Retraining a former barrel horse
   

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Retraining a former barrel horse

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  • Barrel horse retraining
  • How to retrain horses on barrels

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    04-19-2011, 12:52 AM
  #1
Weanling
Retraining a former barrel horse

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
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Marley Farms - 41.jpg (29.7 KB, 275 views)
     
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    04-19-2011, 12:56 AM
  #2
Banned
Sounds like the show arena is the problem. Do you have an arena at home, can you invite friends over to hang out there?

If I were you, I would introduce each thing seperately to find out if it is one thing, or all that causes a problem. Horses, arena, other people etc. Introduce each thing seperately, and see what he freaks out - then all of them without that one thing to see if it is everything. Then just get him used to it, without asking him to do anything too much.
     
    04-19-2011, 01:07 AM
  #3
Weanling
That's partly what made it so unexpected, the show was at our barn. While we don't normally ride in that arena, we have in the past. Also, our barn doubles as a petting zoo (with giraffes even), kid's party headquarters, and animal rescue. There are always people, horses, mini trains full of screaming kids and balloons, and other 'scary' things around. He looks, but is pretty reasonable about those things.
The only other time I got a glimpse of a mental breakdown was when a drill team came out to practice. I thought it was the music and flags, but now I think it's much more about the 'show' atmosphere..
     
    04-19-2011, 12:24 PM
  #4
Banned
Yep, ridden tons of barrel horses, and retraining them is a nightmare. The good news is it sounds like he's working lovely as an English horse at home--is that correct? If so, you've already won well over half the battle.

He's tense because arenas mean work. Jerking on the reins. Kicking. Fast speeds. Probably pain, if has any sort of arthritis or anything.

What he needs to do is just go to shows and hang out. Enter him in some halter classes for fun. Ride him in the ring during warm-up with his buddies. Go into the arena, but instead of doing a class, just ride him gently until he's calm and walking around on a loose rein. And so on. Reward him, stroke him, take it easy on him. Basically, just teach him that arenas/shows aren't so bad.

I'm sure you were nervous on the day of the show, and he was picking up on that. He KNEW something was different, and that it was a competition, and he was going to have to RUN! So though it's hard, a big part of fixing him is going to be controlling your own nerves.
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    04-19-2011, 12:36 PM
  #5
Trained
Bubba is spot on.

A big big problem (even though it shouldnt be) with barrel horse is being sour in the gate. They need to learn that being at a show/rodeo/arena does not mean pain and work.
     
    04-19-2011, 03:13 PM
  #6
Foal
Agreed I've only retrained one barrel racer before and he was extremely excitable at shows. Be patient and calm with your boy, give him lots of exposure and he'll come around. I ended up eventing with the boy I trained and although he never quite worked out his issues (he would get very stressed out while in the start box for x country but would exit alright) he was an angel everywhere else including entering the dressage ring which we had also had trouble with to start.
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    04-19-2011, 06:06 PM
  #7
Foal
Barrel racing is not one of the most fun sports for the horse, which is why people have trouble getting their horse to do it, unlike in racing, where it is hard to train a thoroughbred out of galloping as soon as his feet hit grass.

Refusing to enter the arena is because the horse has been overfaced or overused, and associates the arena with pain, fear or just plain exhaustion. Barrel racing and Showjumping seem to be the two main culprits, as they put a lot of physical strain on the horse, and it is so easy to overdo it. (why you should never school a horse over jumps more than twice a week!)

Now you need to make him realise that arenas are fun places, do you have an arena of your own, and is he difficult entering this one, or is it only at shows?
     
    04-19-2011, 06:21 PM
  #8
Started
I'd like to say that I agree with Bubba. Just getting him back into thugs slowely should bring him back to being sane about entering the gate.
Though, I do have to call Levade on barrel racing not being one of the most fun sports that a horse does. I know plenty of horses that absolutely -love- barrel racing. One paint cross mare absolutely loves running barrels (as well as the rest of the gaming events), but she still kicks at the gate going in. You can see it in her as she gets exciting on the way to the gate, and it's not the tense up that's mistaken for excitement. The little old Morgan mare at the barn absolutely loves it. She's 24 this year, and she gets excited as soon as she sees the trailer hooked up to the truck coz she knows we're either going to practice, or to a show.
It's completely understandable that it's not for every horse, but saying that it's the least fun for horses is ridiculous-since I have at least two horses that I've personally handled that absolutely love it.
Id also think you should add cutting horses to that list, as cutting is extremely hard on the horses' legs.
But otherwise, I agree with goin slow. I've also had issues when trying to go fast without the proper foundations set for the particular horse. :p
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    04-19-2011, 06:53 PM
  #9
Foal
It's just every performance of barrel racing I've seen is with an overweight, unbalanced rider yanking a horse with it's ears pinned back and mouth open round hairpin bends using a giant shanked bit. I've just had a bad experience of the sport is all, if someone would show me a video of someone riding a balanced and calm horse, and winning at barrel racing, I would change my opinion!
     
    04-19-2011, 07:04 PM
  #10
Started
I'd be happy to get a video or two of Tea or Luck when we start shows for the season.(:
I have a few pictures with perked ears and some nice expressions on their faces from last year, I'd have to upload them though, I might do that this weekend. I can send you a few if you'd like?
Here's one I just snagged off the Internet real quick. I'm pretty sure that horse is enjoying being able to run around. Ears perked and a nice expression, IMO.
Http://runninghorses.net/wp-content/uploads/158705.jpg
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