Changing herd mentality & spurs??? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 11-14-2013, 05:28 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: California
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Changing herd mentality & spurs???

Aloha all! Tomorrow I'm picking up my new horse, and I'm elated!!! I can't wait!!

A few things though, he's older, 16 years and he's pretty barn sour. The previous owner suggested I get spurs to get him to go and she also informed me he has a really hard mouth so don't give him a bunch of slack in the reins. The complications with this is that I've never ridden a horse that way.

Is there a way to retrain him to respond to softer hands and ideally just leg pressure as opposed to spurring the heck out of him? It's nt that I'm against spurs it's just that I'd really prefer not to use them or jerk at his mouth the way the previous owner suggests. (He was used for tourist trail rides almost his whole life so he's used to a bunch of riders not knowing what te heck they're doing hence his hard mouth)

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated since I feel pretty novice from taking a six year break from riding. He's a really good boy, bomb proof and lazy lol so I'm not worried about him throwing me or giving me any shenanigans, I'm just worried I'll confuse him maybe or he'll feel like I'm not a proper leader the way horses need you to be, if that makes sense. I plan on doing a lot of ground work bonding like long grooms and walks in the pastures but as far as actually riding him goes...... ???
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-14-2013, 06:01 PM
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'Barn sour' is due to a horse feeling safer at home with his buddies &/or them not enjoying their 'work'. 'Hard mouthed' is, as you've said, from being ridden badly & learning to ignore the pain. Yes, you can absolutely change his attitude & retrain him. And do so without spurs. You're not likely to get anything different out of him if you do what's always been done to him.

If he's used to ignoring the bit/rider, I'd start him in a safe environment such as an arena, where you can ask for & persist without having to try to MAKE him do something for safety's sake. I would start him off in a halter or bitless and if he's always been ridden on a tight rein & you ride more western style, I think this will be helpful too - different style & equipment to what he's formed his bad associations & habits to.
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post #3 of 10 Old 11-14-2013, 06:09 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
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Finding a good trainer will really help you out. However, I can't help but ask, why did you purchase this horse? While being barn sour, dead to the leg and having a hard mouth are relatively easy things for an experienced horse person to retrain, it will be a much greater challenge for a novice. Are you prepared to step back and address this horses training and bring him along as he needs to be instead of just going out and having a relaxing ride?
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post #4 of 10 Old 11-14-2013, 07:41 PM
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Barn sour can be a bit tricky sometimes. As long as he's not dangerous while he's doing it, always correct, never let him "win" with that, always be the leader.

The other things you can train out. First if he has a hard mouth to me that means you should give him slack in the reins. You can't expect a horse to respond to the bit well if you're always putting pressure on it. To start with I'd give big releases, so I'd be walking on a loose rein and ask for a stop softly at first (seat then hands) then with increasing pressure, when you get what you want you release entirely.

Same with the legs, ask for forward as soon as you get it stop asking. If you wanted faster, ask again release when he does. Always start asking softly, so a squeeze with your calf, don't ever jump into kicking - but always make him do what you ask. The idea is he realises he always has to do it - but knows you ask softly first. He'll learn that when he responds to the soft aid, things are easier.
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post #5 of 10 Old 11-18-2013, 07:32 PM
Join Date: Apr 2013
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My horse had these exact issues, but he was also aggressive, a runaway, and he bucked, reared and ran through everything, including walls. Yes, he can e retrained, I agree with the previous advice, BIG release, and go back t basics. My boy went ,from a chain bit with 5' shanks to a d ring snaffle.
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"two things are infinite: the universe, and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the universe." - Albert Einstein
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post #6 of 10 Old 11-18-2013, 08:08 PM
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Get a trainer to help you. You have to understand horses do not have hard mouths, they have stiff bodies. Spurs are an aid for lateral movement and vertical collection they will not help you move him forward.

The barn sourness, the stiffness can all be fixed but if you don't know how to fix it your going to get into a wreck. Do yourself and your new horse a favor and get some help so you can both start out on a positive note and be able to enjoy each other.
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post #7 of 10 Old 11-18-2013, 08:17 PM
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Ugh, not a small task you are about to undertake. Barn soured horses can be dangerous, but the issues are fixable. I don't think this is the issue you need to focus on fixing right away, though. As others have said before you need to start back at ground zero with this horse, because he's not really trained to give to pressure. The hard mouth and so called need for spurs tell you that. What I mean is I would venture to guess he was started in the old "if they don't get it quick, find a rougher bit, whack em harder with the reins, blah, blah, blah." He never had the opportunity to work with someone who took the time to teach him that giving to pressure brings release of pressure. If your horse won't give to pressure from a halter, the answer isn't go get a bit. A bit is for refinement, spurs are for being more precise and exact in what you ask for. I have nothing against these tools and use them, but they are extensions of your hands and legs not tools to force the horse to do what he doesn't understand or has formed resentment for. Please be careful and don't expect too much too quick. Start him back like he was a 2 year old, go through all the ground work until you have a soft responsive horse. Don't punish his mistakes, just remain consistent until he does the right thing. This will be harder because you have to fix what other people messed up and that takes more time than starting from a clean slate. Work from an arena if you can and be aware that he may become aggressive with you. The last thing you need to do is get spurs and a rough bit and start fighting with this horse. Your problems will only get worse if you take this approach. Best wishes that you can get him to a better place than he has been. I really hate to see horses that have been rushed and roughed into this type of behavior. No horse is born this way. This is the result of lousy horsemanship.
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post #8 of 10 Old 11-21-2013, 02:43 AM
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Ok Im not a trainer and by no means do I think I am perfect as I am still learning myself but I have come across a few barn sour horses in my life time and I just want to give an example of what I did with one. First I want to say that you do have to have a good seat though because some barn sour horses often with no warning will try to do a 180 on you which can be dangerous for an unsuspecting rider (or they can/will pull worse stunts), so you must be mentally and physically ready for it and be constantly aware of the horse's body language. The example I want to share is probably not the perfect way of doing it but i found that it did work/helped for this particular pony. I cant say this will be a big help in your situation since every situation/horse/rider is different but maybe this will give you some ideas to help work on with your horse. If at ever you feel that the horse is too much for you to handle then get a trainer- horses can sense that they can over power you-like in a herd the alpha will push on the betas and they will do what ever they can to get what they want. That being said here is what my experience was with one...

On my honeymoon the cabin we stayed at had a pony that I rode and he was barn sour- his pasture buddies also were stalled during my riding time since their pasture was the arena so they all tried to call to him and get him riled. This cute ****** was also at one point a pony for kids doing trail rides- so he also has issues with being hard mouthed and not really paying attention to the riders commands. He was great in the arena but he was a stinker about heading on the trail. Boy was he in for a surprise when I showed up- I made it my personal mission to help fix the problem while i rode him or at least I was going to do my best to not ride in such a way that would encourage his bad behavior. Now he would always be really slow to move forward away from the barn initially or would try hard to turn around to go back, so what i did was kept after him- I was firm but gentle with my cues- never quick to kick and never beat him with reins... tho it wouldve been hard to do that since we rode english lol. I kept his nose facing away from the barn as much as possible and when ever he tried to turn I corrected him immeditately with pressure on the leg he was turning towards and my opposite rein and pointed him away- even if its not down the trail so long as he moved away from the barn I praised him. Once he was facing back where I wanted him away from the barn I released pressure- to reward and get him thinking that facing the trail feels better than if i try to turn for home. Then to get him moving forward I used a light squeeze with my heel to encourage him, and clucked to him/kissed to him and increased pressure until he moved, if he didnt then it was a light kick. Eventually he did give into the pressure and took forward steps, I gave him the big releases and I gave him lots of praise and we worked our way slowly from the barn. It took a while but once we were on the trails he walked out fine- once in a while he would try to turn on me but I got after him and made him continue and never made a big deal out of it, just stayed calm and level headed and praised him when he did what i wanted. We went out on the trail abit then headed back at a calm walk (letting a barn sour horse run back to the barn could create a dangerous habit) and instead of stopping at the barn I really encouraged him to keep going past it- we struggled a bit but he got the idea that he was not done yet. Back and forth we went until he would pass the barn and go out a ways- long ways or short ways or anywhere I wanted to go and until he did not act up at all but rather passed the barn with indifference. And then for the final time I did not dismount at the barn- the release of a rider getting off at the barn also makes for barn sour horses (*horse's mind *"faster i get back to the barn faster I get this fatty off my back and get to my feed hehehe" ). I went off in the yard aways away from the barn, dismounted, praised him and gave him lovings, and lead him back- lead him past the barn a couple times and then finally lead him to the barn to untack and brush him. His owner said that he always had grumpy ears when he was groomed- said that the kids never took time to really brush him at the camps so he was not into being brushed. So I really tried hard to rub him down good and give him a proper grooming- massaged him too, did some stretches and at the end of the vacation time, he was totally in love with me an his barn sourness was almost a thing of the past- the owner didnt want me to leave she'd liked how much I had done with him lol. Now I realize that this pony may have been easier to work with than some barn sour horses but persistence and patience is key, and to be firm yet gentle. This horse just needs your patience and lots of rewards for when he does good. Again I realize that my experience is my own and your horse is totally different but maybe this might help. Since you asked for suggestions. Have fun with your new boy and most of all be safe!
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post #9 of 10 Old 11-21-2013, 02:45 AM
Join Date: Apr 2013
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O.o sorry for the long post... gah I really need to learn how to summarize... lol
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post #10 of 10 Old 11-21-2013, 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by LadyChevalier View Post
O.o sorry for the long post... gah I really need to learn how to summarize... lol
Just the use of paragraph breaks will help a lot and make the overall post easier to read.
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