Bound Not OK
The most common bad habit question
I receive relates to the "herd bound", "buddy sour", or "barn
sour" horse. This group of behaviors is based in insecurity - the horse does
not want to leave the herd (gregariousness), his preferred associate or best buddy
(companionship), or the pasture or barn where he lives (food and shelter). Just
to give you an idea of the many ways this behavior can be exhibited AND to let
you know you are not alone out there if you have a herd bound horse, here are
a few descriptions of herd bound/barn sour horse behavior.
writes: "He will not walk home for the life of him. He runs sideways,
bucks rears alot, throws himself down and is going to hurt me if he doesn't stop."
From Karen: "They became best buddies very
fast but now I have a problem if I want to walk or ride just one. The one left
behind goes bonkers, running and screaming until the other comes back into the
Deb writes: "He won't come
out from the field without a struggle, he's looking back at the herd and calling.
After he finally gets going he's stopping and starting all the way in. Now he's
bucking with my daughter on and trying to get out of the ring."
My gelding has
been acting agitated and actually has gotten out twice in the last two weeks.
He goes to a neighbor's home (across a busy street!) where there are several horses,
some of which are mares in heat. I've secured the gates to keep him from escaping
again (hopefully). Could he be lonely and, if so, what can I do other than getting
another horse to keep him company?
are gregarious and a single horse will almost always seek out the companionship
of other horses. That's why, if you have a single horse, you must have very safe
and secure fences and gates. You don't mention how your gelding gets out, but
you need to find every single place where he might even think about getting out.
You probably should use electric fencing to fortify your fences and gates to teach
your horse to respect fences and to be sure your horse does not get hurt either
by getting tangled in the fence or hit by a vehicle. Depending on the state you
are in, you could be liable if your horse causes an accident. You could purchase
another horse, a pony, a burro, or a goat to be a companion to your horse.
I've read your info on buddy sour horses and it makes a lot of
sense. Here is my situation.
After 20 years,
I'm fortunate to be back into riding again. I have just purchased a sound, nicely
put together 4 yr old 1/2 QH/arab. She's only about 14.2 hands high but I felt
very comfortable on her. She is buddy sour and that is why she is being sold.
The son was too inexperienced to train her away from her buddy.
first time I rode her alone, she showed all the expected stress signs when going
away from the barn. But, she responded to my cues for turning and moving forward
even though she constantly tested me to see if I would let her return to the barn.
I was using a hollow 0 ring snaffle bit on her - they had been using a curb Tom
Thumb bit. This is why I felt I could manage her.
2nd time I rode her for 2 hours and her buddy was ridden along with me. Of course
she was very relaxed until I moved her away from buddy. Then she "pretended"
to shy at things and prance, slightly raise up on her back legs, hold her head
up high. I made her stand still, facing away, for about 2 seconds, then cued her
to turn and WALK back to her buddy.
When I bring
her home, she will be alone. I have no others horses just chickens beside her
stall (15' by9') and a dog and a horse crazy 12 yr old daughter. I am concerned
that she might get stressed being along but some horsey people have said this
might be good for her and help her become bonded to me easier. I already plan
to leave her in her stall and work around her a lot until she settles down. Then
I will hand walk her around our pasture and property until she is familiar with
The owner said she had tying
problems but each time she let me tack her up while tied to a tree without problems.
She also let me open her mouth to check the bit placement. Her owner was surprised
because the mare never let her do this! I suspect there was not much bonding as
the mare laid back her ears and started to pull when the woman came up beside
Do you have any other advice about managing
her stress level when I bring her home? Thank you so much!
It sounds like you have connected
well with this horse and have a good handle on things.
I agree with the "horsey people" you have talked with that say having
the mare alone at your new home will be a good thing. You will be able to continue
building your horse-human bond while she adapts to her new home. This really is
ideal and is actually the "treatment" I recommend to people who have
buddy sour horses. I often suggest they try to find a neighbor who will take the
buddy for a while to help break the bond and allow for the formation of a better
human-horse bond with the horse that remains at home.
suggestions are: make sure the horse gets plenty of exercise including turnout,
in-hand work (as you suggested around your property), some ground work (such as
longeing and ground driving) and riding in various places and at various times
of the day. The more varied you can make your interactions, the more solid and
strong your bond will become.
your horse so as not to create excess energy and don't leave her in the stall
for too long of a time as that can tip the anxiety scale as well.
Could you please give me some
advice on how to correct aggressive behavior due to separation anxiety in pasture
horses? Also, will this behavior be picked up by my other horses thru example?
My problem, specifically, is as follows: I have a big bay mare (16 hands, 1200
lbs.) 5 yrs. old. She has always been a bully w/ any other horse that she is pastured
with (Kicking to the extent of vet. trips, sutures, etc.) Recently, I purchased
a 7 yr. gelding that eventually obtained dominance (after several deep gashes
and numerous abrasions). Now, however, when I try to take him out of the pasture
to ride, she attacks him while I am trying to lead him out because she anticipates
the separation. (They are the only 2 horses in this pasture, which is about 2
acres). I have moved her to another smaller pasture, which I had to take my weanling
foal out of, as I was afraid she would be hurt by the mare. Can I correct her
behavior, or must I continue to keep her isolated?
I have already been kicked accidentally by her while attempting to take him
out. She is big and very strong and I am afraid she will hurt someone, as well
as the other horse. She had been by herself for about 1 year before I got this
gelding, so gets extremely agitated at separation, attacking and kicking him to
prevent me (or any one else) from removing him. Please send advice-my other horse
is well behaved and I don't want him following her example. Also, the foal (in
the next pasture) gets very agitated and starts rearing, charging around and whinnying
frantically, as this scares her. Again, I don't want her learning by example.
I appreciate any advice you can give.
I am glad that you are aware of how dangerous
this can be - in fact it is one of the most dangerous situations - handling horses
in a "group" situation, even though this group is only two. The problem
is that the horses are still behaving in their horse mode, or at least your bossy
mare is, and you only have control of the gelding. It is one of those no win situations
You say "she attacks him while
I am trying to lead him out because she anticipates the separation" and
"attacking and kicking him to prevent me (or any one else) from removing
I question whether you've read this correctly - I doubt that it is separation
anxiety that makes her attack him - in my experience, she attacks due to the fact
that you have him haltered and she has the opportunity.
This is what I would do:
Separate the mare
from both of your other horses.
Work with her regularly so that she really
respects you on the ground, has a job, has plenty of exercise and is more tired
than full of it. Do lots of in-hand exercises that make her pay attention, give
you personal space, long whoas on a long line etc.
may never be the type of horse that you can pasture with another as she will get
too "buddy bound" to him or her. Some horses, and especially mares,
can be like that.
Whenever I see the first sign
of something like that, I immediately separate those two horses and give them
a new environment and routine. Herd bound or buddy sour horses are some of the
hardest to deal with once the habit has become deeply ingrained.
you have worked with the mare to the point where you can feel you can do anything,
any time, anywhere with her in hand, then if you MUST put her back with another
horse, be very cautious, and you might want to make a habit of going to get the
mare first, taking her up to the barn and tying her, then going to get the gelding,
tying him, then taking the mare back out and turning her out on pasture.
just is no way you can discipline a loose horse while you are trying to lead your
good gelding - no one can unless they carry a bull whip! Just kidding - that is
not an option, but you see what I mean. It would be impossible to discipline her
while she is loose running circles around you and your gelding or charging you.
But the better her ground training is, the more respect she will have for you
and your space, your body language, and your voice. Also, be sure to work her
and ride her often so she doesn't use her excess energy up on you and the gelding!
I'd suggest you have your vet check her because
there is a chance that she could have a hormone imbalance that causes her to be
so aggressive - that really isn't normal.
hope this helps you but I think you already realized when you wrote that you probably
have to keep her separate. It simply is not worth the risk. Do be careful.
other articles on the Herd Bound or Barn Sour Horse, see:
to Tell if a Horse is Herd Bound/Barn Sour
the Barn Sour Horse
behavior that is repeated becomes habit, even though it was not formally designed
as a lesson. Horses are constantly learning as a result of their handling and
Not Breaking by Cherry Hill
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