Welcome back to our “Working With Problem Horses” series! In this post, we’ll be going over how to deal with a buddy sour horse. Basically, this means that your horse doesn’t want to leave their friend, or friends, and that they act up when separated. Every horse is different—each horse will manifest their buddy sour behaviors in different ways. Some horses may just prance, whinny, and be generally anxious while others may go as far as bolting or rearing. Regardless of which end of the spectrum your horse is on, these tips will get you going towards stress-free separations.
-Start slow. Don’t just rip your horse away from their buddy and take them far away—this won’t go well. Start by separating them but keeping them within eyesight of each other, like near or neighboring pastures. Slowly start to walk your horse out of sight of their buddy, circling back occasionally so that they’re briefly in each other’s eyesight. This is essentially desensitizing your horse to the idea of going places by themself. When your horse starts to exhibit their buddy sour behaviors, think forward. Keep your horse moving and thinking so that they won’t have time to worry about missing their buddy. Figure out what works best for your horse and use it.
-Start from the ground. Once again, groundwork is going to be a huge tool during this process. Starting from the ground will not only be safer for you than trying in the saddle, but if your horse has a good foundation it’ll make this training so much smoother. If you have a buddy sour horse that’s well-versed in groundwork, you will be able to bring your horse back to being quiet much more quickly than if your horse is out of practice. Depending on the horse and their level of reaction to leaving their buddy, being in the saddle can get dangerous, especially for less experienced riders. This step does come along later in the process.
-Move with confidence. Although this may be harder than it sounds, it’s important for both you and your horse. Horses are generally more inclined to follow (and behave for!) a leader with confidence. Don’t be too confident to ask for help when you need it, though, because safety has to come first. Whether you just need an extra set of eyes or the help of a professional trainer, don’t be too proud to ask for help.
-Acknowledge progress. You should always be safe and take precautions, but don’t be afraid to push it a little bit. If your horse is doing well away from their buddy while you’re on the ground, then the natural next step is to try it under saddle. Depending on your confidence and experience level, it may be a good idea to have another experienced person walk your horse at first during this stage, with you in the saddle (or vice versa). If you’re a more experienced rider, you can try this with just you riding, but do take it slowly, just like on the ground.
As difficult as this can be, it is important to remain consistent and not to give up. A buddy sour horse can get frustrating but it is possible to change this behavior and make your horse more independent. This, in turn, will end up strengthening the bond between you. Patience is going to be a big factor during this process so don’t forget to take deep breaths. Have faith in yourself and in your horse and practice, practice, practice!