Horses are social animals. They thrive in groups and with companionship. A horse’s instincts tell him that leaving the others is a possible threat to his very survival. 

Unfortunately, in our domestic situations, there are many times we want and need our horses to be ok by themselves, or to just be ok away from their buddy. 

We want to trail ride, go to horse shows, need to separate horses for feeding, or just want to go hack around the arena without our horse constantly looking around and screaming to his friend out in the field. 

In this video, I will discuss barn and buddy sour behavior, and the truth of how this can be solved (spoiler alert… there’s rarely a quick fix). 

Watch below and then I’ll see you in the comments! 

Callie

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33 Responses

  1. I have a barn/buddy sour horse, he was a rescue and no matter what I try I can’t get him off the property riding
    But no problem if I lead him he will go wherever I go.
    I don’t understand why if I lead no problem but riding no go.

  2. We have separated the two mares and I’m going to add walking out on the trail (not mounted). These are equine therapy horses and we want them to be content but when we ride them off property they call to each other and it is hard to get her to walk out. Great to have another tool in the bag!

  3. I’m struggling with this with my mare and gelding who get upset when out of sight of each other. I’d hoped to work on it over summer but my mare had a bad accident and had to be kept on stall rest for weeks, so it didn’t happen and now winter is on the way with short days. Currently I have to sedate my mare and put her in a round pen so I can take my gelding away (he settles down when they’re out of hearing range)
    I keep hoping someone will provide a magic wand 😉

  4. My horse is in a paddock alone but within sight of other horses. I’d like to pasture him with buddies but he has a history of being hard to catch. That was 6 years ago. We got over that quickly and it’s never again been a problem. But I was advised not to put him in a herd again. What are your thoughts? Thanks.

  5. My gelding was fine when he was the one leaving but would carry on when he was the one left behind. I have spent the last year on our relationship, he now can be left with no reaction.

  6. Great video… I have used those strategies myself and found them to be successful over the 13 years of having my mare and her “foal”. As you suggest I separated them gradually when weaning until eventually they were in separate fields with different companions in the day but stabled together at night
    Nowadays they are together 24/7 unless there is a reason to have them apart eg to ride just one of them… There is always a little anxiety at the beginning but as long as there is a distraction for the one left behind usually in the form of company in an adjacent paddock or stable, or food and for the one that is leaving, usually in the form of human company, they are fine
    However, other people on our yard sometimes comment that I am setting myself up for problems when the inevitable happens and I only have one of them… I work on the premis that I will cross that bridge when I come to it…. I don’t poke my tooth with a sharp stick several weeks before going to the dentist because I anticipate my dental treatment will be painful after all! If something would occur suddenly then the remaining horse would for a time have to rely on the company from a distance of the other horses on the yard until I could reintroduce another buddy into her life gradually. For a couple of years I looked after and trained a gelding for a friend and my two mares accepted him quite well so I feel that either of them would accept another horse friend.
    Beauty is now 23 and appears in good health maybe in about 5 years I would think about getting a third horse again but it’s not my preference for now… I would appreciate any suggestions you can make and any positive affirmations that I am on the right lines if you think I am
    Oh to be a horse … And live only in the moment 😊

    1. They may still accept another horse as a part of their herd! I would recommend taking the time to find one that will fit in with them well and introduce him or her slowly.

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  7. I love all your programs thank you! I have a mare who’s attached to my older gelding. What I had to do is separate them into separate pastures but they can see each other and I take her out everyday I can away from him. He stresses but is able to settle down quicker than when it’s her alone. When I take him out she runs non stop until we come back in sight. I had to put her in a smaller pen but she still runs until she see him insight. I’m afraid she will hurt herself but there’s nothing around her to get hurt just falling. My gelding is also 31yrs old so she’s his mother.

    1. Hi Valerie, I have a mare who had a baby about 13 years ago and she too was very attached to him for a long time. Is it just the two of them?

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  8. I’m battling this with my two geldings right now. A neighbor told me to get a pony or small horse to stay back with the one left behind. That’s the only problem, is the one left. Would this really help? My granddaughter would love a pony! I’m just not sure we have time for another though. Thoughts?

    1. We have a pony at our yard that is there for this exact reason. He keeps the remaining horse company when the others are out. It works perfectly. He’s no effort to keep like the bigger horses.

  9. I have found the gradual leavng and returning seems to work; however my Arab always gets excited when I turn home. He’s okay if he’s in signt of his buddy, but if he can’t seem him when I”m out riding, he’s anxious. I make him walk lots of circles on the way home, but as we get closer, he gets frustrated and will start prancing in place. When we’re back in our yard, I always walk him in circles until he calms down before I dismount and return to the barn. I think with continued work, he’ll improve, but every time we have a break from riding (weather related usually), he goes back to his old habits. I can’t seem to get past this prancing on the way home. Any suggestions?

    1. Sometimes ‘bad’ habits or behaviors can pop back up, even when we’ve trained them out of it. Are you able to ride back to the barn and ride him for a little before you would dismount and take the saddle off?

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

      1. Thanks, Julia, for the response. I do this until he settles into a relaxed walk before I dismount. I also dismount away from the barn and walk him in. More work is required, but I’m frustrated by the fact that eventually we have to come home desite his behaviour, so he wins every time!

        1. I totally understand the extra time and effort required to make that work but I have found it a very useful tool in the past 🙂

          -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  10. My 13 year old Gelding had trouble separating from a group of horses while on a trail, or when Inwas on a trail and meet with horses well known by my horse at time to separate my horse would protest. I don’t use force or wip him. I just try to calm him down, sometimes it does not work. So I jump down and grab the reins, I walk with him talking to him, when he is calm again I will get back in the saddle and continue. Usually the next time he will be calmer. Sadly, Indo not know why, he has sour trouble again, I retrain again. Just be firm and patient.

  11. Glad we’re not the only ones! I have three very herd bound geldings. One is leased, so I had to fix this for when we had to go away for a few days and wouldn’t be able to put them all in a paddock near to where he gets ridden. The success was in gradually taking him out of the pasture to graze. Each day we went further and further until he was able to be at the cross ties an into the outdoor arena calmly, and the others got used to him being further away. It took weeks.

  12. I have 4 horses that are turned out together every day. They are very bonded and very stressed when one is pulled out even if they can see that horse. It really is a problem to not be able to take one horse out if the vet or farrier needs to work on one let alone trying to train or ride a single horse. I loved the suggestions in your video. You are correct in saying it is not a quick fix and I also feel that you need to be consistent in which ever approach you choose. I am finding that doing a little daily is better than longer say once a week. I have started taking the same horse out daily and will do this for a bit and once that horse is more comfortable then I will switch to a different horse. 🙂

    1. Diane, sometimes I think ‘quick fix’ can be code or ‘red flag’!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  13. It took me months to walk away from the barn with my OTTB alone. AT the beginning, we needed ca. 30mins for 100m! I just didn’t give up and tryed ca 3-4x/week. Suddenly he understood that its fine walking with me alone, and then it was only a matter of days until we could hack out alone.
    So my advice is to keep calm and never give up 😊.

  14. Hi, I have just brought a 7year old mare that has come from living with 8 other horses. She is my only horse. It took her about week and half to settle and was fine until she found the neighbours horse over the road in the back paddock. Now she won’t let that horse out of her site. Avoids being caught, when caught she tries to pull loose when tied. Won’t stand will I tack up, tries to bite, knocks over feed bowl. Difficult to ride. What to do? She seemed fine until she was the horse across the road.Any advice would be greatful.

    1. Do you have room at your house for another horse Tracey? Since they are such social animals having a companion is a very important part of meeting their basic requirements – just like food, water, and sleep!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  15. Hi, I left a comment, but sady you have decided not to post it for whatever reason. I see it has gone. I was only looking for advice as I am a first time horse owner. 🙁 Until now I have always had to reply on horse camp as a child or trekking as an adult. Thanks for your video anyway. I completely understand that you do not have the time to answer everyones questions.

    1. Hi Tracey, I apologize that we might have missed a previous comment. We do try and answer everyone’s questions!

      What is your question and I’d be happy to help you the best I can 🙂

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  16. I enjoyed the lungeing tips. I especially liked the tip about pointing at the shoulder to move them away. My QH tends to move in.
    I have a question too. I am having trouble leading him! He keeps stopping to look at stuff or other horses when I just want to walk him down the road or even around the area by the barn. It is so frustrating! I try to be the leader but he is pushing me around. He just locks his legs and won’t move until he is ready. Help!

    1. Glad this video was helpful! It sounds like you two aren’t very connected, I would recommend checking our our Pure Libery Course to improve the connection you have with your horse here.

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  17. I have two horses – a mare and gelding both 13 years old and when we bought them 18 months ago, they had lived together all their lives. My daughter (18) and I ride together often but we also want to be able to ride out separately. We started once a week taking one for a short walk whilst the other is in the stable (if we left one in the field and the other was on the other side of the fence the one left would canter off, dashing from one side of the paddock to the other). We saw very little progress but we gradually increased to going to the riding school close by. My daughter got sick so I have had to ride them on my own and on their own. It Was going okay. I took them for a 40 min walk together first then out on the school. This really helps calm them down before I then take them out individually. But it takes at least 20 mins of walking before their heads come down and they really stretch out stroll along next to me. The other thing I noticed is that it varies a lot from day to day so if it windy, or there a people shouting or other horses then it’s much more stressful. The good thing is that both of them are much more response to me, listening to every signal! What is however still difficult is how unreliable the gelding is. He seems quiet, trotting calmly then all of a sudden he decides it’s too much and he takes off with a little rear or buck. I can stop him and stay on but it’s not pleasant. Tips?( I always take him out first as he get most stressed when he is left. )

    1. Hi Yvonne, I would try bending him a lot to try to get his body from being straight on and rearing or bucking.

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

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