but when I then mounted, the horse balked and just backed up over and over. I tried to turn him in a circle which he did over and over again but would not go father afield. Suggestions?

  4. I'm aware of all the excercises that can be used to cure a buddy sour horse. However, my 7 yr old gelding has gotten progressively worse and literally throws a fit. He will spin and jump with no warning when his current buddy is too far and has dumped me. Yesterday, he started running backward, got off balance and landed on his side with me still in saddle. Does anyone think he can be cured?