Scared of gates - help!

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Scared of gates - help!

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    11-26-2009, 01:57 PM
Scared of gates - help!

Hi, I bought my ten year old mare a month ago. She is very well behaved in all ways except with regard to gates. There is a metal gate on the paddock she is in and it is a fair walk back to the stables. During the first weeks she spooked coming through the gate and was generally dancing on the end of the rope for the first part of the walk back to the stables. She gradually seemed to settle down a bit but then, over the last couple of days, she has flatly refused to be led out of the field. Once I get the gate open she will go through it but it has taken me about fifteen minutes of cajoling, bribing and downright yanking to get her close enough to the gate to open it. Any suggestions as to how you get 16hands of stubborn horse to move?
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    11-26-2009, 02:06 PM
Sounds like she's claustraphobic.

NEVER bribe a horse, and NEVER force a horse (in general) that is clearly telling you she is NOT comfortable squeezing through the gate. Play with the horse in the pasture, gain her confidence in you and herself.
    11-26-2009, 02:14 PM
My WILD filly was like that not with gates but going in and out of the barn. I just kept walking her through it. Just take a few minutes each day walking her in and out. Also try lunging her between you and the fence start from twenty feet away and when she is good slowly go closer.
    11-26-2009, 02:15 PM
That's fine but horses have to be brought in at night at these stables and I am arriving after work when it is starting to go dark, I have spent ages reassuring her and standing with her but at some point we have to go in and she just wont - we don't have to squeeze through the gate, its a wide opening once it is open and she is fine as soon as I get the gate open (at full stretch of the lead rope) but endless standing in freezing cold and rapidly encroaching darkness hasn't helped, I haven't forced her as such but it's a matter of cajoling and coaxing a step at a time and, as this behaviour has literally started yesterday, I feel I am being tested, and am failing the test!
    11-26-2009, 02:23 PM
Can you get all the other horses in her pasture into the barn first, and then when it's just her, swing the gate open?

You can also try walking her in circles near the gate, slowly spiraling closer. I would be on the gate side, so if she spooks and sidesteps she won't squish you.

I don't think you're doing anything wrong. Sometimes, horses just need to get a brain. Just try making the gate the best place to be, lead her through when you have time, maybe stop in the gateway or near the gateway and give her treats or scratches or whatever you think she will appreciate more. You can also get a "be-nice" halter that will give you a little more control while working the gate.
    11-26-2009, 02:29 PM
She is alone in the paddock, have thought of leaving gate open but would have to tie it back as if it was swinging I am sure that would be worse and am a bit worried in case she bolts through it. I will try the circular walking thing, thank you, it's reassuring to hear you think it may be just a dufus thing rather than me being incredibly dim (which is how it feels)
    11-26-2009, 09:18 PM
Well I'm glad you've been reassured. =]

Just be sure you're calm. Getting worked up alongside her is really the only "mistake" I think you can make in this situation. You know she can walk through the gate, so don't go in there thinking, "I hope we don't fight today." You two can do it. I'm positive. =]
    11-26-2009, 10:31 PM
Have you tried getting someone behind her to urge her forward? Not anything serious, just stand and wave their hands. Sometimes my gelding plants his feet when he doesn't want to do something, and it usually just takes someone behind him to get him moving again. His responses are never fear responses though, just plain stubbornness.

Is there any particular reason why she may spook coming through the gate? Is there a tree with low hanging moss, maybe she sees the gate swinging back at her, are YOU nervous about leading her through the gate? Maybe she only truly spooked the one time, which got you tense about the future times, and now she's like "okay, WHAT is going to happen to me that she's freaking out?!?!?!"

Have you looked in to her eyesight? Like you said, its getting dark when she's turned back in, and maybe theres something wrong with her sight to where she can't see in dim or transitioning light. You said that she's nervous about going back to the stables, but not being led out to the paddock (which I would assume is in the daytime). Or maybe you just didn't include that, lol.
    11-27-2009, 04:59 PM
Personally, I don't think it's the gate itself, but what the gate represents - it's become the point at which she KNOWS where she is being led/going and she doesn't want to go there (doesn't want to leave where she's at, or doesn't want to go where she knows you are taking her). She balks BEFORE she reaches the gate - not AT the gate. She's not refusing to pass through, but refusing to go TO it. My suggestion would be to lunge her around you when she gets balky on you, make her work, make her move her feet instead of planting them…and I'd do this at the very first sign of resistance or wanting to stop.

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