The Buddy Sour Horse

The Most Dangerous Equine Behavior

A horse and rider are coming back from a trail ride. As they become within about 500 yards of their ranch the horse starts to pick up speed from a slow walk to a medium trot. The rider picks up on the reins and gives a little “whoa” to cue the horse to slow back down to a walk, instead of the horses “normal” response to slow when cued, he throws his head up in the air and continues to pick up speed. Pulling harder on the reins the horse and rider slow back down to a walk but only for a few steps. The horse once again begins to speed back up to a fast trot. A fight between horse and rider ensues: pulling and turning, head tossing and whinnying, slowing and speeding up. They make it to the ranch gate and finally, in sight of the horses “buddies” he calms and the fight is over.

What Is Buddy Sour

Buddy Sour Horse Definition – What Exactly Is Buddy Sour

Some call it “separation anxiety”, others call it “herd bound” and still others call it barn sour which is a similar situation but pertains to a horse who’d rather be in a certain location than anywhere else. The definition of a buddy sour horse is: a horse who exhibits anxious behavior when separated from his herd. The herd being any other horse/horses that the horse lives in close vicinity to and has created a bond with. The anxious behavior exhibited can be as mild as not walking straight (swerving)will riding away from their buddy to as extreme as bucking off they’re riding and running back to their pal. The bad behavior also encompasses everything in between, running backwards, rooting at the bit, whirling and bolting, rearing up and refusing to move forward. The result is usually anger and/or frustration from the rider.

What Makes A Buddy Sour Horse So Dangerous?

When a horse feels threatened their natural instinct it to escape. Running is they’re best defense, horses are fast, athletic and have natural endurance. So when a buddy sour horse feels that he needs to get back with his buddy to be safe then all logic is out the window and the horse is focused on one thing… getting back with his buddy. That’s why a normal well behaved horse will ignore any kind of rider cues such as reins, legs, vocal (whoa) because they’re so focused on getting back to their buddy all else ceases to matter or exist. When a horse panics, even a “gentle” horse, it becomes a dangerous horse. Rearing and tipping over backwards is one of the most dangerous things that could happen to a rider of a buddy sour horse, imagine the full weight of a horse landing on your chest as he falls over backwards on top of you. I have a friend who hired a trainer to work his horse into a more gentle, ride-able horse. After three months they went for the first time for a trail ride, the horse had been well trained to respond to rider cues, however, panicked because he suddenly realized that he was far from his buddies. The horse whirled and bolted back towards home my friend tried to get the horse under control control the horse by pulling back on the reins which sent the horse into a bigger panic resulted in the horse rearing and tipping over backwards and planting the horn of the saddle square into my friends chest. My friend almost died, broken sternum, ribs and spleen. The doctors said a couple more centimeters of protrusion of the broken ribs would have resulted in his death. My friend has since recovered but does not ride anymore. Really sad way to end a lifetime of riding.

What Causes A Buddy Sour Horse?

One of the main things lacking in a buddy sour situation is leadership. When I first heard that stated I was offended and took it personal because I had a buddy sour horse. “What do you mean? A lack of leadership? My fault? No, it’s the horses problem not mine.” I was so personally offended by the “accusation” That I had lacked leadership and that my horse didn’t trust me or have confidence in me that I ignored the wisdom and truth that was being presented to me. I went on for years “fighting” with my horse to go out on trail rides. My only option was to ride with one of his “buddies” coming along and even then I had problems because he still felt like he was leaving the other “buddies” behind. As we left our ranch he wouldn’t walk straight he would walk in a serpentine, he’d veer off left and I’d pull him right then he’d veer off right and I’d pull him left. After a 10 of 15 minutes he would straighten out and we would be on a pretty calm trial ride. Even after he had calm down and we’d be walking along seemingly out of nowhere he would realize that we were really far from home and his other “buddies”, his reaction could be as small as picking up a fast walk or trot to as extreme as whirling and attempting to bolt. I say attempting to bolt because I was quick enough to disengage (break over) his hind quarters before he could get out of control. Sometimes I would get him to calm back down enough to continue on our ride but other time it just seemed to dangerous to get into a battle with him so far from home. My horse is an “Off The Track” Appendix Quarter horse, maybe 16 2 hands and around 1400 pounds. He’s definitely a fine specimen of athleticism and more than enough spirit to scare the day lights out of me when I feel him going into panic mode. One day my brother and I saddled up the horses to go out on a ride, not to far out my brother kicked up to a slow gallop to greet a friend of his that he saw out ahead of us. My horse immediately tried to follow at the same speed, I on the other hand wanted to keep walking knowing that we would catch up to my brother and his friend in just a minute. My horse didn’t like being held back, panicked and bucked me forward then tossed his head back resulting in my face being planted into the top of his head. Next thing I know I’m on the ground looking at the sky… and my horse, at least he didn’t totally sell out on me. Straining to get up… and breathe (air got knocked out) I reached over to my horse Spirit and climbed back on. Funny thing is that my brother and his buddy never moved an inch, they just sat there and watched the whole thing. It probably happened to fast, all they said when I made my way over to them was “what was that all about”. I strained to talk, responding, still regaining my wind “I don’t know, he just seemed to panic when you ran off.” That little incident cost me an injured wrist that still bothers me today. It could have gone way worse and I feel lucky and that I got off easy.

Now What? Things Can’t Stay The Same, Something’s Gotta Change

That incident really changed my mind about dealing with a “buddy sour” horse. For years I had just accepted that some horses didn’t like to be away from other horses or didn’t like to be away from their home which people call barn sour. I also began to believe that my horse Spirit was both barn and buddy sour. I also began to believe that if something didn’t change then I was headed for a good wreck and when I say “good” I mean bad, maybe even bad enough to end my horse riding career like that friend of mine. Basically I said to myself “things can’t stay the same, something’s gotta change”. From that day on I started researching barn sour buddy sour horse behavior. What is it? Where does it come from? How do you resolve it? The more that I read about it the more I kept getting the same type of answers: leadership, trust, confidence, relationship. By this time I was humbled enough to listen and accept responsibility. I was now in a mindset to learn and grow. Before it was the horses fault, now it was my fault, my lack of leadership, my lack of installing trust in my horse, my lack of confidence. This change of mindset was huge, because now the ball is in my court so to speak. I hadn’t realized it but I had made a victim of my self by not taking responsibility in the horses behavior. I had not accepted that I was the one causing the horse’s fear and anxiety by forcing him to leave his comfort zone instead of asking him to “follow” me.

How Do I Become A Good Leader? How Do I Get My Horse To Follow Me?