Cantering Back to the Barn - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 12-09-2019, 04:06 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2019
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Cantering Back to the Barn

I am new to Horse Forum, and this is my first post. It will be a relatively long post, so please bear with me. I will try to include as many details as possible; although, they may not all be relevant.

I purchased my first horse in December of 2012. She was started/green-broke; she could only be haltered and saddled. I did all of her training to this date. I don't know any of her history.

She has come a long way. She is good on the ground and in the saddle, and we can even ride bridleless (probably tackless if I was a better bareback rider) in the arena. The only "problems" she has on the ground are things I don't really care about, such as pawing in the cross-ties (I very rarely cross tie her. When I single-point, she stands fine.).

I trained her to be a trail horse. She is not conformationally great, but she has a good mind and is sure-footed. She sometimes startles but rarely spooks. She is not "sour" nor "bound." She is fine hacking alone on a loose rein away from and to the barn. She does not mind long hours, as I have ridden four, five, six hours before and she was good. Although, it was just casual trail riding (not extremely strenuous).

I bought a new (to me) saddle last year. Although I did not have it professionally fitted, I did have several (six, including me) different people look at it and say it looked okay. I'm a hypochondriac but for saddle fit, so I am not ruling out saddle fit.

She is healthy, according to the vet. Although, she is going to get floated later this month or early January.

She is in pasture 24/7, hay and balancer - morning and night.

She is good walking, trotting, cantering, and galloping away from the barn, even on a loose rein. Towards the barn, however, she bolts - not always. She will mosey back to the barn on a loose rein. When I ask her to trot, I may have to remind her once or twice to slow, but otherwise, she'll trot back to the barn on a loose rein.

Cantering is a 50/50. Sometimes she will do a nice "western-pleasure-stock-lope" back to the barn on a loose rein. Other times, she will go considerably faster than I'd like. She will slow a little, but I have to constantly remind her, so I turn her around, then ask where I had previously asked. If I continue to do these relays, sometimes she listens, and I'll stop her and give her a treat. Other times, once she's had enough, she will bolt, and I can't stop her. I've tried everything I can think of to make her stop; circles, one-rein-stops, pull-and-release, gradual pressure increase, bracing, see-sawing, jerking, etc. (bring on the hate mail). She ignores all my cues - seat, hands, voice mean nothing to her. She only stops if I fall off or she runs into a tree or bush, so I know it isn't fear-related bolting. I even tried doing an emergency dismount and then getting after her - HARD, but she is smart. As soon as she feels my weight shifting, she speeds up even faster to a point where an emergency dismount is kind of dangerous. I won't give up, so she eventually tires out. The last time, however, that took nearly three hours.

Obviously, I can just never canter her towards the barn, and avoid the problem altogether; she is a really good horse otherwise. However, I think that I should be able to go where I want and the speed I want without her saying, "No." Does that sound domineering? This is a relatively new behavior. The only thing that has changed is that I've started asking to canter back to the barn.

For those of you who will say, "just let her run back to the barn then work her hard", I don't know if that'll work.
For those of you who will say, "canter her, slow and/or stop her, and praise her,", she will already do that (until she's had enough). Should I not ask her again and just settle for a faster-than-I'd-like canter until next ride?
For those of you who will say, "go work on the foundations and canter in the arena", I'm having no problems in the arena.

I don't know what to do.
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post #2 of 18 Old 12-09-2019, 04:30 PM
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Lots of people have the rule of, ďDonít ever lope back to the barn or trailer.Ē Itís a good rule, and I make it for my kids and everyone else I am around follows it anyways. Well, husband hates lightning and he will run back to the trailer or house if the lightning gets close. ;)

Now, I will admit that I myself lope back towards the house sometimes. I donít lope back and jump off by any means, just because I believe in cool down, but I do lope in the direction of the house or trailer at times. I have built up to having that control in other areas first. If I was riding a horse with a tendency towards running away I probably would never lope towards home just to keep it from becoming an issue.

When a horse changes to a faster speed than I asked for I will stop him. On a young horse I will one rein stop and then disengage his hindquarters. On an older horse it would depend on how he went about it. If he simply gained a bit of speed I would probably just slow him down or stop him straight. If he ran off Iíd one rein stop him too and disengage his hindquarters. Iíd probably make him work on rollbacks with energy for a bit until he was in a different mindset and try again.

First though I would get it good where I had the room and footing to do all of that. Set yourself up for success. I wouldnít lope him towards home again until you knew you could stop him.
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Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaamís Donkey
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post #3 of 18 Old 12-09-2019, 04:41 PM
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Sounds like you gave her an inch and she took a mile! Have you tried going back to basics of ground work to get her respect or worked her after she bolts?
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post #4 of 18 Old 12-09-2019, 05:24 PM
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Take her somewhere else to ride. Haul her to the nearest equestrian trails in your area, and go with a few other riders so you're not alone. Any trotting or loping must be done going away from the trailer (In areas where it is safe to do so) OR once you're a good long away from the trailer and about to turn back.

Example: I let my horse trot, lope, even gallop in the appropriate areas on the way back, but very early on in a 2 hour return journey. He figures out real quick he's in a big hurry for nothing and wears himself out about 2/3rd of the way back.

A few times when he refused to listen to me and insisted on trotting back, I had to shut him down, dismount and I made him WALK at my pace the rest of the way back to the trailer - which bothered him far more than me sitting on him and nagging him.

MOST of the time if he didn't want to listen and not increase his pace faster...faster faster... fasterfasterfaster TROTTING... *mentally GONE* Running... I had to turn his head in the second I felt him wanting to change the pace, and at his chosen pace... he got to walk circles right there in the middle of the trail. We could stop just... whenever... up to you bruh... used to take a lot of circles at his chosen pace. Now it takes just one and he figures out he's wearing himself out and just as well cool his jets.

It has taken a year and a half to get him to not run completely run off with me. He's tried one time recently and we had to have a Coming to Jesus moment on the trail, and the rest of the time he was golden.

Taking him on the road, hauling an hour to an hour and a half from home, was the best thing I could have done for him, and for all our horses. Once they start learning a trail a little too well, we find a new place to haul to and explore. It also helps that they cannot see the camp, or the trailer because of how thick the vegetation is where we ride, how many switchbacks in the trail there are, how many hills and creeks there are. They don't have a straight run across a nice smooth open area. This means they can't build up a big head of steam even if they do try to get away from us.

It's hard to run back to the barn when there is no barn to run back to, and they know if they run back to camp... all they get to do when they get there is stand tied, maybe still wearing their saddle, maybe not, or stand in a pen. They're not so eager to tear back to camp knowing they don't get to be unsaddled and turned right back out into their home pasture.... it's just not fun having to stand around at camp or the trailer. In fact, the rides are usually downright sedate these days because they know there is NOTHING to look forward to when they get back to camp except standing around waiting to go out again later that day or the next morning.

"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us."

Last edited by AtokaGhosthorse; 12-09-2019 at 05:31 PM.
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post #5 of 18 Old 12-09-2019, 06:18 PM
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I just wouldn't do it, personally. There's what works in principle -- yeah, maybe in theory you should be able to canter her back -- and what works in reality. I just don't go any faster than a walk in the last kilometer (or half mile-ish) home. Gives them a chance to cool down, and there are no arguments, and no bad habits have a chance of starting.

If you do want to eventually be able to canter her home, though, return home at a WALK, then work her more at home before you end the ride.

In the meantime I'll leave you with this anecdote, which I love, though I'm not suggesting you do the same.

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Last edited by SteadyOn; 12-09-2019 at 06:26 PM.
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post #6 of 18 Old 12-10-2019, 12:43 AM
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you said you weren't sure if letting the horse canter all the way home, then working them there would work. May I ask why?
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post #7 of 18 Old 12-10-2019, 01:33 AM
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I'll agree that it is a good general rule to never canter a horse back to the barn.
I'm assuming when you say "back to the barn," you're meaning all the way back, not just any time you turn to face in that direction, even if you are quite far from home.

If it is only when you are close to the barn that there is an issue, I'd say just make it a rule not to canter back to the barn. It is a rule I follow, since most horses I've ridden would not be able to handle running back home mentally without getting too excited. But also, it is a good idea to use the last half mile or so of a ride as a cool down for the horse. Walking in that last bit will mean you arrive with your horse already cooled out. My personal rule is to not even trot the last half mile, but insist on walking only.

If you are having issues with the horse running away with you any time you face back toward home, even if you are a mile away from home or more, then you have a different problem. The right bit or bridle to use on a horse is the one that will allow them to listen to you in the worst case scenario, not the best case. It is fine to ride bitless and tackless in an arena, if the horse responds well, or anywhere at all, if the horse responds well. But many horses that are soft and well trained in an arena setting or where they feel comfortable, will need stronger incentive when they are out doing something exciting. Just because they respond in one setting it does not mean that bit or bridle will be appropriate for all settings.

It sounds like your horse will not respond at all when excited in whatever bit you are using. That means you need to find the appropriate level of bitting where she will listen and respond even when excited. Finding the right bit for a horse is very important, for your safety and hers.
It is your choice: either avoid getting her excited, or else use equipment appropriate to her level of excitement, that she will respond to.
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post #8 of 18 Old 12-10-2019, 02:46 AM
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It's a habit that they pick up easily so best not to even start it. It was one of the first rules I learned and I still follow that rule 50 some odd years later. My first pony was terrible about it and since I was an invincible kid back then I'd let her bolt to the barn, turn her around and make her run just as fast her little legs could carry her back to the point she took off from. Rinse and repeat until she learned staying calm got her to the place she most wanted to be sooner. Took a long time before she was fixed but would still revert back to the habit if I let someone else ride her so I'm sure I didn't handle it the best way but I was on my own without advice from a trainer or the internet.
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post #9 of 18 Old 12-10-2019, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by SteadyOn View Post
I just wouldn't do it, personally. There's what works in principle -- yeah, maybe in theory you should be able to canter her back -- and what works in reality. I just don't go any faster than a walk in the last kilometer (or half mile-ish) home. Gives them a chance to cool down, and there are no arguments, and no bad habits have a chance of starting.

If you do want to eventually be able to canter her home, though, return home at a WALK, then work her more at home before you end the ride.

In the meantime I'll leave you with this anecdote, which I love, though I'm not suggesting you do the same.

Excellent video. And my goodness at his horse! What a handsome fella.
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"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us."
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post #10 of 18 Old 12-10-2019, 11:13 AM
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One of the first things I was taught was to never run back towards the barn or trailer. That being side if I am quite a ways off from home I will go a little faster, but once it becomes apparent to the animal that they are headed home I really try to keep it to a walk. One of our horses is incredibly barn sour and she gets to stand in the cross ties or wherever tied after her ride so that she is never put directly back in her pen. She is slowly learning that just because you're back at the barn does not mean you just get to have snacks and rest! Sometimes we lunge her upon the return to the barn as well.

to ride on a horse, is to fly without wings
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