Doesn`t Like To Be Alone

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I have a green, 6-year-old Paint gelding who is normally quiet. Last year I was unable to do much riding, due to a medical condition. My husband rode him for me, but he chose to ride him in the same space as his stablemate. Thus, when my husband tried to ride him without his stablemate present, he became anxious ? neighing, looking for his buddy, and being a brat. Instead of working through it, my husband got off and put him back. Now it's time to start riding again, and I'm concerned about fixing this behavior.

Horse Journal Response:

?Buddy sourness? is a common, frustrating behavioral problem. it's hard to solve because it goes against natural instinct: ?stay with the herd!? it's even worse in situations where there is only a pair of equines (called ?small-farm disease?). Some personalities are more prone to it, and mares are often worse than geldings, unless it's a gelding who lives with a mare as his sole companion. Those guys are the worst.

If tHere's a way to separate the two horses for a while, that can help. Send one to a friend?s farm or even turn them out at separate times. Otherwise, you?ve simply got to be firm about it.

Initial work from the ground is useful, especially longeing that requires the horse to focus on the handler. Transitions, poles, and cavaletti on the longe can get your horse to stop fixating on his friend. Be sure to let your horse make his own mistakes as a result of his inattention: Let him trip over the poles or blunder into an arena fence. he'll soon consider paying more attention to his surroundings and you.

However, depending on your riding skills, this problem may be best addressed from his back. (As always, do not get on a horse you are not confident in your ability to control.) If you can get on and immediately require the horse to do demanding, forward work under saddle ? such as transitions or figures ? and ignore any silliness, your horse will likely tire of the extra work He's giving himself through his shenanigans. If He's screaming and carrying on, but you don't change your demands ? even if you aren?t getting exactly what you're asking for ? he'll soon see the fruitlessness of his behavior. You must be able to remain balanced, focused and unrelentingly calm to cause the change you want or find a friend or trainer who can do the riding for you.

One final point: Some horses seem to just be the anxious type, always worried about the whereabouts of their friend. They can require more understanding. Such horses must always be aware of their handler or rider, and be safe, but some degree of whinnying, or looking politely around, can be ignored, rather than punished. For an anxious type, harsh punishment when they're afraid will only cement in their minds that leaving their friend with the human is a negative experience.