Tuesday, November 19, 2019

More on Barn Sourness

I received another question on barn sourness. A reader wrote - "I have a really good trail broke gelding, but he has one vice and that is whenever we go out at some point he decides its time to turn around for home. I have been always able to work through it easily and we continue on, just wondering if you have a method or tips for stopping the behavior completely. Thanks!"

​ I have known some barn sour horses over the years. As far as a horse taking over and refusing to go forward or turning for home on his own, it's a lot more common to have a horse who jiggs on the way back to the barn. And some people add to this by not controlling the gait or speed going back. I've always tried to look past this as I need a horse to go the direction I want at the gait and speed I want.

As far as your horse, just deciding it's time to turn around, well, first I admire his initiative! It's likely some mental pressure builds and he gets his relief by turning for home. The fact that you can work through it is good, and that likely his thinking shares equal if not more so with his instinct.

The worst cases of barn sourness are when the horse just stops and will not go forward in a direction away from his home barn. And I had another case of a rider I know who's horse would brace against the rider and reins, always turning towards home.<br><br>

In first case this rider would really bang on the horse to try to go forward then spur him which caused the horse to come off his front end - that's when he brought the horse to me. I only had him a couple of days and rode him in the arena where the horse would eventually want to move to the gate which was close to the other horses, so I made that end of the arena (the gate end) the hardest work for him, letting him take a break at the far end. This is likely a common interpretation of Tom Dorrance's advice 'to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult (or work)'.  And in a couple sessions this horse was much better and did not try to move to the gate. This rider picked up the horse and I did not see him again. I doubt he had much success with that horse as this particular rider only wanted the horse to see his perspective and not look at the way the horse saw things.

I would try this - once your horse decides it's time to turn around and go home, don't let him turn, instead back him then turn him (make backing and turning your idea) then go ahead and go in that direction towards home making it work,..stopping, backing and jumping out; trotting small circles. You'd be doing this with the horse heading in the direction he wants to go, but it's you that is directing his feet and I'd do this for a couple minutes.

I wouldn't double him because as you make those turns he'll be facing away from home. I think the circles are okay because as you ride a circle away from him, his head will be bent a bit towards home.

So after some work facing home, turn him and walk him away from home. He'll likely be fairly quick to stop and turn around for home again, so repeat the work facing home for another minute or two, then turn him away and walk him away from home. You'll likely need to go this several times. At some point when you are walking him away from home, turn him and walk him back home. It has to be your idea to turn for home at this point - don't let it be his idea, but don't ask for too much in the beginning.

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