Iowa, 12 year old TWH ridden in TWH  medium port with shanks and Marciante trail saddle in Farm fields,waterways, gravel and dirt roadsroads by intermediate rider.

Question: I have just returned from a three day parent-youth clinic where my daughter and I took our own horses to learn about horsreriding safety and natural horsemanship.  I took my 12 year old TWH gelding who is always ready to go for a ride alone at home and ride several miles in different directions from our home place without showing any concern  about leaving his pasturemates.  We have gone on trail rides where he is generally ridden in close proximity to one of our two other horses, but he has not shown anxiety when apart from them.  He is the number one horse in the pecking order among our three horses.

Two sessions of the clinic were held in a covered arena (one with the arched metal supports and cloth or plastic type cover).  I have owned him for 4 years and we have never ridden in an indoor arena or any arena for that matter.   Whenever we were in this
arena with about ten other horses including my daughter's horse, one of his pasturemates, he would go into an absolute frenzy whenever separated from my daughter's horse.  He would whinny and get quite agitated.  The person leading the clinic suggested that I let him go back to his buddy when he got upset, but as soon as I got there to really work him in circles, etc), so that he would start to associate being with his buddy with work and not want to go there.  I did this for two two-hour sessions in the arena and basically ended up with a very sweaty horse both days, and no change in the buddy sour behavior. This behavior also made it hard for my daughter to work on the things she wanted to accomplish while at the clinic.  We finished the third day of the clinic with a 2 and 1/2 hour trail ride and he behaved like his old self.  Is this guy really buddy sour or could he possibly just have been really frightened by being in the strange arena and needed some comfort from his pasturemate? 

My bold trail riding mount acted like a frantic child looking for his mother!!!

Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this as my daughter and I hope to attend other clinics together.  I also wonder if he would act like this if I took him somewhere away from our familiar neighborhood without one of his buddies.  

Thank you for your help.

From Panelist Liz

Hi, This sounds like he could have been reacting to fear of a very new and different environment than he has ever experienced before.

It may help to find a local indoor arena and take him there with out a buddy and no other horses around and get him used to it with out all the excitement. You being his normal rider, he should hook more to you rather than another horse if one is not available and get over this with some time but it will take a bit of work.


From Panelist Stella

Herd leaders take their "jobs" very seriously, and being in the very strange place of the arena, where he himself was likely somewhat unsure of -and  there were "strange" horses there, likely to "steal" a herd member too, felt  the "need" and responsibility to "protect his charge." It was not so much he  needed the reassurance of the buddy, but just do what he
percieves as his natural role and responsibilities as a herd animal.

You'd likely not have had such a bad reaction if you'd simply followed the instructor's suggestion and "given him permission"(maintained your position of leadership while compromising on your decision)- when you directed him to be with his buddy, and quietly let him stand with him, rather than "punish"  him. That way, you could have spent more time absorbing the info of the clinic by making such accommodation. It is always best to work with the most basic natural survival instincts, rather than against them. He would likely  not have reacted like this at all if you'd taken him by simply introduced him into completely "new territory" where his first instinct will  be to protect any herd member, whereas the trails were already more  comfortable, known surroundings...and, it was already the 3rd day.

If you simply go to more events like this, and accommodate this instinct a few more times, you can gradually wean him from this behavior each time(such as doing some the exercises somewhat more separate, bit by bit), as he will become more familiar and not percieve the strange surroundings and other  horses as a threat to his position or the need to protect his
herd members anymore.


From Panelist Carol


I want to compliment you on how well that you have got this situation figured out so far.  I think that you are right in that your horse turned to his buddy for comfort in a scary situation.  My advice is that you continure to go to the clinics, together if you like, and let the clinicians help you--it's their job.  You will be learning things in the clinics that will establish YOU as the alpha member of your herd and your horse will start turning to you for his sense of safety.  It won't start to happen until you are pretty well advanced, though, so just keep going and learning and your horse will follow.  Happy Horseing! 

Carol Camp Tosh 


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