What is a Barn-Sour horse?
This is a horse who does not want to leave the area of your barn. He may object to move any further from the barn, run around you in circles trying to get back, or engage in more dangerous activities such as rearing pulling on the lead rope or reins. When you are in an area away from the barn, the Barn-Sour horse will become over-excited when coming back to the barn and may be over-eager to get back to his stall. In many situations, the rider will lose control of the horse as he/she is walking the horse to the barn. Allowing your horse to be Barn-Sour is a very dangerous habit. When you are not in control, you are in a dangerous situation. You must learn to be in control 100% of the time when riding your horse.
What is a Buddy-Sour horse?
This is a horse who does not want to leave his pasture buddy. The Buddy-Sour horse will become worried and may whinny or make squealing noises. When the horse whinnys or neighs, it means “Where are you?” or “Don’t leave me!”. The horse’s buddy will usually return the call with a nicker, which means “You are not alone, I am here”. The Buddy-Sour horse usually becomes ‘head-strong’ when being led away from his buddy and he acts as if he’s in a hurry to get back to where his buddy is.
Excitement / Emotions
In both of the situations above, the horse’s excitement level rises. What we need to do is teach the horse to control his emotions and learn that it is nothing to become emotional or excited about. Below we will walk through a couple exercises to begin to train your horse to control his emotions in these situations.
Retraining your horse to deal with these situations will take time, you may have to repeat the exercises for several days or several months before the horse relaxes and becomes comfortable 100% of the time walking away from the barn or away from his buddy. The most important thing I can tell you at this point is, be very patient and consistent!
Another very important factor in training is to remain in control at all times. If, at any point in the training, the horse begins to ignore your requests, you are no longer in control and you must back-track to the point in training where you can control him. Once you are back at that point, you can begin to progress again.
Start by walking your horse out of the barn. Only walk him about 10 feet from the barn door, then immediately turn in a circle and walk directly back in the barn. Repeat this again, but this time walking 11 feet away from the barn. The next time, walk 12 feet from the barn, and so on. Begin to notice the exact instant he becomes excited, and turn and go back to the barn 1 second before he does. What you are doing here is walking the horse away from the barn and returning back to the barn before he can even begin to get excited about it, or begin to ignore your cues.
Each time you walk away from the barn, see if you can walk a couple feet further before the horse begins to become excited and/or begins to ignore your cues. If, at any point in this training, the horse rushes, doesn’t listen to your cues, pushes or becomes excited, it means you have taken him too far and too soon. You’ll need to go back to the point in training when he does listen to you, and doesn’t become excited. If this means the you must go back to only walking 10 feet from the barn, then you must to that. Then work up slowly from there.
Separate your horse and his buddy with a fence. For example, leave the horse’s buddy in the paddock, and stand with your horse on the other side of the fence. Begin by allowing them to stand next to each other with only the fence between them. Now, walk in a tiny circle (going away from the fence, then immediately turning back to the fence). This will take the horse’s buddy out of your horse’s view for a split second. As you begin to make this circle larger, one foot at a time, the horse may become excited and may rush back to the fence line where his buddy is. If this happens, you have made the circle to large, too soon. You must go back to the point where he will walk calmly in a circle away from his buddy, then back again.
Once you can make the circle as large as 60 or 70 feet without the horse becoming excited, you need to vary the exercise slightly by trying different things such as walking around something that will block the horse’s sight for a split second, where he won’t be able to see his buddy, then immediately walk right back. Over time, the horse will be able to walk far away from his buddy without panicking or becoming excited or nervous.
Once the horse can do this fine, you can enhance the training by riding with the horse’s buddy. Ask the buddy’s owner if she’d like to ride with you to help train your horse to deal with being away from his buddy. When you do this, you must explain to the buddy’s owner ahead of time the exercises you wish to do, and explain in detail how you will do them. When both of you are mounted, begin by walking next to each other closely. Then you will both turn away from each other and make a small circle, meeting back in the original spot and continue walking forward again, next to each other. Repeat this exercises as many times as needed, and vary the size of the circles.
When riding around obstacles, such as ones you may encounter on the trail, separate your horse and hers for a split second while you ride away from the horse and around a bush or tree. He will begin to feel that it is not necessary to become excited about leaving his buddy, because he is able to come right back next to him so long as he stays controllable and calm.
Continue working with your horse on excercises such as this, and advance by making the time spent away from the horse’s buddy longer each time. Ride away from each other several feet, then come back. The next time, make it a couple feet further, and so on. Soon, you will be able to ride away from your horse’s buddy a pretty far distance without him becoming upset.