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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Elsewhere I have been describing Hamlet's recent reluctance to go out on the trail, and I think it's now time to get some additional advice from y'all. I will be as concise as possible in describing the problem, the context, and what I have tried so far.

The problem: After a short distance away from the barn, Hamlet tries its darndest to do a 180º and go home.

Further specifics: Once I turn him around (after picking a moment where he doesn't pull) he walks home on the buckle - no jigging, no running. There were zero spooks about anything on that ride, neither on the way out nor home. He is not buddy sour - he currently lives with the minis, and when my wife took them out for a bit of grazing, and I took him separately, he could not care less about following them, as long as he got a good spot of grass.

History of the problem: In hindsight, this issue has always existed, but now has a higher impact. At the previous barn, all my trails were loops, and he always tried to take shortcuts home when he recognized a turn. When I didn't allow this, he soon settled into the trail that we were taking instead, without further fight - most likely because he recognized that trail too as "the way home". It never arose to an issue I'd think about addressing - it was like a lesson horse bulging his shoulder into the middle of the arena "just because": You just correct it and go on with your ride.

What I've started doing: I left the gate to the outdoor arena open for easy access and, 5 or 6 times, hustled him around in there for a few minutes before taking him back out on a loose rein. This was based on Warwick Schiller's "Why it's important to let the horse win." I have also started (on the last round yesterday) to send him forward at the trot when he got strong on me at the walk.

Why I'm still concerned: Unlike the horse in Warwick's story, Hamlet didn't show any haste in going back home once he was pointed that way. I'm concerned that I may not have found the correct "currency" yet, and that doing more of the same thing will not bring any changes in outcome. I also want to avoid a situation where simply sending him forward masks a build-up in stress level, so it's kind of important to me that his mind is with me when I ride out. I don't want the entire ride to consist of overriding him.

So, is this a(n)

- laziness issue (addressed by making being at the barn uncomfortable by making him work there, use the trail to relax - classic Clinton Anderson), but that didn't show much effect;
- desensitization issue ("Ohmygodohmygodwearegoingawayfromhome!"), but then he'd actually hurry and jig on the way out AND the way home. If the place is scary, it's scary no matter where your nose points, no?
- insubordination issue ("Don't tell me where to go! I'll tell you where to go!"), but when I work him in the arena, he reacts to aids in a split second without fussing

Any ideas?
 

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You are a more experienced rider than I am, so you've probably already thought of or tried this, but how about just asking him to go a little farther along each day? Maybe the first day of this program you could even turn around before he starts getting worried. Maybe mixed in with a cookie or two, or some other kind of treat, when you're pushing him out of his comfort zone and he does well?

I hope that makes sense -- I have not had any coffee yet...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
You are a more experienced rider than I am, so you've probably already thought of or tried this, but how about just asking him to go a little farther along each day?
That's exactly what I'd do (and have done) with a horse that is reluctant to go forward. I have done this with a horse at my first barn (Gershwin): The first time I "rode" him solo we barely made it to the end of the driveway. But he was nervous and it showed - it took a lot of convincing to make him do a few more steps so I could turn him and take him back home. Ultimately, we did go on a few hourlong solo trail rides together.

Hamlet shows no such type of fearful hesitation. I can make him trot away from the barn - as long as I keep him between my hands and legs... :)
 

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Your horse may not be "buddy" sour but he sure sounds "barn" sour to me...
He doesn't have to jig or prance, move faster when headed home...
But he has reluctance to leave, but once past a certain point is not problem..

Try riding him out and turn him back just before he gets "attitude"...
Then when partway back turn him back out to the trail...
The secret to this is it is you who determines when to turn and do it before he fusses...
Keep Hamlet guessing...
Each time you extend the distance, make several short forays instead of a long one...
But you always are the one calling the shot of what is to occur.
He only goes home when you are ready...

I don't agree that when arriving back at the barn is the time to work them hard or long as punishment either.
They don't remember their transgressions so to them, to come home after being ridden on the trail it is just work, not something connected...
If the horse disrespects or gives attitude on the trail, it is right there on the trail the issue needs addressed as best you can with what you can do to make their transgression understood that to do so will make you work harder right at that instant than that quiet walk through the trails would of afforded.

But I see your issue as barn sour a horse...
:runninghorse2:...
 

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Hmm. How about temporarily "bitting up" then? Just long enough to get him out of the habit?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Your horse may not be "buddy" sour but he sure sounds "barn" sour to me...
He doesn't have to jig or prance, move faster when headed home...
But he has reluctance to leave, but once past a certain point is not problem..

Try riding him out and turn him back just before he gets "attitude"...
Then when partway back turn him back out to the trail...
The secret to this is it is you who determines when to turn and do it before he fusses...
Keep Hamlet guessing...
Each time you extend the distance, make several short forays instead of a long one...
But you always are the one calling the shot of what is to occur.
He only goes home when you are ready...

I don't agree that when arriving back at the barn is the time to work them hard or long as punishment either.
They don't remember their transgressions so to them, to come home after being ridden on the trail it is just work, not something connected...
If the horse disrespects or gives attitude on the trail, it is right there on the trail the issue needs addressed as best you can with what you can do to make their transgression understood that to do so will make you work harder right at that instant than that quiet walk through the trails would of afforded.

But I see your issue as barn sour a horse...
I did try the "turn back before he gets attitude", only instead of turning him back out, I rode him past the barn to the opposite side. So yes, I'll try that. I like the "keep him guessing", because I did notice his propensity to anticipate and pre-empt. I should add a fourth option to what I wrote in my original post, namely that he's genuinely trying to pre-empt the next step in the ride; so yes, I'll definitely keep him on his toes on the next ride.

As for the "making him work at the barn" – that's not supposed to be punishment for past transgressions, that's just supposed to make the barn a less attractive place to return to. Instead of, "each time I get to the barn, the saddle comes off, I get to stuff my face and rest", that guarantee doesn't exist anymore. He may get all of that, but he also may work some more, and he doesn't know when. It's just like your "keep him guessing." It's most definitely not a correction of any sort.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hmm. How about temporarily "bitting up" then? Just long enough to get him out of the habit?
Nah, I don't see how that might address his mindset. He's not blowing through the reins, it's just that I need to work way too hard to keep him between my hands and legs, because that head tries to whip around all the time. He has yet to manage to turn on me without my letting him, but I hate that constant fighting. I need his mind...
 

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Ah, yes, OK, I understand. What you need to do is make it more enjoyable for him to be out there, so he wants to go. I return to my idea of treats. Or how about stopping to let him graze for a while at some point? I guess where you are there isn't any grazing right now, but could you take a smallish bag of alfalfa hay or some other nice hay and stop and let him eat it? Is there anything else he enjoys doing that you could do while out there?
 
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Hmm. How about temporarily "bitting up" then? Just long enough to get him out of the habit?
Why???
What has he done that requires a stronger bit to be applied in his mouth?
Hamlet has not done anything where needing more is necessary actually...well, not in his mouth.
He needs more leg, more mindset of we are leaving by his rider but he is not spinning, bolting and grabbing and running away or toward in his case that stronger mouth hardware might be a necessary evil.

To me "bitting up" is giving him a associated crutch in his brain... association of bit to job at hand does work.
Let him not associate being belligerent with a bit..but that he must ride the same no matter the bit he carries..{did that make sense?}

"- insubordination issue ("Don't tell me where to go! I'll tell you where to go!"), but when I work him in the arena, he reacts to aids in a split second without fussing"
This to me could be attributed to he is on alert to all things different than what is normal when working in a safe ring...
He is on sensory overload and hence not as tuned in to just you...but to all things surrounding him.
The fight/flight mechanism is never far from the surface on any alert horse...
I would rather though a thinking horse who is alert but going forward with relaxation than the spinning/whirling, bolting and lost my mind stupid horse sometimes seen and hopefully we never have to deal with ourselves.
Hamlet sounds to me more a thinking horse than a reactive one....
:runninghorse2:...
jmo...
 

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Destination addiction is what it sounds like to me. Find where he wants to go and work him there, small circles at the trot or lope until you feel him start asking for a break by running his shoulder out toward the trail or making like he wants to go somewhere other than the circle. When he does this let him trot or walk that way out on the trail on a loose rein. Let him go as far as he will down the trail until he wants to stop and rest. So long as he stops facing away from the place he wants to be let him rest a good while there. Then ask him to walk on a loose rein, if he turns and heads back let him go, as soon as he gets back put him in small circles at the trot or lope. If he doesn't take the offered rest and turns and heads back let him go home and then as soon as you get within sight of where he wants to be trot or lope him there and put him in small circles again until he wants to leave. Keep repeating this until he will head down the trail on a loose rein on his own. Start this early in a day when you have all day to work on this if needed. Keep doing the work / rest thing until he wants to be out on the trail and not home. Once he is over wanting to go home ride him out on the trail to about the 1/3 mark and then get off and let him graze. Then get back on and keep heading away from home rest him again at the halfway point and let him graze with you off his back. Then ride him home with no breaks or rest. You need to make him understand that where you want him to be is easier than where he wants to be so that going out on the trail becomes his idea and he wants to be there not back at the barn.

It might take several days in a row of doing this to get him further and further down the trail but if you do it right you could have this fixed fairly quickly.
 

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I found a really good example of doing this on Warwick Schiller's video site. If you have a subscription to that site use the search function to find the video called: "Solving barn sourness African style".
 

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Use the trail as a reward. Work on the arena(not just a warm up), then go out. I will work a horse back at the barn who is antsy coming home, and then go back out and repeat if necessary.
 

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He needs to make the choice, and be ALLOWED to make the choice, that brings him into the place that doesn't work so well.


So, he rides out, and not so far along, he does something that indicates he'd rather go home. LET HIM. let him go all the way home, and then start the work. Then head out, and let him choose.



this training only really works if the horse had made the choice that lead to things not working out so well. If you just take him over to the gate and start working him hard there, it does not create the connection that when he chooses to go home, and gets there, it only results in work.
 

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He needs to make the choice, and be ALLOWED to make the choice, that brings him into the place that doesn't work so well.


So, he rides out, and not so far along, he does something that indicates he'd rather go home. LET HIM. let him go all the way home, and then start the work. Then head out, and let him choose.



this training only really works if the horse had made the choice that lead to things not working out so well. If you just take him over to the gate and start working him hard there, it does not create the connection that when he chooses to go home, and gets there, it only results in work.
^This 100%.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
He needs to make the choice, and be ALLOWED to make the choice, that brings him into the place that doesn't work so well.

So, he rides out, and not so far along, he does something that indicates he'd rather go home. LET HIM. let him go all the way home, and then start the work. Then head out, and let him choose.

this training only really works if the horse had made the choice that lead to things not working out so well. If you just take him over to the gate and start working him hard there, it does not create the connection that when he chooses to go home, and gets there, it only results in work.
Uhm, that's exactly what I did, which is why I referenced W. Schiller's video in my OP, where he gives that very advice.

So far, it may have resulted in him not rushing home anymore, but it still did nothing to quench his desire to want to go home.

A concern is: If horses cannot connect corrections with behavior that happened too long ago, how can they connect behavior to consequences that are too far in the future? After all, if he turns around 10-15 minutes out, it's another 10-15 minutes back, so he may associate approaching the farm with "there'll be some sweatin' now", but that doesn't help me at the time he starts wanting to turn.

I'm still going to work him once we get back to the farm, before getting off and taking the saddle off, but I'll first try the "keep him guessing" approach that @horselovinguy recommended. He's great at anticipating, he's great at picking up on patterns and routines, so I need to throw him off his game so he tunes in to my aids rather than coming up with his own plans on how to conduct the ride efficiently, even if it results in a/some horribly tedious ride(s). I'll keep him calm, turn him around before he gets "turny", but don't go all the way home and turn him around again and go a bit farther, turn him around again, etc.; and see if I can build up the distance from the farm until he gets antsy.

It's still a good idea to make the end of the ride at the farm "less comfortable", but doing this repeatedly throughout the ride has not brought any visible improvement to the behavioral pattern. And trust me, he did not have an easy ride when I took him to the arena. According to CA, hustling him and "changing directions" frequently is particularly bothersome to horses, so we did that a lot...
 

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I'm not a trainer so always hesitate to weigh in on this stuff. But, I have been where you are and have also found the "work hard at the barn" approach makes absolutely no difference when the horse wants to be home and doesn't mind working as much as (s)he minds being out alone. I don't know about the "work them hard" people, but there's really no way I can physically work my youngish, fit horse hard enough that they think they are being punished. :shrug:

A lot of people will disagree with this, but would he be any better if you rode out with other horses? I know the idea is that you want him to "get his courage" from you rather than rely on other horses for comfort/confidence, but I have personally found with my one "sticky" horse that riding out with another horse sometimes changes things up enough that it's almost like a reset- I've never had trouble riding out alone again after having a few positive rides out with others. Like you, I almost always ride alone, so having a horse that can't go solo isn't an option. But for me, when I'm in a rut like this, I know I am not a skilled enough rider to "push reset" without some help that distracts me as much as the horse. You are a far better and more confident rider than me, so that might not be relevant. But just throwing that out there since no one else has mentioned it. Another reset option for me when there's no one to ride with me is a long in-hand walk- as in, 3-4 miles of me walking the horse from the ground like a dog a couple of times, which is extraordinarily boring for the horse since I have very short legs and, while I am a fast walker, I'm still a short human that makes a horse go slower than she wants. Riding seems much more fun after that! It almost doesn't matter what the reset is, as long as it happens.
 

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I thought you had just taken him to the gate and worked him, without him having tried to go back. my bad.


Maybe allow him to turn for home, ask him to immediately start moving along and kind of hassle him a bit. turn him in a few circles, bump his sides but every time you turn to the 'good' direction, you stop all pressure. Is there room on your trails to do that?
 

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Riding out with another horse will totally solve the problem, as long as you have the other horse along.

If you are getting him to go at all, and if he is not bolting insanely toward the barn, I would say that you are doing pretty good. Ride him about on about 200 more rides, and he will be fine.

I have been riding on a regular basis for over 50 years. (Of course I started riding before I was conceived. I also lie about my weight.)

I have trained, ridden, and outlived a lot of horses. Most of them were hesitant to leave the barn alone at some point in their training. It is a rare gem that goes out alone in a new place without hesitating or spooking or doing something wacky.

You are doing things right. Just keep it up. When you get him totally straightened out, come to Georgia. I have a horse or two I will let you ride several hundred times on solo rides...........
 

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I agree with Celeste. I guess I just don't see the issue? Isn't it normal for horses to want to go home and try to get there if left to their own devices? Maybe I am just at the low-end of the horse market (which I am!).

The mare I am riding now, and I consider her an AWESOME trail horse, will definitely try to turn for home at various points in the ride if I don't keep my heel and reins on her. Pretty much anytime we are parallel to home and she thinks we might be turning. :biglaugh:

But she goes out alone, rarely spooks, gaits like a dream and pretty much does whatever I want her to. She just is drawn like a magnet towards home. As long as she goes where I want when I want, and pretty much walks home (sometimes she can't help herself and jigs if she hasn't been out for a while) I can live with that and be happy with her. Actually, I'm very happy with her.

Out of all the horses I've ridden over the years, I only had ONE that was in no hurry to get home. He was a foal that I raised and really seemed to like exploring the trails and never sped up even when turning for home. He was also spooky and I ended up rehoming him. :icon_frown: But that was the one and only horse I ever had that never even walked quicker towards home, or seemed drawn to it in any way. Every other horse, even if obedient and safe, would at least walk quicker towards home or try to turn towards home at available opportunities.

I'm working on getting my mare to WALK towards home after much of the winter off. We are getting there! So if your guy is walking, I wouldn't worry too much about the turning as long as he listens to you and doesn't actually blow through your aids. They do love "home."
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I agree with Celeste. I guess I just don't see the issue? Isn't it normal for horses to want to go home and try to get there if left to their own devices? Maybe I am just at the low-end of the horse market (which I am!).
It's a recently occurring behavior, and after a while he's getting rather "insistent" in his efforts. I'd rather not spend the entire ride correcting him. It makes life (the ride) miserable for both of us, and him even more reluctant to go out. On the "annoying" scale, it's a little like him trying to stop every 10 paces to try to graze.

It's not the attempts I object to, it's the "not taking 'No' for an answer."
 
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