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Do barn sour horses ever really "get over it"??

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  • quiacato
    started a topic Do barn sour horses ever really "get over it"??

    Do barn sour horses ever really "get over it"??

    Hi. Has anyone on here successfully "cured" a horse of being barn sour? I am dealing with my fourth barn sour horse in my life. In my experiences while I was able to get them all to be less barn sour it never went away completely - the issues were less and less frequent but I still had to deal with it with all three of them to some degree. My new horse is the worst of the horses I have had , and at 45 years old, I am really not interested in another 15 years of dealing with this. I spent all last summer/fall working on it and he did get better, not great, but better. He had a little time off this winter due to ice and now that I am back to working with him we are back to where we started. We have 5 horses at my house and the rest ( other then my retired Arab) are not an issue. He is 8 years old, great on the ground, great in an arena, great when I haul out but riding away from home he can be a nightmare. My husband would like me to sell him. I do not like selling horses but I also want to ENJOY riding and have it be relaxing. Any real success stories out there?

  • kande04
    replied
    Originally posted by LovesToRun View Post
    I kept her on a loose rein when headed home, and as soon as she broke out of a walk I quickly turned her around and made her canter a ways AWAY from home. Asked for a walk, turned back for home on a loose rein, and if she broke out of a walk rinse and repeat. I never tried to hold her back, just let her make the mistake and quietly turned her and cantered every time.
    Same strategy here, except I did the short jaunts away from home first and then gradually increased the length, and then went on to the loose rein walk with stop and back two steps (instead of canter away) whenever the horse broke into trot.

    The other thing I did was that I "followed" the walk with my seat and weight, and was very definite about encouraging him to stay in walk that way. But the second he broke I also very definitely sat deep and halted and backed as smoothly as I could so as not to just add to his anxiety.

    Leave a comment:


  • LovesToRun
    replied
    Like someone else said earlier, there are many roads to Rome, and lots of good methods already posted. I have a mare who used to have a similar issue. She was fine when hauling out, but from home would leave ok (maybe not THRILLED about it, lol) but once we turned to head home she was a hot mess. She would try to bolt for home, spook at everything, and get all wound up. If I tried to slow her down I had a serious fight on my hands.

    What worked for us was a variation of some of the previous ideas, thought I'd share in case it helps anyone. I kept her on a loose rein when headed home, and as soon as she broke out of a walk I quickly turned her around and made her canter a ways AWAY from home. Asked for a walk, turned back for home on a loose rein, and if she broke out of a walk rinse and repeat. I never tried to hold her back, just let her make the mistake and quietly turned her and cantered every time.

    She didn't tend to get as wound up because we were moving away from home at the faster gait, and once she figured out that speeding up and misbehaving got her both more work AND moving in the wrong direction she gave it up pretty quickly. Occasionally she would have a day, and I'd just have to turn her around once, and as soon as I did she'd be like "oh crap, that's right, I hate this game!" And she would settle right back down.

    Sorry this got so long, it's surprisingly difficult to explain in writing, and brevity was never my strong suit! Hopefully it will help someone, I remember how frustrating it was to deal with those tantrums (not to mention scary at times!). I found it a fairly simple and effective method to use with a green horse that didn't have many "buttons" installed yet to use.

    Happy trails!

    Leave a comment:


  • Moonlitoaks
    replied
    Good point, G!

    My first mare was very cheap because of her bad habits, lol! Ran into a former owner a year later and they were shocked at how responsive she was for me.

    Leave a comment:


  • Guilherme
    replied
    Due to my circumstances (back injury, broken ankle, wife with a new knee, etc.) I've not had my sometimes spooky red-headed gelding out of the arena for many months. Yesterday we went out for a short spin around the pasture. He was a bid "edgy" but no more than that. As we were headed back he was not particularly anxious but when we got to the gate he immediately, on his own, turned towards it. My response was, "Not so fast, Kemosabe!" and stopped his turn, turned him back, passed the gate by a few yards, turned around and then passed through the gate my way: On my command.

    Sometimes getting a handle on undesired behaviors means you have to take the time to do the little things before they become big things.

    G.

    Leave a comment:


  • x
    replied
    Yes, this is fixable and there are several ways to do this. I usually ride in a circular route when trail riding--so I never go home the same way I went out. This helps prevent it. For a seriously barn sour horse, I will do this, and I will also take feed (grain) and grain him at the furthest point away from home. If he is really bad, that is the only place he will get grain. For one horse that was extreme I used clicker training for him (similar to the grain idea, but I had to use clicker training from the get-go to even get him from the barn to the ring! Worked well). I find doing a longer circular ride on a regular basis helps more than short rides. In addition, if the horse is more 'buddy sour' than 'barn sour' I will turn him out alone so he doesn't have the chance to be so attached to the others. But yes, it is fixable. Some horses a simple crop and spur ride worked, for the rearer I had I used crop, spur, and draw-rein to get her away from home, and just put alot of miles on her. For the one that couldn't even go out the driveway, and crop and spur did not work, we used strictly clicker training, and that worked. For my gelding that decided he was that way last year, I simply started turning him out alone and riding out alone--problem solved when I started riding this year. So, for different horses I have used different things, but have fixed them all.

    Leave a comment:


  • Moonlitoaks
    replied
    I have a similar success story to Arlomine.

    My first mare was so barnsour that she would balk, crowhop, bolt, rear and spin to bolt, etc... So, I made one simple rule:

    She had to walk home on a loose rein.

    I was not going to hold her back or sit with her jigging or trying to bolt. I wasn't going to lunge her or work her or get off. I had places to go, so I wanted to be done with the ride when I got home.

    So, I walked her out and then, when she was walking straight, I would ask for a nice turn. If she dropped her shoulder to make it a fast turn, I would turn her away from the barn again, and she would have to walk nicely before trying again. It took a few tries before she would turn around nicely towards home, but she would try to speed up immediately. As soon as she did, I would use one rein (I had a snaffle bit in her mouth with a cavesson) to turn her sharply back around. As soon as she responded, I would let her finish the turn and wait for her to walk nicely again. If she walked on a loose rein, she could go home. I gave her the command, "Walk home" when I got her turned around facing home. If she sped up, we turned back around. It only took a month of regular riding before I could pick any spot on the trail facing home, loosen the reins, and tell her to "walk home". She was great after that. She knew she wasn't getting home unless she was walking on a loose rein.

    I have used this technique on two other horses, and coached our son with his barnsour pony, since, with equal success. My new horse isn't very bad, but I will probably tutor her lightly anyway.

    Leave a comment:


  • Zigzag
    replied
    I have a horse that was anxious and worried about going back home, he would chew his bit and jig.. He never bucked or bolted but if allowed he would pick up speed. I contacted a trainer that I admire and he told me that if I followed his advice it should only take 3-4 rides to work and he was right.

    He advised me to take him out far enough to not see the barn. When I turned towards home he could walk as fast as he wanted. Once home he had to work--hard. Hard enough that he was breathing hard.. Then go right back out on the trail. Repeat the process as many times as it takes until he walks back quietly. It might take a few days and each day it might take several times going out. Also, never dismount in the same place once you are home. Leaving tied for a while after discounting helps too.




    Leave a comment:


  • Arlomine
    replied
    Some very good insight in this thread. I have nothing startling to add, but I do have a success story to share, in case you do decide to continue with this horse.
    I had a mare who was extremely barn sour. She was very hot, half Arabian, and the method of bringing her home and working her would’ve had zero effect. She had no bottom.

    What worked for me was to turn home and give her a completely long rein. I mean On The Buckle.
    Of course she would try to take off...and I would do an ignorant version of the John Lyons exercise above.
    I have never heard of that exercise, but I did a tiny tiny circle and we did not progress from that circle until she walked.
    The second she walked I gave her a long rein towards home, and she would takeoff and we would do it again.
    We had about four come to Jesus rides.
    It took us about an hour and a half to get home from one mile out.

    Fortunately, in addition to being hot as snot, she was also very smart. She did figure out that walking was the only gait that was going to get her going in the direction she wanted.

    We arrived at a functional agreement that she could have a long rein and walk as quickly as she wanted.
    It had to be black-and-white.

    I was not successful the transitioning into walking on contact Home, but I decided that really didn’t matter.

    The only downside was that she had an extraordinarily huge walk for a horse her size, and no other horses except one could really keep up with her. She also didn’t care if she left other horses in the dust on that walk home. So, I did consider this a success… And it did last as long as I had her.

    Leave a comment:


  • Guilherme
    replied
    Most people proposing a solution are proposing the correct one: make what's right easy and what's wrong hard.

    Do that intelligently and consistently and you can control the behavior, if you can't totally eliminate it. I'll take an excellent solution over a perfect one any day!

    G.

    Leave a comment:


  • TMares
    replied
    A good paperback book in your saddlebag.

    I have two TWH geldings who can elect to be pills about rushing home. Then be great for several rides. DH and I both ride them. I'll hop off and either let them graze or browse (they will stop kiting and snack when there's no human intervention) until I see them mentally down (blow their nose, rub an itch, pee, stuff like that.)remount and we're on our way. Repeat til it's settled. This is where a bit of light reading helps if you're out alone.

    Leave a comment:


  • Palm Beach
    replied
    Originally posted by quiacato View Post
    I am going to get the advice of a trainer with him before making any decisions. I do love the horse and he has a lot of great qualities. If he can be relaxed when I haul him places I cannot imagine that he is not capable of being relaxed when I head straight off the property. My husband will just have to tolerate his antics a little longer when we ride together. Thanks for all the input, gave me some other ideas and things to think about.
    I am so glad to hear that. Although humbling to ask for help, you will come out way ahead, and gain some understanding and skills that will help you out in future situations. With horses, you never really get to rest on your laurels. There always seems to be work that needs to be done. It takes a lot of character to stick out a tough situation, and you obviously also have your horse’s best interest at heart.

    Leave a comment:


  • SuzieQNutter
    replied
    I don't think you are talking about a barn sour horse. A barn sour horse wont leave the area to go out.

    You are taking about a horse that turns for home and this is the 4th horse you have trained to act like this.

    A 20m dressage circle. Can you do that? or a 10m circle? Try and have a loop so you are not turning towards home. If he starts jigging or whatever turn and go in the other direction.

    Find a tree and work around it in a dressage circle trot. Correct bend. Correct flexion. Engaged hind quarters. Ask for a walk on a long rein. If he walks head for home. If he jogs turn around, back on the circle and back to work.

    Always walk home. Eventually he will walk home on a loose rein.

    Learn to drop your weight. This has nothing to do with how much you weigh. You drop your weight so the horse can only walk.

    Cue the anecdote from Franz Mairinger's book. Horses are meant to be horses. He rode at the SRS. The horses had to be moved because of a strangles outbreak.

    He is working in a field when a steam train goes by. The stallion freaks and gallops him all around the field. He is completely out of control.

    The next day his master is there and the same thing happens. The master yells out that he is holding him too much.

    They swap. The master sinks into the saddle. The stallion is trying to go. He can't. He is cantering on the spot. The master drops the buckle on the stallion's neck and said See. I told you. You were holding him too much.

    Cue my anecdote. I was a trail ride guide. I was also going for my Level 1 Instructors for Dressage, Showjumping and Cross Country.

    For a year I rode a Norwegian Fjord called Tristan. For a year he jogged home.

    One day I was determined I was going to make him walk home. I only took him 50 metres away. I did not succeed he was getting worse. I had to stop as one of us was going to be injured.

    I left and went to work at a Dressage School. I was there a year. I rode 8 horses a day.

    I came back and went on a trail ride with Tristan. Tristan is not trained for dressage. When we turned for home he jogged. I dropped my weight.

    He threw a massive tantrum. He was just like a little kid who had thrown himself on his stomach and was hitting his fists on the floor. He went right. He hit a tree. He came back to the original spot and continued with the tantrum. He went left and hit a tree and came back and continued the tantrum. He went back and hit a tree and came back to the original spot and stood. I dropped the buckle on his neck and said OK Tris you can walk home AND he did.

    Not only that but when I went back years later a staff member came in walking on him. I asked if he ever jogged home and she looked at me as if I was nuts.

    Leave a comment:


  • LuvEquines
    replied
    Ok, I'm not a trainer, but this is my experience. Since I've gotten older we don't ride as much in the winter. In the Spring we just take it as a normal thing that certain horses may get buddy/barn sour. I live right next to one riding park, but it seems to me that it stops MUCH faster if for the first week or two you trailer them to outside parks. I laugh and drive 1/2 mile to get into the horse trailer parking in the park right next to my yard!. As soon as I unload, they are ready to work. After a week or two, they just seem to forget their obsession. Has anyone just tried a week or two of trailering? My old 28 year old TB and his buddy used to put up such a stink when I loaded horses to go to dressage lessons that I trailered those two with me, just so they could get off the farm and feel loved. I had to laugh, I just opened the stall and both would load themselves. Miss them so much!

    Leave a comment:


  • quiacato
    replied
    I am going to get the advice of a trainer with him before making any decisions. I do love the horse and he has a lot of great qualities. If he can be relaxed when I haul him places I cannot imagine that he is not capable of being relaxed when I head straight off the property. My husband will just have to tolerate his antics a little longer when we ride together. Thanks for all the input, gave me some other ideas and things to think about.

    Leave a comment:


  • Palm Beach
    replied
    Originally posted by Feliz View Post
    I've dealt with a few barn sour horses and fixed it in various ways. I think it'll always be part of their personality - my current horse, who I've had +6yrs, will always be the type to be barn sour. Most people would never guess that he is, because I keep on top of it - exiting arena gates, finishing rides, returning home all have to be done on my (very reasonable) terms. He's a great horse, it's just a little quirk of his.

    Many, many years ago I was paid to exercise someone's horse - she told me that he was very barn sour and no-one had been able to fix it. Being young and stoopid, I gave it a go. Now he wasn't dirty and he still had a sense of self preservation, but he would jog, run sideways, spook, throw in small bucks, reef, bounce etc. I tried a bunch of stuff - turning around and walking away from home until he settled, halting & backing, turning in circles. None of this made a damn bit of difference. One day I just decided to get off. I stood there next too him and admired the view, like I had allllllll day while he bounced around me. Eventually he settled and when his eye was soft I climbed back on and off we went again. I can't remember how many times it took, but it worked surprisingly quickly. I think the problem was he would get so amped up and anxious about the whole thing that nothing you did on his back was going to get through to him.

    Funnily enough, my current horse is a little bit the same - sometimes the best thing to do with him is nothing. Just stop completely and let him settle enough to take a big breath.

    Good luck whatever you decide - yours certainly sounds like a tricky one.
    This is exactly it - the horse, when anxious, needs to settle himself down, and it's the rider/trainer's job to teach this to the horse. It's boring boring boring work, but once the horse gets it, it comes in handy in many situations. You will also learn to recognize little signs of anxiety and you can get to work on it while the horse is only a little anxious, and then you don't need to ever deal with bucking, rearing, etc. That's no fun.

    Leave a comment:


  • NancyM
    replied
    Originally posted by quiacato View Post

    Any advice on HOW to do this?? At home on the ground, he is very attentive, respectful and "broke". He will back, yield his hind etc just off my body pressure, I can put tarps on him, pull things, flap things etc and it is all no big deal. I have tried doing this same kind of work in the woods where I ride but once his mind is "gone" it is just gone. He will go from being relaxed walking along, to all of a sudden, being in a panic about getting home. The only way I have been able to "reset" his brain is to go home, school home, then go back out.
    I can't give you all the answers remotely. Perhaps someone in your locale may have some luck in finding the key to this horse, to gain a mutually responsive relationship with him, that will remain sufficient when he is alone with you in a location away from his equine buddies, and can help you to achieve the same by yourself.

    Pulling tarps over him and waving flags means nothing, if this sort of thing already does not fizz on him when he is at home and confident. At home is not the problem. The issue is that he must learn to look to YOU for direction and comfort, all the time, even in times that he will find to be stressful. Because "stressful things" are always going to happen, and when they do, both he and you have to have a plan in place. This is not beating him, or trying to force anything with him to MAKE him do this, it is something that he CHOOSES to give you because you have earned it in his opinion. Instead of trying to make him "not react" to input, work on a cue to give you his attention, and relax, and THINK. As you say, his mind is GONE when he gets into this situation. He has to learn how to focus on you, gain reassurance from you, listen to you, and understand that you want him to relax in these situations. This is "intense" conversation with a horse. It is high level interspecies communication. As you communicate with him, listen to what he is communicating to you, because there is his input to consider. The right local trainer may be able to help you with this stuff. Palm Beach's advice, when it is given in a helpful manner, is good advice on this subject.

    With a young horse, a baby horse, or an untouched horse, gaining that communication with him and the relationship where he will willingly put YOU in that power seat of influence in his life is about the most important part of early training IMO. Your horse may have missed out on this important step, and you are reaping the benefits now. Go back and fill the holes in his early interactions with humans, if you can. It won't be easy, there are no easy answers for you. Sorry. Or else, sell him back to the previous owner who wants him, or to someone who will never put him in any situation that he finds stressful (doubtful that this can be done IMO), and find an easier candidate to be your own horse.

    IMO, "broke" refers to a horse who has achieved this relationship. Many horses will allow a rider to sit on their back without issue, carry a rider around, just because that doesn't frighten them, and they have some small amount of responses to cues installed. But they are not truly "broke" until that relationship is established, and constant. Where the horse will look to his rider for confidence and direction in all matters, no matter how stressful. Attempting to remove all stressful situations by repeatedly pulling tarps over him etc does not do this for you, as you have found out. Because different things stress out different horses. So the key is to get the horse to listen to you and believe you that he is safe and you are in control, no matter WHAT comes up.

    Leave a comment:


  • Guilherme
    replied
    Originally posted by NancyM View Post
    Every "barn sour" horse is one who feels that his relationship with the other horses at home is more important TO HIM, than his relationship with you is. To solve this problem, you must make your relationship with him to be more important to him than his relationship with other horses is. You must earn this position as his "leader" and socially important being in his opinion. To do this, you need to refine your pressures, releases and goals and interspecies communication skills. This is two way communication skills and mutual understanding of communication between you. He speaks to you and you understand, and you speak to him and he understands. You must "get his attention and earn his respect". You don't do this by being "violent", or particularly "authoritarian". You do it by being fair, setting and attaining incremental goals, and responding positively to his "tries". YOU must become the singly most important being in his mind, such that he forgets about his equine buddies in his herd when he is with you. He must choose YOU to be the most influential being in his life. This isn't something that you can force, it is something that you must earn in his opinion, and he chooses to freely give to you.

    It may not be easy, it may not be something you want to invest time into. You may not be successful with your attempt to get this done. But, it is a learning experience. If you can get it done with this horse, your future relationships with other horses will benefit, because this is an opportunity to enhance your skills as a trainer of horses. Selling this horse to someone else will not help you to become a better trainer and rider. His next owner will be faced with the same requirements when they attempt to work with and ride this horse. No guarantee that they will be successful, and the horse may end up in a bad situation if he can not find someone who can successfully establish the relationship described above. Some are tougher than others, especially if they have been through a number of owners who have failed to get this basic relationship right, right from the start. Remember that horses learn through the "release of pressure", not from the pressure itself. Find a way to release pressure on him. Find something that he does right, even if it is only for a moment, and release the pressure you may have put on him as his reward. Take the steps slowly and small steps at a time. Yes, it can be done. But you must earn his respect, which you do not currently have.
    Good luck!
    This is largely anthropomorphism. I am not a horse. I don't self-identify as a horse. My horse knows I'm not a horse. He doesn't identify me as a horse.

    It also makes a second, serious error in assuming that all "barn sour" horses are the same and yearn for their herd beyond all else. If that were true they would be "herd sour" or "buddy sour" or something like that. Some are, but some are not.

    Horses are like water; they seek the path of least resistance. We humans often demand they follow paths that require significant effort in venues and environments that they would shun if given their head. We make them perform forced work. The horse has never been born that yearned to pull a plow or carry knight into battle or jump a six foot wall or cover 100 miles in just over 11 hours. But they do that because we humans make them do it. We might "soften" the word "make" and say "induced" or "encouraged" but if honesty is present in the speaker they KNOW that they make the domestic horse do domestic things because it benefits the human.

    Is there "mutuality" in equitation and horsemanship? Of course there is!!! Anybody with ANY experience at all knows you don't "make" a 1000 pound animal do what you want by main force. Xenophon condemned that 2300 years ago and he was not the first to do so! We bring the horse into the world of humans, not the other way 'round. The horse must conform their behavior to our needs, not the other way 'round. We use techniques, practices, and procedures developed over 10,000 years to do this. There are many roads to Rome; THERE IS NOT ONE, TRUE WAY. But there is only one Rome.

    The OP should ride the horse under her IAW her training, experience, and skill level. If she has a problem that she is unable to solve by herself then she should seek help from those that know more than she does. She appears to be honestly trying to do this. To damn her efforts because of a claimed failure to build a proper "relationship" is to demonstrate a serious misunderstanding of the situation.

    This is a tough nut to crack. I've had one that was "barn sour" (she had "gethomeitis"; she liked the sight of the barn as it meant the end of work and place of food and rest; a reunion with other herd members were not part of her agenda). I understand the problem.

    There are a number things one can try such as making rides away from the barn very short, but doing many of them in a working session (instead of one, lone "out and in" you do a half dozen short ones). Think of series "clover leaves" with the barn at the center. Vary the times and routes. And you don't dismount and rest at the barn; you do dismount and take a break, but always AWAY from the barn. Carry a small bag of feed and give them something to eat; that makes the away stop more pleasant.

    The above worked, after a fashion, with my gethomeitis mare. She was much more animated going home than going out, but she was completely controllable and not a danger to me or to others or to herself.

    Just so that there are no misunderstandings, building a relationship of trust with your horse is a Good Thing. Using their instincts to help us accomplish our equitation goals is a Good Thing. Understanding the horse's motivations is a Good Thing. But they good because they allow us to achieve our, human goals. They are for our benefit, not the horse's. As long as we understand that then we can do OK. If we forget it or get confused about it we will suffer a bad end. As may the horse.

    G.

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  • Feliz
    replied
    I've dealt with a few barn sour horses and fixed it in various ways. I think it'll always be part of their personality - my current horse, who I've had +6yrs, will always be the type to be barn sour. Most people would never guess that he is, because I keep on top of it - exiting arena gates, finishing rides, returning home all have to be done on my (very reasonable) terms. He's a great horse, it's just a little quirk of his.

    Many, many years ago I was paid to exercise someone's horse - she told me that he was very barn sour and no-one had been able to fix it. Being young and stoopid, I gave it a go. Now he wasn't dirty and he still had a sense of self preservation, but he would jog, run sideways, spook, throw in small bucks, reef, bounce etc. I tried a bunch of stuff - turning around and walking away from home until he settled, halting & backing, turning in circles. None of this made a damn bit of difference. One day I just decided to get off. I stood there next too him and admired the view, like I had allllllll day while he bounced around me. Eventually he settled and when his eye was soft I climbed back on and off we went again. I can't remember how many times it took, but it worked surprisingly quickly. I think the problem was he would get so amped up and anxious about the whole thing that nothing you did on his back was going to get through to him.

    Funnily enough, my current horse is a little bit the same - sometimes the best thing to do with him is nothing. Just stop completely and let him settle enough to take a big breath.

    Good luck whatever you decide - yours certainly sounds like a tricky one.

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  • jodyjumper
    replied
    You know, working WITH a trainer can be the best. Allowing another person to totally take over is another thing entirely. YOU have to deal with any problems, sometimes without your trainer sitting on your shoulder. IMHO, any problem, under the right circumstances, will reappear and rider of the day will need to deal with it. If you are prepared, Onward With your partner!

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