Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why is my horse rearing when I ride him for the first time in several months?

I have an 18 year old, 17.1 hh, Thoroughbred gelding who I have owned for ten years. He has always been reactive and spooky. He injured his leg and then developed complications from the original injury. Although he was treated by our veterinarian, we never received a definitive diagnosis. Because of his injury, I could not ride him for over two months. Then I had more time out of the saddle due to icy and cold weather. Finally we had a day where the temperature was above freezing, so I decided to take him out on a trail ride with his paddock mate.

He did great going out but once we turned back towards the barn, he began rearing maybe a foot or so off the ground, stepping sideways, backing towards the road, stomping his feet on the pavement, prancing, and spinning around. I was really worried I would get thrown! I ended up dismounting each time a car came by because I worried he would dump me on the road or lung into the car. As soon as the car passed, I would mount again and he would resume the bad behavior.

He's always been high-strung and difficult to ride, but I've never felt this unsafe. Could his behavior just be due to the fact that he hadn't been ridden in so long?

The short answer is yes - having so much time off could make your horse misbehave when you start riding him again. I also have a high strung horse, and he, like many other high strung horses, does best on a consistent riding schedule. It keeps him more focused on his job. If he gets time off, the first few rides can be a little difficult. He'll spook at nothing and generally ignore me. It takes a few rides to get him back in the working frame of mind.

You may have made things more difficult for yourself by taking your horse on a trail ride for his first ride back to work. He had plenty of pent-up energy and the trail ride gave him the perfect thing to use it on: spooking at things and misbehaving. It was also a fairly chilly day (in the 30s) and horses often feel fresh and more reactive on those crisp days. Unfortunately he had the deck stacked against him!

In the future, if you have to give him (or any other horse) time off, I suggest bringing them back to work more slowly. Start with riding in an arena or smaller, enclosed field and then progress to riding on trails again. Give the horse a few rides to get back into a working mindset before expecting too much out of him.

Time off might not be the only culprit, though. Pain is a pretty powerful motivator, and it could certainly make a horse behave badly. You implied that your horse behaved when you got off of him because of oncoming traffic but went back to misbehaving once you got back on him. I would start by checking his tack, especially his saddle, to make sure it still fits. Because your horse had time off, the musculature in back could change and a saddle that once fit may not fit well anymore. It could be sitting too close to his spine, causing pressure when you are in the saddle, or it could be pinching or rubbing somewhere. If that's the case, he may have behaved in the beginning because the saddle wasn't too uncomfortable at first but the longer you rode, the more uncomfortable it got until he started acting out in an attempt to tell you he hurt.

If you check your saddle and it still fits well, then I would next have your veterinary do another lameness exam on your horse. It may be that he appears sounds without a rider, but the extra weight on a rider, the hard pavement under his hooves and the work he had to do when ridden could be causing him pain. A comprehensive lameness exam with your veterinarian watching your horse move both in hand and under saddle can help rule out lingering affects of the undiagnosed lameness.

I would also have your veterinarian check your horse's teeth. As horses get older, their teeth may need to be checked and floated more than once a year. If he has sharp points, they could be cutting into his gums and the pressure of a bit in his mouth may be uncomfortable.

If you can rule out all of these possible causes of pain, then your horse just may need some more regular and consistent riding to slowly bring him back into shape before embarking on another trail ride. If that's the case, spend some time in the arena and bring him along, and before long you should be hitting the trails again!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why Does My Horse Groom Me?

I was wondering if it’s normal for my horse to groom me. I’ve searched high and low on the internet and can’t find anything about horses grooming their owners. I haven’t even heard of other horse people experiencing this with their horses. What does it mean? Should I let him do this to me? He doesn’t hurt me and he isn’t pushy about it but rather quite gentle and sincere (if that makes any sense). Typically he does this as a response to my scratching/rubbing his neck, back or withers. This is my first horse; I adopted him from a rescue 18 months ago. He was very sick and lame when I adopted him so the first 8 months I couldn’t do anything but hang out with him in his stall and in pasture. Does he think I’m another horse?

If you watch other horses together in pasture, they perform "mutual grooming". They'll stand next to each other facing opposite directions. One will start grooming, or gently nibbling, at the other horse's withers. Then the groomed horse will begin nibbling or grooming at the first horse's withers. They'll generally groom along the withers and neck, and sometimes onto the back. They are gentle and it is a herd behavior that promotes closer ties in the herd. And it feels good to them.

So sometimes while a human is grooming her horse, especially if the human is using a curry comb or scratching with her fingers, her horse will turn around and try to groom her back. I don't allow my horses to groom me - I'm not a horse and don't want to be treated like a horse. Once you allow your horse to treat you like a horse, you open yourself to being on the receiving end of dominance behaviors like biting and kicking as well as comfort behaviors like grooming.

I keep my horses tied when they're being groomed, and if one does reach around to groom me, I gently push their head away from me. I don't hit them, slap them, or make a big deal of it. I either use my open hand on their cheek to push their head away, or I tug on their halter or lead rope to push their head away. After a few times, most horses understand that you don't want to be groomed and they leave you alone.

Your horse will still enjoy the scratching and grooming, though, and that is a great way to help him relax with you, trust you and bond with you. So enjoy your grooming time - without being mutually groomed!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What do I do with a horse who isn't good with children?

I am looking for some advice and was wondering if you would be so kind to help me. I have a 6 year old, skewbald mare who is so lovely, and the only problem I have is she's not so good on the ground with children that are below her eye level. She puts her ears back and threatens to bite and sometimes she slightly turns her back end as well. What would you suggest as my son absolutely loves her to bits and the riding side is going great but he would like to be able to groom her etc.

You've given me a tough question today! I would like for you to help your mare work through her problem, but at the same time I think keeping your son (and other children) safe is the most important thing.

There are some horses who really simply don't like children. In some cases, they've been teased or mishandled by children and never trust them again. Some horses don't like how loud young children can be and how fast and unpredictably they can move. So if you let your son around your mare, make sure he's quiet and moves slowly. Don't allow him to run around, yell, move jerkily, etc.

Normally when a horse doesn't like something, I work to desensitize them to the thing they don't like by exposing them to it and pairing it with something they do like (I may fly-spray a nervous horse and when she stands quietly I then give her a treat). However I think that kids' safety is very important. If your child is around your mare, I would have him wear a helmet and boots, even if he isn't riding. And I wouldn't leave them together unsupervised even for a few minutes.

Considering having your veterinarian check her vision. If she has limited vision, she may not be able to see your son and is startled when he suddenly pets her or talks to her. If poor vision is her trouble, you may be able to help improve her attitude by teaching her to lower her head where she can see your son approaching.

I hate to admit that there's a problem I'm not sure how to fix, but I'm not willing to put your son at risk of getting injured in an effort to desensitize your mare. It may be that you need to get your son a more child-friendly horse of his own.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why is my horse changing leads at the canter?

I have a nine year old, Saddlebred, gelding that is very talented. I have had him for four years, but did not start riding him myself until the last six months as he was too much horse for me until now. He has lots of motion, a very "look at me" attitude, and never puts an ear back. My problem is two-fold. I have a trainer that tends to give up on horses quickly if he is unable to correct a problem. In fact, he is pressing me to sell him which I truly do not want to do because I love this horse. My horse's problem is that he changes leads several times each way in the canter at home. He has been evaluated by a chiropractor and nothing was found wrong: I was just sold some very expensive "herbs" to help his mind. When he is at a show he typically doesn't change leads in the canter. I am trying to find someone who can help this horse or recommend someone that may be able to help him. He is the most beautiful and sweet horse, and a ride on him will make you grin for days afterwards. I would greatly appreciate any advice or referrals from you if you know someone who may have experience in this area.

Your horse sounds like a lovely boy. I really love Saddlebreds, especially those with that showy attitude and a lot of action. I personally would move to another trainer if yours is impatient and unwilling to work to correct problems in a horse, especially a horse his client obviously loves. I don't have a lot of tolerance for trainers who aren't willing or able to fix problems.

I would also have an equine veterinarian examine your horse. Equine chiropractors can play an important role in treating horses, but not all equine chiropractics have the same education and training. Some are very good, but some aren't. I would want an equine veterinarian to do a lameness examine, examine the horse's back and look at his hoof care.

If the veterinarian doesn't find anything, then I would want a trainer to look at you and your riding. Some horses are very sensitive to their riders and subtle shifts in their rider's weight and/or position can cause them to change leads. I have a horse of mine that won't walk a straight line for a novice - he's so responsible to seat aids and leg aids that a novice rider who is insecure gives him so many conflicting cues that he zig-zags all over the place. Have the trainer check your seat and your legs as you ride. You may find you've been inadvertently telling your horse to swap leads. You also might have the trainer ride your horse to see if he swaps leads for the trainer, too.

If both your horse and your riding check out, then I would work on building up his strength. Horses normally swap leads because either they have a physical problem (most common cause), their riders are asking them to or because they're out of shape and unable to canter long periods. Start slowly with trot work and very brief canter sessions and build up the length of riding/training sessions over time.

Once he's in good shape, give him longer canter sessions. If he continues swapping leads, then treat him like a young horse who doesn't really know how to canter. Ask for very brief canter sessions, bringing him back to a walk or trot before he has a chance to swap leads. When you start getting quality short canters, gradually extend the length of time you ask him to canter. If he does swap leads, bring him back to a walk and ask him to pick up the correct lead again.

Good luck with your boy! I think you are fortunate to have such a lovely horse and hope you are able to continue working with him.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How do I cope with a horse who doesn't like riding with other horses?

I have an eighteen year old mare mare who has recently gone through ground manners training. She has learned how to give and such using a snaffle bit. She is calm when I take her on rides alone, but when other horses are with us she acts up by side-passing, throwing her head and not listening to me. She understands leg and rein cues. Any ideas?

You said the mare recently received ground training, but you didn't mention whether she was broke to ride or not before then so I'm going to have to guess a bit in order to answer your question.

Your mare may be acting up when ridden on the trail because of one of the following reasons:

  • She was recently broke to ride and has not been ridden around other horses.
  • She's a very timid mare and other horses make her nervous.
  • She's been kicked, injured or otherwise hurt by another horse and she's scared of having them close to her.
In any of these cases, the mare is nervous about other horses near her so she's acting out. You'll need to take a step back to fix this problem and take a little time, but the results will be worth it.

Go back to riding in an arena or small field. Pick a friend with a calm, quiet, and non-dominant horse to ride with you. Start off by having your horse stand in the center of the field or arena while your friend walks around the ring/field. Instruct your friend to give your mare plenty of space. If you your mare is nervous, dismount and stand next to her until she quiets and settles down. Pet her and reward her for quiet behavior and then mount up. Ask her to continue standing in the center of the ring for a minute or two. If she's quiet and calm, then go to the rail and ride with your friend on the opposite side of the arena. Over time, let your friend get closer to you. (Never allow your friend to get closer than a horse's length from your mare).

The first ride or two, keep your mare and your friend's horse at a walk. As long as your mare is quiet, reward her with petting. If she gets upset, ask your friend to stand still and put your mare to work trotting or cantering - ask her to leg yield, sidepass, circle, etc. until she's got her mind on you. When she does, let her go back to a walk. Make the right behavior (being quiet with another horse in the field/ring) easy by letting her walk. Make the wrong behavior (getting upset) harder by making her work harder when she's not listening.

If she handles the first ride at the walk well, then have her and the other horse take turns trotting on the second ride. Again, give her some space but let the other horse drift closer and closer to her. Over the next few rides, you can let her trot and canter more.

When she's doing well with one horse in the ring or field at a walk, trot and canter, add another horse and over time add several more horses. Once she's comfortable in the ring with several horses, you can venture back out on the trail.

When you start back to trail riding, go with just a couple of friends who have helped you out in the arena. Your first ride should be at a walk only, and your friends need to give your mare space so she won't feel crowded and get nervous. If your mare stops listening to you, do circles on the trail, leg yield back and forth or side-pass and make her work. When she's quiet, pet her and give her a loose and relaxed rein.

Over time, build back up to faster trail rides with more riders. Just remind riders to give your horse space to relax and make trail riding a good experience for her.

Good luck! Soon you should be enjoying trail rides - with a horse who enjoys them, too!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How do we cope with a horse who is constantly biting or trying to bite?

We have a horse that we've had on trial for about a month and have an option to lease him for six months. He's a 16 hh, 10 year old, Appy/TB cross. He has experience in hunter equitation and has evented for the past three years. My daughter loves to ride him, but he is so mouthy! He bites and reaches out constantly. Eben when you try to bring him in from his turnout, he won't move and if you give him a tug he will bite. He has already bitten me and my daughter and several people at the barn.

Biting is one of those behaviors that some people think is trivial, but it can be truly dangerous. Although you haven't said whether the horse is nipping (pinching the skin with his teeth) or really biting (breaking the skin, leaving sizable bruises, etc.), biting often starts as nipping and can then escalate.

Nipping often starts in young horses who are exploring the world with their mouth. It seems to be more common in colts, especially those who are not yet gelded, but fillies may also nip. Some people ignore the behavior, thinking it'll go away on its own. Others even think it is cute when a young horse nibbles their shirt, hair or skin and pet them, talk to them, or otherwise give them positive attention when they do it. This encourages the horse to continue nibbling and then the owner or handler is surprised when one day the horse bites them, breaking the skin. The horse is surprised when the human yells or scolds them. In his mind, he was just doing what he had been encouraged to do in the past.

In my barn, if a horse nibbles or nips, he is immediately reprimanded. If he's wearing a halter and leadrope, the reprimand is normally a loud NO followed by a jerk on the leadrope or making the horse back up. If the horse is loose, I give a loud no and walk away and ignore the horse. If the horse repeats the behavior, I will smack him or hit him in the chest, neck or shoulder in additional to giving a loud NO.

Some people think it is cruel to smack or hit a horse. I do not advocate hitting a horse with a whip or other "tool/implement", repeatedly hitting a horse, hitting a horse for no reason, punching a horse or hitting a horse in the head. However a firm smack or hit on the neck, shoulder, or chest is similar to the punishment horses give each other for inappropriate behavior. Watch a mare with her older foal or a group of horses in the pasture: if the foal bites his mother, his mother may bite him back, gently push him with her hoof or even kick. If a grown horse bites or nips at another, the punishment is often more stern: a hard bite or kick from the horse who was bitten. A single smack from a human is a pretty mild punishment compared to a strong bite or kick from another horse.

If a horse in my barn bites, he is immediately reprimanded with a loud no and either a smack/hit to the chest, neck or shoulder. I'll follow that up by backing him out of my space. Since bites can do a lot of damage, I make sure to make it very clear that biting is not an acceptable behavior.

If you discipline a horse this way, you need to keep a few things in mind:
- The punishment must be immediate. If the horse was loose and runs away, you cannot chase him down, catch him and then smack him. By the time you've done that, he doesn't understand what the smack is. Likewise, you can't walk off, grab a whip, and smack him with the whip because by the time you get back and smack him with a whip, too much time has passed and he's not making the connection between biting and getting smacked.
- If the horse is loose, smacking or hitting him may not be safe as he may whirl around and kick you. If he is loose, then make a loud noise, shoo him away and then walk away and ignore him.
- Learn the signs that your horse is about to bite (pinned ears, swishing tail, tightness in his mouth) and move away from him when he displays those signs. Don't give him a chance to bite.
- Rarely, disciplining a horse for biting makes him more aggressive. If your horse reacts this way, get professional help.

I've known some people who have carried a stiff bristle brush, a tack or a nail in their hands and when the horse goes to bite, the person thrusts the brush, nail or tack towards the horse so that the horse hits the sharp edge(s) with his muzzle. For some horses, after a few times of hitting the sharp edge when they go to bite, they decide that biting is painful and they stop.

Another thing to keep in mind: if you have a biter or nipper, do not hand-feed him/her treats. Some horses can eat hand-fed treats with no problems, but I've found that some horses become pushy, look for treats constantly, and bite your hands, clothing, arms, etc. while trying to find them.

You also mentioned that your horse is constantly reaching out towards you. Don't let him. Set a space around yourself that's your personal bubble. When your horse wants to intrude on that space, push him out with your hand or make him back up (if he's haltered). You need to be consistent - any time he invades your space even if only part of his body (like his muzzle) invades your space, make him get out. Don't give him that opportunity to get close to you and then bite.

When dealing with a horse who nips or bites, you must be consistent. Any time he nips or bites you (or even at you), you must discipline him. You can't ignore the biting sometimes because you are tired or it was cute or it was minor or he really didn't mean it. You must stay on top of this behavior if you want it to stop.

If your horse continues biting after you discipline him, then you'll need to seek professional help. And until you do, don't let your daughter handle the horse and consider putting a muzzle on him so he can't bite you (or anyone else).

Monday, January 31, 2011

Is ear-pinning a sign of worse things to come?

I bought and adorable 6 year old small show pony this week at the auction at USEF Pony Finals in Kentucky. He is great when you ride him but very green. The problem is that he pins his ears at you when you approach him. He then licks you if you don't show fear. I am confused by this behavior and worry that it is a sign of bad things to come. The previous owner says that he was gelded just two years ago and broke to ride a year ago. She also said that he needs to get to know you and has been ridden by many children. He is also very hand shy and it looks like he might have been abused by his reaction.

Congrats on the new pony! You've brought up a few different issues here, and I want to address each one.

1. The pony pins his ears when you approach him. You say he then licks if you don't show fear, but you don't mention what he does if someone acts fearful or how you approach him. Horses like humans are individuals, and some of them are just grumpy. I have a one here that I call Mr. Grumpy Pants (a non-scientific term!). He walks around with his ears back and puts them further back when you first approach him, especially if he's in his stall or its dinner time. He has good ground manners, though, and I ignore his pinned ears. He's just a grumpy horse.

You don't mention where your pony is nor how you approach him. If he pins his ears when he's in his stall and eating, then leave him alone during dinner time. When I feed my horses, I figure that's their time to eat and hang out. I don't ask them to do anything else and if they put their ears back at me, I ignore it (I will not ignore bad behavior like kicking, biting, etc.).

If the pony's ground manners are otherwise good, then I would ignore his grumpy attitude. By good ground manners, I mean that he doesn't kick or bite, he leads and stands tied, etc. You can't really discipline a horse for having his ears back - all you are likely to do is make him more grouchy.

2. He was gelded two years ago. Unless he's displaying stallion-like behavior (calling to mares, chasing and attempting to mount mares in the field, etc.), I wouldn't worry about this. Four isn't a late gelding age, and many stallions are gelded at four years (or even later) and adjust just fine to being geldings.

3. He is hand shy and you believe he was abused. You've touched on a big pet peeve of mine: horses being labeled abused because they act a bit headshy. Truly abused horses are few and far between - there are many who are not taught properly, but there are very few who are truly abused.

You don't describe what he does when you move your hands around his head, but I would wager that he's not headshy/abused. He may have learned that if he moves away from contact with his head, he'll be left alone and not have to work. Or he may never have been taught to stand nicely while his head is handled. Another possibility is that he just wants to be left alone or doesn't like being petted on his head. If that's the issue, pet him on his shoulder instead of his head and see how he reacts.

If your horse is violently headshy meaning he throws his head into you, strikes out with his front feet, tries to spin around and kick or displays other behavior that could get you hurt, then seek a professional trainer who can help him overcome these issues.

If he just moves his head away, puts his ears back or walks off, then you can work with him and start desensitizing him to having his head handled. It is best to have him in a halter and leadrope and leave him untied. Hold the end of the leadrope with one hand. Move the other hand around his head. Let him toss his head, move around (keep enough pressure on the leadrope, though, that he moves in a circle around you with his hindquarters away from you). Keep moving your hand until he stops moving, drops his head and licks and chews. This is a sign he's relaxed. Stop immediately, pet him, let him rest a minute, and then start again. If he's ok with your hands moving around, move closer to him and repeat. Keep this up until he's letting you touch his head and standing quietly. This is not necessarily something you can accomplish in just one training session.

During the handling sessions, if he gets worse or starts to react aggressively, then back up and repeat the last successful step. If you are unable to complete even one step successfully, then seek professional help.

Good luck with your new pony - I hope he turns out to be just what you were wanting!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What do I do if my horse bucks again?

I was recently trail riding my 10 year old gelding that I purchased about 5 months ago. As we were riding down a ravine, my horse appeared to slip. When he slipped forward, I fell forward onto his neck. Then, as he was trying to get out of the ravine, he began to buck and bucked me right off. He has never bucked before with me, but now I'm concerned he will buck again. What do I do if he starts to buck (besides hold on for dear life)? Do I pull one rein to my hip, as if to stop? Any suggestions?

Congrats on the new horse! It is always exciting to add a new horse, but it can also be frustrating to adjust to a new horse. Of course, riding different horses in different situations is what makes us good horsemen and horsewomen.

You don't mention how experienced a rider you are, and that can make a difference in my answer. For example, if you aren't an experienced rider, you might not be able to tell whether or not your horse was bucking. Sometimes when a horse comes up out of a ravine or up a very steep hill, they take bounding or leaping steps that can feel like bucking. And if you aren't prepare for those leaps, then it is easy to be unbalanced and come off.

However if you are an experienced rider, then you probably know the difference between a leap and a buck. Your horse may have been bucking because you were unbalanced - you said you had slipped forward onto his neck. Sometimes an unbalanced rider can make a horse uncomfortable enough to buck. Or you may have startled him when you slipped onto his neck, and that may have made him buck. You can prevent those two things in the future. More riding time and lessons with a good instructor can help you develop better balance. Desensitizing your horse to you moving around in the saddle - leaning backwards and leaning forwards onto his neck can help him be better prepared in the future. You also should get your horse used to having you touch him on his neck, back, sides, etc. when you are on his back.

These bucks may have been an isolated experience: a reaction to stumbling, you slipping forward and then being unbalanced when coming out of the ravine. However if he bucks again, here are a few tips:

  • Try pulling his head up and sending him forward. It is more difficult for a horse to buck when their head is up and they're moving.
  • Teach him the one rein stop ahead of time and use if he bucks.
  • Teach him an absolute "whoa". That means teaching him that no matter what he's doing, when you say whoa he stops moving. This is what works best with my mare who occasionally bucks. If she starts, I say "whoa" loud and firm and she stops. However, she's been taught in training sessions that when I say "whoa" I mean to stop right now!

Good luck with your horse. I hope this helps and that you have many more enjoyable rides together.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How do I deal with separation anxiety in my show horse?

I have a 13 year old, Quarter Horse that is shown in western pleasure. He has been in training since his 2 year old year, and I purchased him as a 6 year old. When I bought him, he had no problems. However, over the years he has developed severe separation anxiety. Last week he and another horse went to a huge show. He was shown the first day, and then not shown again because his mental state deteriorated. He climbed the walls whenever the other horse was taken away to show or lunge. As long as someone or another horse was with him he was ok. I am at my wits end on what to do.

Separation anxiety can be such a frustrating problem for owners that I've published an article in EQUUS Magazine called Happy Together which discusses separation anxiety, and my first Behavior Q&A Column was about separation anxiety. Click here to read that column.

When dealing with separation anxiety, look at the horse in question. Is he normally a high-strung horse? They seem to be a little more likely to form such close ties to other horses. You said your horse had no problems when you first got him, so I'm guessing he wasn't overly prone to stress and creating such strong bonds. So something may have changed in his life to cause him to be easily stressed out at shows. You said he's been in training since he was two - so that's eleven years of training and showing. That in and of itself can be quite stressful. Maybe it is time for him to have some downtime, hang out, and just be a horse.

I would also have a vet check him out for physical problems. If he's in pain or uncomfortable, he's going to be stressed out at shows. And that stress may cause him to bond to another horse for comfort and companionship. Since he's been showing for so long, I would ask the vet to check him for ulcers as well since they can cause discomfort, leading to more stress.

You didn't mention if he was ok at home and only a problem at shows. If showing is the problem then once you've eliminated your gelding's sources of stress and given him some time off, it is time to go back to showing. Unfortunately, showing itself might be the source of his stress. So I would take it slowly: take him to some small, schooling shows. At first, just ride him around the grounds and don't enter him in the competition. If he deals with that ok and is willing to leave his buddy at the trailer or in the stall, then you can start showing him again. Make sure the experience is low-key and not stressful. You aren't showing to win ribbons, you are showing him so he can learn that the show ring is not so stressful and scary that he needs to cling to someone else for comfort.

If even riding him at the show grounds is difficult, then you have more work to do. I would start by taking him to shows and taking him on short walks around the grounds - start with five minutes. If he stays calm and doesn't get upset after five minutes, praise him and take him back to his stall or the trailer. If he gets upset, then you'll have to have even shorter training sessions. The goal is to have him listen to you and not panic for his friend. I would also haul him to the show with different horses - don't set him up to have one friend he relies on. Take longer and longer walks, always rewarding good behavior and heading back to the trailer/stall before he gets nervous and tense. Once he can handle walking around the grounds without his pal, then start riding him at the grounds, following the same procedure - short, low-key rides where you return before he gets upset, increasing the length of the ride over time. And eventually heading back into the ring.

This isn't a quick fix - but it is one that's more likely to get him back into the ring and winning again. If he's ok at shows now except when his pal is taken out of his/her stall, then you need to make sure to stable him at shows where he always has a companion.

Good luck!