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Help correcting herd/barn sourness?

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  • Help correcting herd/barn sourness?

    Only when alone, horse freaks out when within 5 minutes of home on any trail. If asked to stop, she starts popping up and tossing her head to where its a wonder she hasn't broken her rider's nose. If asked to turn around, she spins and tries to go back. Only does this with one person, though, but without fail for this rider. Jigs the rest of the way, will not walk, will not stop tossing head. This horse goes bitless, if that changes anything.

    How would you correct this? I'd say herd sour instead of barn sour, since she only does this when she's alone. When ridden with all/one of the other horses she is fine going home.
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  • #2
    Since it only happens with one rider, this sounds like someone may need to work with the rider and the horse. Perhaps have a trainer/instructor watch what's happening for subtle things going on between horse and rider. I had a horse that used to act up for me and not for others. Only one situation caused trouble. I have no idea how this was set up. But a trainer identified the warning signs for me and told me how to handle it. (Distraction and the first sign of problems .... Circe gave plenty of signals that were too subtle for me to see :<). Knowing Circe's signs and distracting her completely ended the problem with about three sessions with me.

    We've had the same barn/herd sour behavior with a several horses when we first got them. However, the behavior occurred for everyone who handled the horses ... so it was more generalized. We simply lead the horse away from the heard to just past its "comfort zone" and walked it back. Repeating this procedure as long as necessary to get the horse used to being alone. (Usually about two weeks) When the horses are comfortable being lead away, we start riding them away. The behavior is not completely gone under saddle, but much less. Again, we ride them just past their "comfort zone" and then return. Boring, but successful. Within a month we have the horse walking calmly away and no issues. Obviously, some horses take less time, but we've never had one take more than a month if we are able to work with them consistently.

    Hope this helps!
    The other female in my husband's life has four legs

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    • #3
      Sounds to me like the horse has one rider's number. So- that rider needs to get over the hump with this horse. When head is tossing or refusing to go away from home-leading rein to simply get the horse to turn small circles on itself until tiring of the activity, and then a couple more for good measure. Then release from circle AWAY from home Just very low key- outlasting the horse, and and allowing the horse to make the connection that doing it right is less work than doing it wrong.

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        So I "witnessed" (walked down the trail a bit and waited for them to come by) this the other day, and I have some more insight.

        Thanks to the replies so far! I agree that this pair need more miles together, but rider is getting fed up honestly and seems pretty scared from it all.

        I think the situation is being exacerbated by a very pissy, moody arab mare, and a scared rider. What starts as a little bad behavior escalates very quickly into those little half rear tantrums that we're all familiar with.

        Do you guys think that some ground work would help? Have the rider hop off and do some softening/bending/shoulder movements to get mare's mind back to work? I am not sure that its safe to reccommend to the rider that she circle- that was the first thing she tried and it turned into a reining spin episode that looked kinda scary.

        I am totally at a loss here- the trail world is very far from my scope. I've never dealt with this sort of issue, and it makes me a little nervous to watch!
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        • #5
          It looks to me to be a situation where the rider really needs more education about how to correct behavior. There is a bit of a cycle here, where horse gets anxoius, rider gets scared and makes an ineffective correction, horse puts more effort into unwanted behavior, rider gets even more scared and so forth until the rider ends up letting the horse do the unwanted behavoir and the horse learns she can evade the task being asked. Safety wise, getting on the ground to make a change can be very good. However, if the change isnt made, it only takes a couple of times for the horse to realize "if i do this, the rider gets off". It can get out of hand in a hurry. It is still a matter of knowledge about effective correction. Which leads back to rider knowing what to do and that can be different for each person/horse/situation. The circling is a good way to apply the principle, however, the rider needs some confidence to ride the spin long enough for the horse to figure out that spinning is hard work. When we are scared, 30 seconds and 2 dozen circles feels like a long time. I'd recommend finding an instructor that is willing to be right there, walking the person through the issue or even getting on the horse if needed to help tone it down to be within the capability of the rider.

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            ^^^

            This is how I got involved in the situation. Rider was told by the ladies she trail rides with to get a lesson, but she "grew up riding" and doesn't need them/want to pay for them. I think board and shoes are already a stretch for her.

            I'm taking care of another horse at the barn, and they asked me for a few pointers. (I am NO way a professional, just one of a only a few people at this particular joint that have had "real" training)

            I am clearly out of my league, which is when I usually look to COTH.
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            • #7
              Ah, well, that clarifies a lot. She 'should' take lessons but doesn't 'want' to. And yet does not possess the skills to resolve the situation.

              I let a friend who has owned horses for 'years' test ride one of mine for possible use in the Pony Express re-ride as she was down a horse. I did not, unfortunately, insist that she ride w-t-c in the arena to get 'with' the horse before we went out on the trails. Should have. We got to a spot where I routinely gallop that horse, he started to get on his toes, she clinched her heels into his sides, and well, whaddya know, he did what she asked- galloped. 'Ran away,' per her interpretation. No lasting harm, happily. BUT- in your case- unclear to me if this is her own horse? If it is, well, a quandry indeed, if it is someone else's horse, and I were the someone else, I'd sure insist that she learn to ride the horse right, or not ride it.

              As for 'getting off' to do ground work on the trail- nah. Just teaches the already pissy mare that she can win.

              If she isn't listening to advice already offered- to take lessons- than I wonder if you might not be banging your head against the wall in vain. But for me, bottom line is the same as earlier post- SHE needs to learn how to deal with this correctly herself- lessons in the ring with that horse would be a good start followed maybe by trainer accompanying her on a trail ride to teach her how to correct the problem.

              Comment


              • #8
                It's called "separation anxiety"...and it is an instinct that all horses can have when they do not percieve they are with a leader or feel "alone". It's not a character defect.

                When this happens, the rider needs to understand that they are not filling this role when out alone u/s. I'd suggest like some other that you become educated about becoming a benevolent leader, then the horse will settle down..and you'll have a wonderful time/relationship.

                Sorry, I don't usually post here, but saw the post caught my eye when I saw it on the main COTH screen. Couldn't help myself..
                www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube

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                • #9
                  Sounds like this isn't the horse for her. If the mare doesn't do it with every rider than it is an issue between them. From what you say she isn't able/ experienced enough to get this horse under control and it is only a matter of time before a wreck or a fall. Throw fear of the horse into it and I see real trouble.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My horse used to do this when I first bought him (he was three and a half). It wasn't as much of an issue for him to be away from other horses, but he did want to rush "home." No matter how calm and relaxing the rest of the ride had been, I would end up frustrated by his apparent inability to settle down in those last 15 minutes.

                    It stopped happening when, after returning to the barn, we went directly into the arena for about 15 minutes of lateral work, circles, transitions. He figured out that rushing home was only rushing back to do more work (and he's not fond of arena work), he quieted down. When he was calm and well-mannered the whole way home during a trail ride, I dismounted as soon as we got to the barn, and he was done.
                    Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JollyBadger View Post
                      My horse used to do this when I first bought him (he was three and a half). It wasn't as much of an issue for him to be away from other horses, but he did want to rush "home." No matter how calm and relaxing the rest of the ride had been, I would end up frustrated by his apparent inability to settle down in those last 15 minutes.

                      It stopped happening when, after returning to the barn, we went directly into the arena for about 15 minutes of lateral work, circles, transitions. He figured out that rushing home was only rushing back to do more work (and he's not fond of arena work), he quieted down. When he was calm and well-mannered the whole way home during a trail ride, I dismounted as soon as we got to the barn, and he was done.
                      This is exactly how I broke my OTTB of the behavior. We didn't do the arena work he liked (jumping), just the stuff he didn't care for, and I made sure it was real work. If he behaved on the way home I usually dismounted about 100 yards before the barn and led him in to help start cooling him out, though that was also to give my knees and ankles a chance to recover.

                      Another technique is to go on many short trail rides. Ride away from the barn for 15 minutes, turn around and go past it, ride in a different direction for a few minutes, and repeat. Basically you're teaching the horse that heading in the direction of the barn doesn't mean that the work will stop.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by gieriscm View Post
                        Another technique is to go on many short trail rides. Ride away from the barn for 15 minutes, turn around and go past it, ride in a different direction for a few minutes, and repeat. Basically you're teaching the horse that heading in the direction of the barn doesn't mean that the work will stop.
                        Yep, I did this a couple of times, too. There is a trail running parallel to the road that the barn is on, and it's generally smooth and flat, so it's easy for a horse to get a little "wound up" on the home stretch. Occasionally, when he was getting a little too eager to get home, I'd make him move out even more and then go straight past the barn, continuing on the trail, and we'd go out for another 30 minutes.

                        It ticked him off. . .but it worked.
                        Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by gieriscm View Post
                          Another technique is to go on many short trail rides. Ride away from the barn for 15 minutes, turn around and go past it, ride in a different direction for a few minutes, and repeat. Basically you're teaching the horse that heading in the direction of the barn doesn't mean that the work will stop.

                          I agree. My horse occasionally will start jigging, rushing and head tossing when heading towards the barn through a large field coming off some of the trails. Making him turn around and continue walking the other way or cross the field and continue walking away from the barn usually corrects the issue fairly promptly. As soon as he walks calmly and quietly on the buckle while heading in the other direction I let him turnaround and start heading towards the barn. If he starts with the pissy antics again back in the other direction we go I've also used this technique to get him to quiet down about other horses up ahead of him heading towards the barn and it works then too.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My completely unwarrented snark is to refer the rider to PP so she can be given pointers on how to continue to avoid learning how to ride effectively.

                            My own pissy mare (although non Arab) was never bad about coming home nicely but she would balk and throw fits at other points in a ride, early in our parntership. She'd get light in front, lug on the bit, yes even run away at a dead gallop, etc. Another mare I bought at the same time was a dreadful jigger and prancer. Worst of all, for a while they were herd bound to each other and would have mild hysterics if out of each other's sight.

                            I had to get fairly tough with both of them with circling, riding past the barn, and just working the snot out of them close to home until they realised I could make their lives a living hell if they didnt go along with my game plan. The bad jigger was sold after her rehabilitation, and Miss Piss now only very rarely tries to take charge. Her default mode now is to go along with the program since she knows she'll get rewarded when she does.

                            It took a few long and hot hours to accomplish. There's nothing quite like getting into an argument with your horse midday midsummer in GA.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I agree, hopping off is a bad idea unless the rider is *really* scared in which case she may have to, it does seem to 'reward' the horse for the bad behavior unless what she does when she gets off is THAT annoying to the horse.
                              It might sound weird, but she could try taking the horse for a trail-walk like a dog to get it used to being away from the herd, assuming she can handle the horse well from the ground. She may get some weird looks but that's what I had to do to get one of my former mares to ever go near road signs. Also, when the horse spins around to go home, instead of spinning it around the other way has she tried just making her back up for a while? After the mare gets tired of backing up she might decide to go forward in the correct direction. That is, if backing her up doesn't cause rearing issues, which it sounds like it might with this mare.
                              Can she longe the horse before heading out? Or at least take it out on short trail rides after some ring work when the horse is already a little beat? It really doesn't sound like this girl should be riding alone on a trail right now as it is, lessons or not. She needs to be riding with someone for the time being. And I'm not a fan of gadgets, but if the horse is tossing her head that badly she may want to try a martingale/tie down for a while, not as a permanent fix, which it is not, but just until she gets these other issues under control.
                              From your description, I doubt the bitless bridle is the issue, but do the people who ride this horse successfully also use the bitless? And is it a side-pull, bosal, hackamore...? I ride bitless as well but my horse (half arab and the most marish gelding I've ever known) started some nonsense last summer about not wanting to be too far behind others on the trail and I went to riding him in a plain snaffle bit for a while until he got his head screwed back on correctly. She may need that extra control.

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