Arena sour? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 09-20-2019, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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Arena sour?

Absolutely loving the new boarding facility. Yes I'm partial since I also work there part time. Horse is going to get chunky and will have to cut back on grain.


They get paddock flakes. I think its about 3-4 flakes per horse with a few extra piles. About 6:45am. They come in about 4pm and get two more. Then one at 8pm.


If they stay in then they get two right away about 6:15, then one after stall gets cleaned while turned out inside, then after all stalls are cleaned they get two. Then about 4pm they get two and at 8pm they get one.


I saw them in paddock without hay at old place way to often for it to be a coincidence. And the quality wasn't great. He is getting good quality now.


Fresh water inside four times a day. Outside water is clean.


Good grain fed.


No pasture available but hand grazing welcomed. (my only guilt I feel from moving him but they mismanaged the pastures and he only had good grass for about a month anyways in field and then started to lose weight being on free pasture 12 hours a day.)


He went from being outside about 14 hours a day to about ten.


Nice stall. Went from I'm not quite sure what that was for bedding barely sprinkled in stall to nice quality bedding thickly poured throughout stall.


I think the horse knows its good here and he is soaking it in. Arena work previously he'd gaze at doors too much but it was just looks.


Now, horse ignores me completely and harshly veers off towards doors in the new arena. Yes he is testing me but he truly also wants back in his stall. He comes in earlier than he used to, but to a clean water bucket now and hay galore. He's already had night grain by the time I get there. I think it got too good and now he wants nothing to do with work? I don't even really work him. I'm just getting over my anxiety and back to being on him more. My very short rides (we are talking minutes) helped contribute to him not wanting to work but at the other arena he listened and just looked at doors until corrected. Over and over. I was doing short rides when we first got to new place but even on those he would just try to get to doors in arena.


So its arena sour, but only since arriving at new place. There aren't other horses in arena when I'm there and there weren't at other place either for the most part.


I correct him when he independently decides to go to the doors. I correct him more severely when its during a lesson. She gets on me to get on him. One of the hardest things I'm overcoming is correcting when warranted. I understand why its important with a horse that is testing me. He doesn't do these things to the person who's trained him. I mean he is throwing absolute hissy fits trying to get to doors. Tossing head which he'd never done before. Spinning around to walk to door. Sees doors he speeds up his walk.


Any suggestions to get over it? My first thought was lets make the arena fun. And we do change it up but....fun... I don't think any 'work' is probably FUN for him? I don't think its what we are doing... because it was fine to him at other place.


Or do you think just because its a new place and he is still testing me, that's why he is doing it? The only thing is he never tested me about trying to leave arena at other place. But could new surroundings just spark that?

Last edited by BeckyFletcher; 09-20-2019 at 06:05 PM.
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post #2 of 14 Old 09-20-2019, 07:05 PM
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I think he's testing you. Horses in new situations may try to explore the pecking order of their herd, and you're part of his herd, so I'm guessing that's what's happening.

When I was working with a horse like this, one thing I would do was only work in half of the arena -- the half that didn't have the gate. I think the closer they get to the gate, the more of a magnetic pull it has. If you are riding past the gate, focus focus focus, and be ready to use your body to push him away from the gate or speed him up past it. Never, ever, ever finish your lesson, then go to the gate and dismount. Always dismount somewhere else and then walk him to and through the gate. I wouldn't even stop him, for any reason, anywhere near the gate.

A situation like this can get worse before it gets better, especially if your horse isn't convinced that you are really the boss. If I were you, I'd try to ride only when an instructor was around, in case things got out of hand. e.g. head tossing could, sometimes, proceed to rearing.

With the head tossing, if you are really deep in the saddle and are using your body and arms correctly, he shouldn't be able to have a lot of room to toss his head. Or if he does, he shouldn't be pulling you out of the saddle, so it shouldn't be a big deal. My horse Teddy was a head tosser, but in his case it was anxiety. I gave his head enough room to move that he felt OK, but not enough that he could just toss it completely up and down. I never punished him for head tossing, just made him keep moving forward. He eventually stopped, once he started being calmer in lessons.

Pony also tossed his head a little, but I think that was more of a testing behavior. At that time, I was not a good enough rider to do a good job with it, but after a while I learned how to set my arms and sit deep in the saddle so it didn't pull me forward. And, again, I kept moving him forward off my leg. He stopped when he realized it wasn't doing him any good.

Basically, to me, I think the answer to specific behavior like head tossing, spinning, or other things that are undesirable, is to basically ignore them and keep making the horse move (also, when you get in a lap or whatever with no bad behavior, stop the horse and let him rest for a minute, so you're rewarding the behavior you want). I think a lot of these are evasions, and once they realize it's not working they will stop. However, you have to know where your skill levels are. If you can't sit out these things easily, then I'm not sure what my advice would be.

Last edited by ACinATX; 09-20-2019 at 07:23 PM.
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post #3 of 14 Old 09-20-2019, 07:24 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ACinATX View Post
I think he's testing you. Horses in new situations may try to explore the pecking order of their herd, and you're part of his herd, so I'm guessing that's what's happening.

When I was working with a horse like this, one thing I would do was only work in half of the arena -- the half that didn't have the gate. I think the closer they get to the gate, the more of a magnetic pull it has. If you are riding past the gate, focus focus focus, and be ready to use your body to push him away from the gate or speed him up past it. Never, ever, ever finish your lesson, then go to the gate and dismount Always dismount somewhere else and then walk him to and through the gate. I wouldn't even stop him, for any reason, anywhere near the gate.

A situation like this can get worse before it gets better, especially if your horse isn't convinced that you are really the boss. If I were you, I'd try to ride only when an instructor was around, in case things got out of hand. e.g. head tossing could, sometimes, proceed to rearing.

With the head tossing, if you are really deep in the saddle and are using your body and arms correctly, he shouldn't be able to have a lot of room to toss his head. Or if he does, he shouldn't be pulling you out of the saddle, so it shouldn't be a big deal. My horse Teddy was a head tosser, but in his case it was anxiety. I gave his head enough room to move that he felt OK, but not enough that he could just toss it completely up and down. I never punished him for head tossing, just made him keep moving forward. He eventually stopped, once he started being calmer in lessons.

Pony also tossed his head a little, but I think that was more of a testing behavior. At that time, I was not a good enough rider to do a good job with it, but after a while I learned how to set my arms and sit deep in the saddle so it didn't pull me forward. And, again, I kept moving him forward off my leg. He stopped when he realized it wasn't doing him any good.

Basically, to me, I think the answer to specific behavior like head tossing, spinning, or other things that are undesirable, is to basically ignore them and keep making the horse move (also, when you get in a lap or whatever with no bad behavior, stop the horse and let him rest for a minute, so you're rewarding the behavior you want). I think a lot of these are evasions, and once they realize it's not working they will stop. However, you have to know where your skill levels are. If you can't sit out these things, then I'm not sure what my advice would be.

Its only been a few rides since the move a week ago. At first it was the gate we enter/exit from the barn. I rode once myself and since I'd never experienced him being so head strong I waited until he was distracted doing what I was asking and ended ride asap. Second time at the end of lesson I got off on far end and we walked to gate. Next time I was alone again and darn horse decided the far end gate (to the outside) was where it was at and his goal. {eye roll!} I forgot to mention, the lesson was way longer than I've been on him lately (getting over my anxiety, which I have greatly improved on) and horse started trying to push me into the wall along with trying to get to the gate to end our session! Luckily trainer gave specific instruction for me to try to stop his behavior. I start worrying about getting to aggressive on him that he will complete his fit by trying to get me off. He hasn't shown he would but I'm not putting it past him. he's nine, I feel like that the new terrible twos! He's generally so mellow! I'm thinking just testing me too. I feel like he'd do it to Trainer, but she would fix him in a hurry. There is more respect there. I'm working on it.
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post #4 of 14 Old 09-20-2019, 07:33 PM
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I guess one more thing would be in addition to just making him keep moving, maybe make him move in a way that makes him think. Do circles, figure eights, spirals, serpentines. and other things that make him think about listening to you and about where he's going. Go over poles if you have them.

My suspicion is that if you don't escalate (punish his behavior) but instead just sit it out calmly and keep making him move, it will stop. Eventually. But it could take a while. And, again, if he's really the kind to test you, he might escalate his behavior to see if something else would work.

I'm interested to see what more experienced riders have to say.
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post #5 of 14 Old 09-20-2019, 07:45 PM
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Yes, he's "stall sour" and wants to go back where there are other horses, peace, and food. Horses believe that those 3 items make an area 'familiar and safe'. He's likely doing this because of the new surroundings. Yes, in one perspective, he's both anxious and 'testing' you to see if you will permit him to go back where he wants to go. What it means is you need to reconnect with him and show him that 1) work means work, and 2) he's not alone! When they're anxious, horses sometimes forget that they're in a partnership with you, and you need to take up your leadership role again. The first thing to realize is that when your horse is experiencing anxiety, it's not a time to go 'aww poor baby'. That's how humans deal with anxiety, not horses. You need to be present, accounted for, and his leader. It's a time to be a confident leader, so that your horse becomes confident in himself and knows he's with you, he's not alone. 'Pushing him around' a little bit makes you the herd mare, and asserts you as such. Your horse needs to turn to you for answers, not take it upon himself to get worried and find a comfortable place to go.


(There was another Schiller video I can't find about horses being 'barn' sour, or just preferential to some location, but these were the essentials:)

1) If he does it while in ground work: note the place he wants to stand and go back to his stall, and lunge him in that place. Make him do really hard work, like quick transitions and backing up. Make him pay attention to you. After you've worked him in that spot for a few minutes, take him to the place he "didn't want to be" and let him stand there. By doing so, you turn his least favorite place to stand into a loafing area where he can rest. Then he will like it!

2) If you're riding and he speeds up at a gate, make him work next to the gate. Hard work means tight circles, backing up, transitions, etc. You have to teach him that the gate is nothing to get excited over - it, too, means work, not food.

If you really want to be adventurous, you can even keep his halter on while he's in the stall and have him do some small in-hand work there. You can have him exit and enter the stall, back up, turn a tight circle, and then lead him back to the arena and give him a cookie. =) Let me know how it goes, and good luck!

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post #6 of 14 Old 09-20-2019, 08:18 PM
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@Feathers7 on his video subscription site he has a bunch of videos on using the principle of choose where you work and choose where you rest to cure destination addiction. I have found that most horses it takes a few sessions for them to really get the concept but once they do, it is like a light came on in their heads. I did have one that figured out what we were doing in a single session and respond accordingly but he is an unusually bright horse.
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post #7 of 14 Old 09-20-2019, 11:08 PM
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Yep, I have a gelding the same and worked on the principle above - where he wants to be is where I work him the hardest at the start and the end of a session. He loved his home paddock and would jig the entire time back from the trail. I have a fear of horses bolting so it was very uncomfortable for me.

We spent three sessions starting at the trot/lope in his home area then allowed him to get some air on the trail. When he got home again, I worked him at the trot /lope for another 5-10 minutes. I’d get off him at different areas each time and unsaddle him on the spot before walking back to cool him down.

Took him out this morning and he couldn’t wait to get out on the trail at a normal walking pace both ways and didn’t want to come in the home gate as he knew it meant work. He did get some runs out on the trail but also some breathers. I didn’t allow him any breathers in and around his home paddock at all.

I wonder if you could work him in and around his ‘home’ first and then go into the arena and allow him some breaks between your workouts in there?
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post #8 of 14 Old 09-21-2019, 12:51 AM
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What is a 'paddock flake', I mean, the hay. That seems like they are feeding the horses a LOT of hay. Yes, you don't want them going more than 3 or 4 hours without food, but unless they are really working every day, that much hay AND grain seems like too much, to me.


And yes, LET him go all the way to the gate and as soon as he is near it, (DON"T let him stop at all) peel him off into a circle and ask him to trot along businesslike. Don't smack him or punish him, don't be rough, just ask him to circle, figure 8, roll back, etc. Not getting upset. When you are circling him toward the direction away from home, sort of open your rein and 'offer' him the chance to go away from the gate. if he wheels back toward the gate, well, kick up into a smart trot and keep going. Hopefully, he will tire before you do.


When he does choose to leave, go away a bit, let him stand and ask him to walk a bit . Get him comfortable with walking AWAY from the gate, and then call that a day. Don't try to fix it all in one day.
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post #9 of 14 Old 09-21-2019, 01:08 AM
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The “work her by the gate” did not work for me at all - all she learned is that she should be doing 5m canter circles at the gate.

What did work for me is to use the basic dressage tests for work. So now I cycle between five tests and she just works without even thinking about the gate. I don’t actually think it makes a difference to her but I am fully focused and that in turn focuses her. Of course, all the changes in the tests keep her busy so she doesn’t have the time to form a coherent thought about the gate but I think previously I wasn’t keeping it active enough for her.

She is never gate sour when we are jumping but if you are anxious that would not be a good approach for you. Ground poles might do the trick as well.
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post #10 of 14 Old 09-21-2019, 11:41 AM
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"The first thing to realize is that when your horse is experiencing anxiety, it's not a time to go 'aww poor baby'. That's how humans deal with anxiety, not horses....'Pushing him around' a little bit makes you the herd mare, and asserts you as such." - @Feathers7

Maybe my horses are weird. But when they are anxious, they are genuinely anxious. And getting rough with them doesn't lower their anxiety. At best, it masks their anxiety.

That doesn't mean you just quit. It does mean you might change the goal of that day's ride. On the one hand, you need to be strong enough and good enough at keeping your seat to limit some of the horse's options - "Spinning, bucking or bolting will not gain you anything". On the other hand, increasing a stressed horse's stress does NOT teach the horse you are a leader. It teaches you are a bully.

Working Bandit to get him comfortable with riding out alone wasn't a one day or one week process. We spent a few months riding a little out, riding there, and riding back. Slowly extending how far we went out. Once he accepted it was safe, it WAS safe. To him. And if I don't get to ride for a week or more, we can then go out and he's content. Because HE has accepted it is safe.

A new place is stressful to a horse. It creates a background level of tension that wasn't there before. That isn't the horse testing you. It is the horse being a horse.

"Luckily trainer gave specific instruction for me to try to stop his behavior. I start worrying about getting too aggressive on him that he will complete his fit by trying to get me off....I feel like he'd do it to Trainer, but she would fix him in a hurry. There is more respect there. I'm working on it."

I'd like to cut the word "respect" out of every rider's dialog! The vast majority of riders use "respect" to mean "obey". The two words are very different. You EARN respect. You DEMAND obedience. Two different routes. And "respect" suggests the horse is dissing you! How DARE he! It is a value judgment and places horse and rider in adversarial roles.

I'm NOT saying you just need to baby the horse. Or let him do anything he wants. You DO need to be tough enough that the horse will seek out a workable compromise with you. You DO need to be able to say, "This behavior will not get you what you want. Try another." But you can do that without saying, "You don't respect me? I'll make your life suck (hard, aggressive work) until you do!"

I am writing from the perspective of a trail rider. I'm not sure Bandit thinks I'm "The Boss". I think he views me as a staff officer who has good advice...
Quote:
"Therefore, everywhere - out-of-doors or in the haute ecole - success with horses is to him who applies this maxim of Baucher...

'Let him think that he is our master, then he is our slave.' There dwells an eternal equestrian truth!

'The horse is the sole master of his forces; even with all of our vigor, by himself, the rider is powerless to increase the horse's forces. Therefor, it is for the horse to employ his forces in his own way, for himself to determine the manner of that employment so as to best fulfill the demands of his riders. If the rider tries to do it all, the horse may permit him to do so, but the horse merely drifts, and limits his efforts to those which the rider demands. On the contrary, if the horse knows that he must rely on himself, he uses himself completely, with all of his energy.'" - 5 May 1922

-- Horse Training Outdoors and High School, Etienne Beudant (1931)
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