Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
• Horses: 0
Welcome to the forum!!
Yes, this is a common problem. Barn sour horses can be a real pain. When I get one in for training, I have to decide why she is sour. Is it lack of confidence? Is it just sour attitude of a horse who doesn't want any kind of work? Is it from a saddle that doesn't fit well causing the horse to not want to move forward because it hurts when she does?
Knock these causes off one at a time. First, address whether or not your saddle is causing discomfort. This can be a HUGE reason for horses to change attitude when ridden.
Then, if the tack fits, make sure the horse doesn't have any soundness issues in their back/haunch/legs etc.
If the horse is sound and the tack fits, decide if the horse is simply stubborn or scared. These problems are handled totally differently and using the wrong correction can cause BIGGER problems to develop.
Scared? I will use huge patience here. Don't expect to go very far for a while. I will ride around the barnyard and everything the horse shows concern with, I will address by walking the horse to it and make it touch the item with its nose. I will approach one step at a time, waiting for the horse to be comfortable with the step they just took. I will praise for EVERY forward step and nag forward for every step back. Note I said nag. This is just leg taps, not smacking. Let the horse take one step and pause. As soon as they get close enough, let them stretch their neck forward to touch, the ultimate acceptance that this thing is not dangerous.
Beating a horse that is scared will produce a panicky horse who will mentally shut down every time they start to get scared.
To start the horse away from the barn, the same thing. When they balk, let them settle, then gently nag them forward and praise forward progress. Nag backward progress, don't punish it. Soon, the horse will desire the praise and will seek to go forward to get it. "Soon" is relative to the problem. It may be that "soon" may be weeks. Take your time with a fearful horse, or else....
Stubborn? I will ask a bit harder. I will use a dressage whip and be more demanding asking for forward progress. However, I will still nag (harder) for the forward progress and still praise any forward steps I get.
I train through positive reinforcement, not through punishment. My specialty has always been dealing with rank and sour horses and I have had wonderful success using this method. Horse turnarounds have been very quick in almost all of my cases, with this method. Try it.