Sour horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 07-20-2012, 11:01 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 42
• Horses: 3
Sour horse

I know it is difficult to assess situation without seeing the horse and knowing the personalities involved, but I was just wondering if anyone had any experience with trying to 'unsour' an unhappy horse?

The horse I have in mind has a lot of natural talent but has been ridden by an individual who moved way too quickly and forgot about a lot of the basics. From what I have seen, it seemed that any problem was solved by more equipment and pressure. Horse isn't using herself properly? Short tie down! Horse is having issues stopping? Double twisted wire snaffle! Having issues around barrels? Drill it into his brain as much as possible!
Now he is having issues. I didn't see him myself, but from what I hear, it is pretty bad. He is difficult to get to the gate and apparently spends the majority of the run fighting the rider rather than actually competing.

I was thinking about buying the horse before he showed the any sour behaviour. When I tried him, I got the impression that he needed a lot of work, although his owner and others who knew him said he was finished. So, from my impression, he was just pushed too hard too fast.

Is it possible to bring back a horse that has been soured? To change their attitude from fighting with their rider to working with them? I like the horse and would be willing to work him through it, but I don't have a ton of experience with sour horses. I am curious if others have had success and whether you would do it again if given the chance or would pursue other horses.
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post #2 of 4 Old 07-20-2012, 11:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ontario
Posts: 17,193
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The first thing with a horse like this is to start him all over again with the idea that he knows nothing. Bring him along slowly and hopefully plug the holes in his training. You will progress then have setbacks. When this happens just go back to what he knows well. Stay with that for a few days then ask for a little more. Always make sure he understands your requests. Never lose your temper. If you get to feeling frustrated, put him away until your mind is calm, then try to think out why it's not going well. Perhaps a different approach. Oh, and don't let him even see a barrel for 6 months. Don't buy him if you were hoping to finish the season on him. Plan for next year.

Last edited by Saddlebag; 07-20-2012 at 11:20 PM.
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post #3 of 4 Old 07-21-2012, 05:19 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Ashland, OR
Posts: 8,434
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Saddlebag makes an excellent point.

I just recently went back to my 19yr old gelding and treated him like an unstarted colt. I never really realized how bad he was. To me he was the old faithful, but old faithful had gotten into a routine of doing nothing but ponying colts and going on brief trail rides in the past year that magnified his faults and ended up making him sour. He was especially bad because he throws his head, moves, or bites when mounting. I never cared because I had bigger problems to worry about with my main horse and I got so caught up in making her perfect that I didn't address his problems. He wouldn't stp when I said "whoa" either, and he would jig after the first time I asked him to lope. I would always get him settled so I ignored it.

I took four days this week. I went back and did Clinton Anderson groundwork with him. Yielding the hindquarters and forequarters, lunging for respect stage 1 & 2, flexing in the rope halter, laying on him bareback, and yesterday I saddled him and got on him with zero problems and rode him on a loose rein in the rope halter, walk/trot/canter, and he planted his butt and slid to a stop with just me sitting back and saying whoa. I never touched his face. I had no idea groundwork would fix his two main issues. I feel like I have a changed horse.

I suspect your horse could benefit from this too. Treat him like an unstarted colt. Then treat him like he's never seen the barrel pattern before.

Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #4 of 4 Old 07-21-2012, 07:35 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 42
• Horses: 3
Thanks to both of you! It is helpful to know that there is hope.

Saddlebag -I am not looking for a horse to finish the season with. But I'm thinking he may be ready for next season. No pressure if he isn't ready, but I think it could be a reasonable goal. I really think you are right about bringing him back to the basics and treating him like a greenie.

SorrelHorse -Thanks for bringing up ground work! I didn't even think about how that could effect his performance under saddle. It sounds like it was very beneficial for your guy and I hope I would be able to have a similar experience if I end up taking on this guy.
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