Before I show you how to cure a buddy sour horse, I want to point something out.
The true, long-lasting cure for a buddy sour horse, is to create a horse-human relationship where your horse gets that leadership and comfort he craves from you instead of his buddy.
Horses are buddy sour because they’re herd animals. And they need a leader, an alpha, someone they can trust. Usually that’s another horse, but it could (and should) be you.
I’d recommend reading my article on How To Train A Horse To Do Anything You Want for more on leadership, proper timing, and communication.
Furthermore, if your horse isn’t mentally sound, this could be the root cause of his buddy sour issues.
Ok, Here’s How To Cure A Buddy Sour Horse
First things first…
Horses never do anything right or wrong. Horses do what you make feel good to them. So if you make one action feel better than the other, they will always follow the path of least resistance.
How do you make one action feel better than the other?
You pave that path by showing them which is easier than the other by using pressure and release. Make one path easy and make everything else more difficult.
Think about deer. They have game trails that they walk on through the woods. Why? Because walking on the trail is easier than walking off the trail.
Animals (and humans too) will always look for the path of least resistance, and once they find it, they will take it.
To be a master horseman is to become a master of paving the path of least resistance. Once we get this down, the horse will almost train himself.
Here’s An (Non Buddy Sour Horse Related) Example…
Imagine a horse that rears up when asked to back up.
Is it not easier to back up than to rear and flip over backwards? Well of course it is. But you have to be able to see that, in that horse’s mind, he is convinced that the best thing to do (to alleviate the pressure from the reins) is rear.
If he knew of something better to do, he would do that instead.
So many times we see a horse that is trying his hardest to figure the human out, but with the approach the human has, he simply cannot do it.
And then the horse gets blamed for being disrespectful, lazy, inattentive, etc. However, the horse has no other choice but to do these things.
He’s doing the best thing he knows to do for the situation. Our job is to pave a different, easier path. It’s never the horse that makes the adjustment.
It’s always the human.
Now That I Got That Out Of The Way…
I was at a local barrel race just hanging out and visiting with some of my friends. The event was almost over, and Amber walked over to me to see if I’d be willing to spend a few minutes working on her buddy sour (herd bound) horse.
I didn’t have anywhere else to be that day, so I told her I’d be happy to. She explained to me that she had two barrel horses, and whenever she would ride either one of them, they would go nuts and fight her to get back to the other horse.
Let’s pause here for a minute.
Why do you think that the horses liked being together? One reason was because whenever those two horses were together, they didn’t have to do any work. Amber’s horses were worked a lot because they were competing regularly at barrel races. And whenever she finished working the horses, she’d tie them up together, feed them, water them, and let them hang out.
So the horses were associating being together as a better deal than working with Amber.
The easier path, at this point, was to stand at the trailer and eat food. Our job, as horsemen, is to pave a different path.
So Here’s What I Did
I told Amber to stand out in the middle of an open pasture and hold one of her horses. I got on the other one, and I crossed my arms and made the horse start moving. This horse was so buddy sour that he began doing circles around the other horse. So I amped up the speed (pressure), started moving the horse, and made him work and work and work.
Eventually the horse decided he’d had enough of that, turned his nose, and began walking away from the horse Amber was holding (he made a change).
What Do You Think I Did At This Point?
I immediately stopped all of the pressure. I let the horse just chill and relax.
That didn’t last long. He decided he wanted to go back for some more. So as he started walking up to the other horse, I dropped my reins and amped up the pressure once again. Round and round we go! I just kept with it until the horse decided he’d try something else.
As soon as started to cut away (made a change) I let him relax and chill out. It only took about 14 minutes for this horse to realize that whenever he was around his buddy he had to do a lot of work.
It was much easier to stay away on the other side of the pasture and relax. He didn’t even want to be anywhere near his buddy once we were through.
I simply made the right thing (leaving the buddy) easy to do and the wrong thing (staying near the buddy) more difficult to do.
You Could Do This Exact Same Thing To A Barn Sour Horse
If your horse is always wanting to rush back to the barn, then let him. But when he gets to the barn, don’t take his saddle off and let him relax. Make him work when he gets back to the barn. Run him in circles, lunge him, or just do something.
It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re making the horse work or making life more unpleasant. You could also annoyingly bump the reins and get busy with your legs when he’s near the barn. Pretty soon he’ll think of the barn as a less deisreable place to be, and quickly lose that barn sourness.
It’s all about making one option easy and making one option difficult.
If your horse gets anxious when he is separated from his buddy, go here: Separation Anxiety.
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