Hi everyone! I need some help and to hear other's experiences. Please bear with me, I know it's long..
I bought my first horse at the end of December. His name is Mickey and I am completely in love. He is sweet, smart, sensitive, and curious. I am a decent rider and confident, and am even more confident in my trainer, who is fabulous with horses... she leans toward a natural horsemanship style, but is not straight NH and has a LOT of experience.
On to my issue... Mick is a former barrel racer who was sold by his barrel racing owner (two owners ago) because he would no longer enter the arena. The quote was, "She said if she could ever get him into the arena, she would win, but eventually she couldn't, so she sold him." I was also told that he would simply refuse, not by bucking, rearing or other drama, but just refusing to move forward. The lady between barrel racer and I bought him in the Spring of last year, took him horse camping in the summer, and trained him to jump on a cross-country course in northern AZ. I'm not sure how much he was ridden into the fall and winter up to when I bought him.
I was happier than a little clam! I knew he would be some work, and was/am excited for the opportunity to teach him how to jump and ride lower level dressage, knowing that he's hot enough to be a challenge, but not a complete nut. I have been working with him every day (not always under saddle, I keep a good mix of lunging, hand walking, ground-work, round penning, trail riding, etc). So I entered us into a small schooling dressage show at our barn on Sunday, and we were ready to do our thing. I was super excited to show how far he has come.
Maybe you can see where this is going ... We warmed up as usual and walked over to the show arena. When the other rider finished, I started to enter the arena, and immediately felt him tense up TIGHT!! He spun and started to jig and in general do anything but go towards the arena. My trainer was there, so she cheeked him and we walked (ish) into the arena. They closed the gate, and he started to spin. We got him calmed again, so she let go of the bridle, and off we went in a bolt across the arena. I got him under control, and after some trotting and walking, was actually able to enter the dressage court to start my test. Without too much more issue we finished the test, but he remained tense and inverted. There were moments of calm and willing, but they were fleeting, and it wasn't too horrendous by the time it was said and done.
Two hours later, my second test comes around. We took a different tact, and this time he was just as spun, but after twice being cheeked into the arena by my trainer, I got him to walk out and back into the arena!! We had pretty much the same results as test 1, meaning we got through it, but not well or in any way how we had trained it, but all considering, it was a win.
Sooooooo....... can anyone give me insights on barrel racing and why he would act this way? And please please please, if you have ever known a barrel horse to be retrained to another discipline... let me know. I need to know there's a light at the end of the tunnel! I'm in this for the long haul, but would be lying if I said I wasn't a little discouraged and apprehensive...
I'm attaching a pic that should tell you everything you need to know about his mental state