Barn Sour - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 07-29-2010, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2010
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Barn Sour

Hi everyone -- I recently started leasing a Quarab in his mid 20s. He has been ridden western his entire life so I have continued with this, but possibly in the future I may do some english work with him.

Anyway, when I first started working with him, he was impossible to catch in his field. The first day I went to catch him, I spent 3 hours in his field with carrots, sugar cubes, horse treats, everything -- with no success...we have since moved on from that. He still has his moments, but I have caught onto all of his quirks and can now catch him in a few minutes. I think he was just testing me to see if I would give up.

I originally started riding in a spare field/ring on the farm and quickly discovered he is pretty ring sour, and upon talking to his owner she confirmed this with me so we both went out on the trails which is what he prefers. He was perfect on the trails with us and another horse, and the next day I went out alone and he was perfect as well, but the past two times I have tried going out...he gets to a certain spot (where the farm property ends) and will not move forward...or backwards towards the farm. He will only ride to the right along the fence line . He gets really nervous and prances/breaks into a canter on the way back to the barn. I know I shouldn't give in and let him do this because it is just reinforcing the behavior, but I don't know what to do. When this happens in the ring (he goes to the gate and throws his head up/down..prances, etc) I just pull him in a tight circle until he gives up and then I move him away from the gate. But when I am out in the open, I get nervous and don't know what to do.

My intuition tells me to get off of him about 100 ft in front of the spot where his hissy fit starts and walk him past it and get back on him down the road (and do this for a week or so). I don't want to take him out with another horse just yet because I think that will reinforce his barn sour/buddy sour-ness.

Any thoughts/tips are HIGHLY appreciated!! I'm sorry this is such a long post, but I get pretty longwinded sometimes.

My horse may not be perfect, be he is perfect for me
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post #2 of 7 Old 07-29-2010, 08:58 PM
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Southeastern US
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What you are describing is pretty common for horses. First of all, he sounds buddy sour, meaning that he looks to another horse for his confidence on the trails and when that buddy is missing, he gets very nervous and wants to hustle back to the comfort of his buddies and the barn, etc. Secondly, definitely sounds like he is ring sour, in that he doesn't want to work in the ring. I can't say I blame horses for being ring sour, as riding around in a circle can seem pretty pointless! But both of these things are really pretty easy fixes.

When you try to ride him out by himself, and he starts pitching a fit, direct his energy. If he gets to a spot where he wants to stop and won't move forward, then work him in circles in that spot. Take a riding crop if you need to urge him forward, and work his little hiney for a bit and get him huffing and puffing, allow him to walk forward in the direction YOU want to go. If he goes a few feet, great...if he starts acting up again, immediately put him back on a circle and ask him to work again. Ask for more forward movement in your intended direction...offer him a better deal by going where you want to go. Make going where you want to go easy, and where he wants to go harder. NEVER EVER let a barn sour horse hurry home. When he gets to prancing and jigging, move those feet with purpose. Ask him for circles, serptentines, etc. When he's moved some ask him to walk again. As long as he is walking calmly let him...but move him with purpose (and not directly back to the barn) until he calms down. He's going to resist, and you've got to be prepared for that. Do not get off unless you feel like you are in danger. Getting off will let him "win" the battle. No battle is worth getting hurt over, though, so be careful. And when you do get back to the barn, NEVER let that be "it." A barn sour horse wants to go to the barn so work can be done. I always work my horses when I get back to the barn or I at least leave them tied with their tack on for some time. The last thing you want to do is go right back home, groom him, give him a treat, and let him out!

Same thing with the buddy sour issue...just use that negative energy to ask him to move. Keep your rides short at first. The first few times it may take 2 hours to go half a mile, but set your goal, and get there. Bottom line is, he goes where you want, things are easier. He wants to do his thing, it has to be WORK. Horses are intrinsically lazy creatures as soon as he catches on, he'll change quickly.

As for the ring sour thing...try not to overdo it in the ring. Make ring work fun and interesting for him. Add obstacles and don't just ride around in circles all the time. Engage his mind. Never get off of him at the same place every time. Never ride through the gate. When he goes to pitch his fit in front of the gate, drive him forward with purpose and ask him to do something significant. Do that every time 40 times if you have to. The first time he walks by the gate with no problem, praise him but keep moving. Make things easier for him when he does that.

Hope this helps a little!
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post #3 of 7 Old 07-30-2010, 11:12 AM
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Location: Des Moines, Iowa
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Probably should have read this before I posted my own really long explanation of the "Stubborn Old(ish) Arab..."

In short, I'm having precisely the same difficulties.

And if I can give myself some credit, I believe I did all the things that are described in Cobalt's answer.

Perhaps my threshold for staying on a horse that clearly wants me off just isn't enough.

Good luck with this, and please do post your progress. I'd like to know which things are working for you.

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post #4 of 7 Old 07-30-2010, 12:30 PM
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Cobalt really gave you both some excellent advice and I'd be wasting my time describing pretty much the same thing, but the one thing I can add, is that you don't necessarily have to move your horse's feet while still in the saddle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dismounting a horse in a situation that could become dangerous. Blink, that's for you. If you are still working your horse, getting off is not the same as losing. So move his feet.. Lunge him, do lots of directional changes.. Make him work and get him thinking. Once he's breathing hard and wearing down, walk him past that point to let him rest and catch his breath.

Another thing you two can do, is to make your horse associate the barn or his buddies or whatever point the horse refuses to go on beyond with work. Work your horse (on the ground or in the saddle) by whichever one it is for you and take him away from that thing to let him rest. Gradually increase the distance and make going away relaxing. If the barn or his buddy equals work, he'll be happy to leave because, as Cobalt said, horses are generally lazy and choose the easiest route.

Here's a good starter video by Clinton Anderson. Its definitely worth watching.
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post #5 of 7 Old 07-30-2010, 01:04 PM
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Very true, Dove! I agree that getting off and moving his feet is good, too! I missed the call on that...didn't think it through all the way. The important thing is that he gets a raw deal if he insists on having his way. You can accomplish all of that from the ground.

And Blink, it's ok to get off that horse and work his tail into the ground if you have to. By that of course I don't mean overdo it to the point where it hurts him, but you can get him pretty tired if need be. Also ask him to do things that aren't easy, like small circles and forehand turns.

And don't get discouraged if it doesn't happen quickly. It could take a week to get this horse moving 100 yards beyond his "stopping point"...but make sure there is just a little progress every day. At some point, the horse is probably going to give up. ANd remember this is very common. Lots of horses don't like to be ridden without another horse for company. And lots of horses think going back to the barn is the best thing ever.

Last edited by Cobalt; 07-30-2010 at 01:13 PM.
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post #6 of 7 Old 07-30-2010, 10:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for your replies and advice! I went out today and did some ring work and he was actually being really good.....which is bizarre but it was great -- we did a lot of serpentines, tight circles, patterns, starting/stopping...basically I kept switching things up so that he wouldn't get bored.

Hopefully this weekend I will be able to work with him on leaving the farm.

Dove -- thanks for the video and tips, it all definitely sounds like good advice and I will be sure to try them all.

Cobalt -- You gave me a lot of good ideas and I appreciate it so much ... Whenever we come back from one of his fits, I do work him in the ring when we get back to the barn so he does know that he is going to work even though he has a meltdown off the farm. I will try to keep him saddled longer after this though so I am not just rewarding the bad behavior.

Blink -- I read your post and it sounds almost identical to my problems...I look forward to hearing about your progress with your horse and will definitely post my progress/what is working and what is not working.

Thanks to all of you again!!
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post #7 of 7 Old 07-31-2010, 08:29 AM
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You have already received some good advice, so I'll just toss in a few thoughts and experiences to keep in mind as you try different approachs, since I ride a lot through horse monster territory (suburban areas).

We tend to lump together a number of 'problems' in the barn sour/herd bound category, but it is important to try and understand the reason for a behavior each time you take your horse out.
On any particular day, (1) some horse may just want to be with their buddies and it has nothing to do fear, (2) some just don't want to work at all, (3) some lack confidence alone, and (4) some are just plain afraid of particular things or even anything new/different.

#1 and #2 are 'easy' make them work. Depending on the situation, I will alter my 'goal' for the day, but they will work at something. You would have the same problem if you were in the ring that day instead of on the trail.
For #3, I will start with shorter, more frequent rides, and push them along gradually increasing the time and distance, and mix in some ponying as a reinforcement/change of pace.
#4 is the hardest (longest) in my experience. I will pony these with our lead mare a lot on long rides, exposing them to as many new/different things as I can find. I've found that it is easier in the long run to tackle the fear of new things with the help of a seasoned horse first, and then work on the confidence/fear of being alone rather than trying to solve both problems at the same time (and I have yet to see one of this type of horse get 'buddy sour' doing this).

So, how do you tell? I first look for the obvious signs of fear when alone or in a group...wide eyes, snorting, etc. When ponying or riding in a group, I next look for lack of confidence, e.g. if there are places where the horse lags back a bit or tucks in behind the lead ("I'm unsure, you go first").

Finally, as others have mentioned, there is a time to get off, take a deep breath, and do something safe and 'simple'. If your horse gets to the 'terrified' point and you can't get it to focus or relax, it will be operating on instinct and has stopped 'thinking'...and you don't want to be on a truely terrified horse.

Good luck...patience, time, miles.

On the sixth day, God created the Quarter Horse.
On the seventh day, he Painted the good ones.
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