Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another Anxious, Buddy Sour Horse

A anonymous reader left a new comment and question on a previous post - 'Anxious, Buddy Sour Horse': "I'm aware of all the exercises 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?"

I wouldn't give up on this horse yet. A 7 year old horse is still pretty young. In his point of view, he is not wrong trying to stay with the herd. The solution is to replace that safeness of the herd with safeness in being with you. I guess you would call it trust. He has to come to the understanding that being with you is as safe or safer as being with the herd, so you have to be his leader. I don't think that's something you achieve easy, nor once you do acheive a measure it, does it stays forever without being constantly re-inforced.

On some horses you may be able to achieve this with much less work than others but it's likely that riding or working once a week is going to get there, unless you willing to take years. It's also as likely that the buddy sour horse has some other issues like not respecting your space, maybe pushy to get at feed, not being able to stand still whether tied, or in hand at the end of a lead rope. Probably doesn't lead well,.....and maybe when in an arena the horse is anticipating at the gate - to name a few. So I think solving or correcting the horse in these other problems, always giving him a fair deal out of it, will help establish your leadership and building that trust.  I can't help but thinking that ground training is one of the most neglected aspects of horse training.  I would not take a horse out on the trail that does what you describe without a lot more ground work. 

So a badly buddy sour horse, I would think that taking him out on the trail with other horses and correcting his buddy sourness may not be starting from the beginning, and can even make it worse. Consider that you are riding with a group and your horse is more concenrned with staying with his buddies rather than listening to your cues. So you fall back aways as you double him, or trot circles then you trot your horse to catch up to the group, the horse is probably pushing against the bit, not rating well and ends up justifing his anxiety being away from the herd since he is working when away form the herd and trotting back to the herd is re-inforcing the need to hurry up and catch for safety.

Maybe part of the solution is working him on correcting the bad habits, in a round pen or an arena, getting him to move his feet when asked, getting him to stand still when asked. When around other horses close to the barn or in an arena I would try working him in close proximity to the herd and giving him a rest at the farthest point from the herd. This is similar to correcting the horse that anticipates at the gate. We've all seen or ridden a horse that wants to slow down, or in worse cases, drifts over to the gate. What do we do? We begin by being ready to keep him from breaking down (slowing his gait) at the gate, making that end of the arena work for him and giving him a rest at the far end of the arena away from the gate. But I think the key is riding this buddy sour horse quite a bit - like the old saying goes "wet saddle blankets make a broke horse".


  1. Exactly what I have been working on lately with my new guy! We circle and back near the gate...and rest way far away. Sunday was our first ride away from the barn in weeks, and we had a babysitter mare with us. He did really well and tried hard to please and listen. We even went in opposite directions from the mare-whoo hoo!

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