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by Downunder Horsemanship

Ask Clinton: Buddy-Sour Horses

Q: I have two horses that are buddy sour. It is to the point where I can’t go out on the trail without taking the other horse. I am not at a barn where I can separate them. How can I fix this problem? Amber N.


A: Because horses are a herd animal and feel safest in a group, it’s very common for them to get attached to other horses and become buddy sour. To help your horses overcome their problem, you’re going to make the right thing (being away from each other) easy and the wrong thing (being next to each other) difficult. You’ll accomplish that by making the horses move their feet and work hard around each other and letting them rest away from each other.

Enlist the help of a friend who is an experienced rider so that you can ride one horse and she can ride the other. Practice an exercise I call Follow the Leader by having one horse lead while the other horse chases his tail. For example, you’ll start off by trotting your horse in a series of serpentines and circles and your friend will follow closely behind on the other horse. Really hustle the horses’ feet and make them change directions so that they work up a sweat and have to concentrate on what they’re doing. You can switch positions throughout the exercise so that the leader becomes the follower.

At no time during the exercise are the horses allowed to rest when they’re next to each other. You want them to think being next to their buddy is nothing but hard work. After 10 to 15 minutes of hustling the horses’ feet, separate them and let them rest for 5 minutes. Put the horses on a loose rein and rub on them – let them relax and make them feel comfortable.

At first when you separate them, you’ll only be able to get them a short distance away from one another and that’s OK. You’re establishing a starting point. With each repetition of the exercise, and the more desire the horses get for not wanting to be close to each other, the greater distance you can separate them. After repeating the exercise 7 to 10 times, the horses won’t mind being away from each other because they know they get to relax and rest.  On the other hand, every time they get close to each other, they have to work hard.   Eventually, you will be able to ride them their separate ways without either of them caring.