I get a plethora of questions regarding horses being “buddy sour”. I gain more questions when I respond firmly that my horse’s attachment to another horse does NOT bother me. In fact I like it and actually have learned to depend on it.
I love horses for the species they are. Horses are herd animals and their natural instincts direct them to believe that they literally need their herd mates to survive. Many animals are the same way and we don’t refer to them as “sour”. If you dislike herd animals, maybe you should look into owning a mole or a great white shark, they don’t get “buddy sour”.
The term “buddy sour”, is actually a term humans coined to describe their own insecurities concerning the horses’ herd behavior. Too often I see people struggling against their horse’s propensities like spooking (they are also flight animals) or being attached to herd mates. This instincts are what make horses, horses. Instead of fighting against the horse’s natural tendencies, I tend to cater to them.
I do my best to make my horses comfortable in my presence. If I am constantly isolating them from their means of survival, I am a villain and that’s not the relationship I am trying to establish. That being said, I also don’t have any horses that won’t willing leave the herd to perform for me.
When I haul or travel with my horses, my favorite number is 3. People are often curious as to why one person, needs 3 horses on a camping trip. I don’t need 3, but they do. I bring 3 so that I am never leaving one horse back at camp (or at the trailer), in an unfamiliar environment by themselves. The horse I ride will be with me soley (whom they trust will return them to the herd) or with the other horses of whom I am riding with. When my horses left at camp are unattended, I can rest assure that they aren’t pacing or committing suicide attempting to escape isolation.
The frist time I get on one of my horses, I do so with at least one other horse to keep the new mount feeling safe. This is one of the reasons I always start my horses on a trail ride, rather than in a round pen or arena. The new mount will always have an experienced horse to follow. This is not “teaching them bad habits” or “teaching them to rely on another horse”; it’s actually using the horses natural instincts to teach them that being ridden is not a form of punishment.
I want my horses to enjoy their time with me. If I focus on keeping them isolated, how will they learn to rely on me for comfort. If given a choice a horse will choose herd mates over food. Taking them for their herd mates, creates a feeling of doom in a horse.
I know the old cowboys say “You gotta be the leader!”, but what kind of GOOD leader disregards the feelings or differing opinions of others? A “my-way-or-the-highway” mindset is the quality of someone to beware of.
I too have tied horses up away from other horses so they could “figure it out”. I would not use this technique today. Those horses weren’t learning to trust me. They were learning that sometimes when I put their halter on and led them away from the other horses that I might tie them up and leave them alone. They were learning that I wasn’t taking their feelings into consideration. They were learning that I was not trustworthy. Most of all they were learning that I wasn’t the leader they wanted.
I have learned that the more I cater to their feelings and needs the more they trust me. After I have their trust, there is not a single one of my horses that won’t ride out solo or stand tied to my trailer by themselves without issue. They know this isn’t punishment. They know I am not trying to control them or their emotions. They know I will return them safety to the herd when our tasks our complete.
Before a horse is comfortable and confident enough in me to perform without the presence of another horse, then I just keep them with another horse. It isn’t difficult to pony a horse behind my riding horse on a trail, or ask someone to ride with me or even tie another horse up in or near the arena while I ride another horse in the ring. I own horses, not great white sharks.
Too often we as humans are ignoring the facts of the horse species and makes excuses. You wouldn’t buy a tiger and expect it to be like your pet rabbit. Why do we get to make these types of expectations for horses? Because we can? Because they are prey animals? Because we can control them?
The more and more I look into my horse’s wants, the more they tolerate my requests (and most of our requests are quite un-natural to them). The longer I stay in their comfort zone, the larger that comfort zone expands.
You get out what you put in. I choose to put in love, compassion and understanding. These creatures are so forgiving. They are willing to teach you, if you are willing to listen.
I have courses available to support you with peaceful ways to bond with your horse: