Three ways to work with a gate-sour horse - what would you do? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 06-10-2016, 08:20 PM Thread Starter
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Three ways to work with a gate-sour horse - what would you do?

My mare is very gate sour. She turns into a rubber neck when we are walking away from the gate and pulls towards it when we are heading that way. I can handle her easily (strongish contact and a bit of leg does it) but it's very annoying so I would like to fix it before it turns into a problem.

Please note that I'm a novice so I don't really want to push her into a bucking fit or something of the sort - she offered to buck when transitioning into canter but I handled her. Still, I know she has the capacity and I want to avoid a huge fight that I might not win.

These are the the solutions I came up with, please could you tell me which you would think works the best:

1. Walk all over the arena, let her gravitate to the gate and do a lot of tight circles at a brisk trot there. Let her walk off away from the gate when she wants to / has had enough and repeat until she figures it out.

2. Trot away from the gate and let her get into a canter towards the gate (that's what she does if we are trotting and I don't correct her) and then not let her stop until she's very tired.

3. Pay my instructor to train her out of it.

My issue with number 3 is that I don't really have the same capabilities as my instructor so I'm a bit worried that what works when she is riding will not work when I ride.

Specifically, this instructor allows only the lightest of contact and tries to slow the horse down with her seat. All well and good when it works but it took her about an hour of riding at my mare's very brisk pase to calm her down without using hands (I'm not sure it worked, I think my mare just got tired).

My instructors theory is that the mare pulls because she's running away from contact but, as seen today, she pulls to the gate even without much contact. In other words, I think the problem is that the mare is pulling to the gate, not just pulling.

For various reasons, I don't have too many options for stabling (non horsey country) so I don't really want to move her to a different barn where my "style" of riding is preferred (ie stronger contact than what my current instructor allows). Please note that I don't have strong hands, I have always been told that my hands are too soft at other barns, it's just that this particular barn has a different style of riding than anywhere else.
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post #2 of 3 Old 06-10-2016, 08:28 PM
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Number 1 is the method I have used with Charlie, and it only took a couple of sessions to get him to stop fixating on the gate so much. Basically you make the area near the gate a place that's associated with hard work.

When my trainer and I did it, we let Charlie wander around where he wanted and as soon as he got near the gate we sent him into hard circles, offering release when he was pointed in the direction we wanted to send him in (away from the gate.) When he took advantage of the release and walked away, we praised and patted him.

The other piece of this was that, when we were finished, we would never, ever, ever give him any release near the gate. I'd ride him to the middle of the arena, dismount and loosen his cinch there. That way he begins to associate release with being in a different part of the arena.
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post #3 of 3 Old 06-10-2016, 08:32 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elle1959 View Post
Number 1 is the method I have used with Charlie, and it only took a couple of sessions to get him to stop fixating on the gate so much. Basically you make the area near the gate a place that's associated with hard work.

When my trainer and I did it, we let Charlie wander around where he wanted and as soon as he got near the gate we sent him into hard circles, offering release when he was pointed in the direction we wanted to send him in (away from the gate.) When he took advantage of the release and walked away, we praised and patted him.

The other piece of this was that, when we were finished, we would never, ever, ever give him any release near the gate. I'd ride him to the middle of the arena, dismount and loosen his cinch there. That way he begins to associate release with being in a different part of the arena.
I already follow the second part of your method and I'll definitely keep doing that.

Thank you for your advice, it's good to hear that there is a solution that works (at least for some horses).
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