Barn/Buddy sour problem
I have been working with my leased horse for about 2 months now. When I first started it was a small struggle to get her from the barn to the trails but at least I could get her out there. And she would always call for her buddies. I took a week (3 days that is) to work with her in the paddock near the barn and since then I cannot get her to move to the trails. Once I got her to walk to the beginning of the trail but since then she will fight and stand still and will not even walk towards the trail or the driveway to the road. How should I fix this when she refuses to move unless its back to the barn and her buddies. I can't attempt riding her towards the trails because I can't even get 10 feet from the barn before she bolts back and fights the reins HARD that I can't circle her.
It's called "barn sour" and "herd sour." A horse can be herd sour and not be buds with any other horse in the herd. It's just their nature to find comfort in the barn with the stall, food, water and safety and to find same with the herd.
I recommend an exercise to use and you will need an outdoor arena with a gate that can be shut and secured. Walk your horse in the arena, CLOSE THE GATE, and mount up. Start by working on one rein at a time, right rein means you are riding clockwise, left rein means you are riding counter-clockwise.
You ride quickly away from the gate at a canter, slow to a trot 1/2 way around, then slow to a walk 1/4 way from the gate. Be ready to canter off as soon as you get to the gate. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Change reins and repeat. Do this for a good full hour, maybe 5x on right rein, 5x on left rein, etc. Get your horse to be totally obedient to you every time, even if it's a fight. This is an obedience exercise, to teach the horse that YOU decide where the ride goes. The repetition will give your horse confidence in your leadership, and can be repeated later at any place.
Often people buy a horse or ride a horse so that the horse can decide to race back to the barn and herd. You are always training, so the horse is trained to do this. By moving quickly away from the gate it is like moving quickly away from the barn. ALWAYS walk your horse back to the barn. If you've having a fight to stay at a walk, dismount and hand-walk back.
A barn/ buddy sour horse can be one of the most dangerous types. They seem to be willing to do anything to get back to the herd/barn. Mine value air too much ! Try to walk her away, if she wants to go back, don't fight her, let her go. When you get back to the barn, she gets loped until she's sucking for serious air. Calmly walk her away towards the trail like you were going to before. More than likely she will go back to the barn and that's fine. Let her then lope her til she's sucking air again. Calmly walk her away to the trail. She is gonna love that trail and hate that barn and other horses. I seen Buck Brannaman do this with a participants horse in 09'. The horse was over weight which helped a lot. After about 20min that horse wanted nothing to do with the other participants (herd) and was more than happy to be alone with the rider. Takes time but loping is good for them and there is barely any fight at all with it. Gates, barn, herd, etc.
Shadow you are right about the work, wrong about the location. It's too easy for the horse to knock you off running back into the barn by JUST fixing the problem there. I worked last summer with my DD holding a lunge whip at the opening of my shelter which is sometimes part of my schooling area. I would ride towards the shelter and she would walk forward with the whip when we rode towards it to remind my horse NEVER to enter the shelter with a rider. It's all part of training, and it doesn't happen unless you introduce these ideas to your horse.
THIS is why I recommend the initial re-training to take place in a safe place, a closed arena with a gate. In the other place, by the barn, your horse can win and YOU get hurt. In the arena, if the horse wins an argument, you just start the exercise over again.
I agree with Corporal, I have never worked a horse that is nappy ( barn sour) around the area he wants to get to.
I have a lot of riding experience and they will have a good talking to when they refuse to go and should they try and whip around and charge back from whence they came then they get pulled up in a very non conformist manner.
Majority of horses that are nappy are taking advantage of the rider.
Work them in an arena and the moment they hang towards the gate work them harder.
When going out on trails ride with a friend but make sure that your horse stays in front even if it is only by half a head's length.
Sometimes a arena is not available so letting the horse head back to his safe place like the barn/stable is not a bad thing. Just work them in a area close to the barn.
You can do this in the saddle or on the ground, just work the snot out of them then head back towards the trail and let them rest there. Make it difficult for the horse at his comfort spot.
If the horse starts to whinny for his/her buddies, make them MOVE by doing circles and serpentines, make it uncomfortable for them. As soon as they stop whinnying let them relax.
You may not be comfortable with going back to the barn but that is where she is acting up and it needs to be corrected as such.
Learn the one rein stop to gain control over her before she gets into a section that will be harmful to both rider and horse. You can always hop off and work the snot out of her.
As for working in the arena, sounds great but you already mention that she doesn't show issues there so your work is in vein.
If you can keep speed control by the barn, have your horse do a lot of really hard circles. Walk as far away from the area as possible, then make your horse stand facing away. Count to 30. If your horse starts to move, fight until you get to thirty. (Clarifying; horse must stand still without a fit for full 30 seconds. This can take awhile.) If horse wants to go back, control pace. Make them repeat circles. Then go out as far as you can. My horse is INCREDIBLY stubborn and backs up to home when he has sour days and this is about the only way I can get him anywhere without getting us injured, since we lack an arena.
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I have worked with several horses on this issue. It can (sometimes) be as simple as the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. What we do is work them HARD where they want to be...near the barn or near other horses...and let them rest and air up where you want them to be. I had a friend who's horses used to want to RUN back to the barn...and he'd let them. Once they were there he would work them till their hooves sweated. (Not literally :) ). Then he'd trot or lope them out into the pasture or on a trail (someplace he wanted them to be) and let them rest, air up and walk slow and calm. If they wanted to run to the barn, he'd let them. They would then start over again. One of his horses got it figured out in two sessions. Barn meant WORK...hard work. The other one took about two weeks but after that he couldn't wait to get away from the barn.
This can be done on the ground to start with if necessary and always work them in a safe place where they want to be. Most horses that can be a corral, an arena near the barn or out in the yard. I wouldn't do it inside the barn or anywhere tight and closed in. Be safe but it works and can be very effective. Basically wrong thing hard...right thing easy.
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