By Raye Lochert
Barn or buddy sour horses are not fun. In fact, they can be down right dangerous. When they’re acting up they’re not listening to the rider. Therefore, the rider has little or no control of the horse. This can lead to injury for either the horse or the rider or both. How do you fix this? It takes time and consistency. Below I will outline my plan to eliminate these two problems. Note: If you are looking for a quick fix, don’t bother reading this article. There isn’t one.
First you need to understand that this is an emotional issue. The horse is afraid to ride away from his security. We need to understand this because when the horse is afraid we tend to get scared as well. When we get scared we get angry. Then the horse will be come afraid of us or the situation. Secondly, always strive to have control of our horse. Safety is the primary goal here - safety for ourselves and then for the horse.
When the horse’s emotions go up his performance will go down. He’s thinking of whatever is bothering him instead of what you are asking him to do. What we need to do is work the horse in his comfort zone and then expand that zone. We need to raise his emotions, but not so high that we lose control, and then bring them back down again. Realize that sometimes you will make great progress and then you will have to regress a bit. This is natural. So let’s get started.
First you need to have control of the horse’s hindquarters. This is of the utmost importance in all that you do with your horse. Most problems you encounter in riding have to do with the hindquarters. You should be able to pick up the left rein and get the hip to move to the right and vice versa. While the hip is moving the front end should be stopped. If not, all you’re doing is going in a small circle and winding your horse’s emotions up higher. By getting the hindquarters to move around the front end you will get the horse to stop which, in turn, will lower the horse’s emotions.
You must understand that with emotion comes speed. A horse, when in doubt, will run. It’s their best defense. They’re not built to fight – they’re built to run. With fear comes speed and with speed comes fear. They go hand in hand. Through repetition and raising and lowering a horse’s speed and emotion the fear will subside. Eventually they will soon no longer associate fear and speed together.
Once you’ve established control of the horse’s hindquarters you’re ready to move on to the training. For practical purposes we will discuss things in terms of a buddy sour horse. Buddy and barn sour are the same thing and this method can be used on either issue.
At first, ride as close as you need to the buddy (barn) so that your horse is comfortable. Then turn the two horses so that their tails are facing each other and then immediately back. Your goal is to bring your horse back before he has a chance to show his emotion. You just want to raise his heart rate a bit. Always bring the horse back to where he is comfortable before he reacts. If you don’t, you will soon lose control of your horse. Also, by lowering his emotions before he reacts you are bumping his emotional threshold higher so that it takes more for him to become emotional.
Gradually increase the time they are facing away from each other. Then gradually increase the distance they’re apart. Notice that the two are separate issues. There’s no point in being able to get your horse 500 feet away from the other horse if he has to be back there in 30 seconds. On the other hand, there’s no value to being 5 feet away for 4 hours. Work on the two separately but interchangeably.
Once you can keep you horse facing the other way for 5 minutes try and get 10 feet away but come back in two minutes. Then try to get 10 feet away for 3 minutes and so on. If your horse is only comfortable at 8 feet then work there. After your horse is comfortable at 10 feet away for 10 minutes, move to 15 feet away for 2 minutes. Do you see where this is going? All the while the horses can see each other. Each time you’re taking them further away for shorter then longer periods of time. Each time you are coming back to the horse’s comfort zone before they get too excited. Once you can ride away to say about 200 feet and stay away for 15 minutes you are ready to move on to the next step.
Ride out of sight of the other horse and then ride right back. Don’t even give your horse a chance to realize that they can’t see their buddy. At times you may ride back into view but not all the way back. See if you can break the cycle of always having to go back to the other horse. Ride back but not all the way and then ride away. Gradually increase the time until you feel you can stay away indefinitely.
There will be times when you’ve worked your way up to a great distance and the next time you go out you can’t get half as far. This is normal. Other times your horse will be fine for 10 minutes and the next time he can’t last 2 minutes. This is normal. Always ride back before they start dancing around, spinning, rearing, jigging or any of the emotional actions you’re trying to avoid. This way they don’t see their actions as a way to find their release. Eventually your horse will trust that he gets to go back to his safe place before he starts to feel un-safe.
This training will take days, not hours. In the end your horse will learn that you’re all they need and they will take you wherever you want. Ride safe, have fun and don’t forget to smile!