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Working With A Barn Sour Horse - Part One

By Jeffrey Rolo

Working with a barn sour horse can be the ultimate test of patience; a test that can drain even the best of horse trainers. Unfortunately in the midst of frustration or anger, many handlers will make some fatal mistakes that exasperate the problem rather than lessen it.

The Common Mistakes:

Throw In The Towel – There is no denying that dealing with a barn sour horse can be a taxing experience, but once you decide to engage in the "battle of wills" it's important that you follow through until the end. This does not mean placing yourself in a position of danger; if your horse is bucking and rearing on the roadside because he does not wish to ride away from the barn, do not potentially hurt yourself or the horse by forcing the ride.

By the same token do not just give up and return the horse to his stall, because that's exactly what he wanted and if he wins you can rest assured that your next "war" will be all that much more difficult. Take your horse into a riding arena or round pen and work him hard. By hard I do not mean allowing anger to fuel your actions and thereby running the horse ragged; I mean give him a good workout so that next time he might decide the trail ride was more desirable after all.

It's never good to lose a battle with a horse since they always become progressively worse, but in the above case you showed the horse that although you lost the initial battle, ultimately you won the war. Don't wave the white flag the moment you experience your first setback.

Racing Home – One of the initial symptoms of a barn sour horse is a horse that speeds up the pace as he nears the barn on the journey home. Most of the time the horse does this of his own accord since he's simply excited about returning home, but sometimes a rider will actually canter the horse down the final stretch for fun. If only that rider knew how foolhardy such an action was!

It is important that you always take the final stretch home at a leisurely walk. Not only is this better for the horse's health (they should have a cool down period just as human athletes), it will let the horse know that you are in full control at all times.

If you are returning at a medium walk and your horse hastens to a faster walk, don't let him get away with it. Sure, he might still be walking, but he also just determined the pace and the next trail ride he'll push his luck even further. Bring him back to the medium walk, or better yet slow him down even further so that he sees his disobedience and impatience only made matters worse. Never look the other way when your horse misbehaves, no matter how sleight the disobedience.

You may find it necessary to stop your horse completely if he becomes too skittish or insistent… you might even need to stop several times on your return home. This is fine since haste will make waste - take the time to make him return properly. If your horse becomes too insistent you can even turn him around and walk away from the barn again until he settles down.

If worse comes to worst and he refuses to walk home properly, try to dismount him and lead him home. Unless you are a very experienced rider (and even if you are!) you do not want to risk being dismounted by a roadside or on an obscure trail, especially if you didn't bring along any riding partners to watch over you. (You did bring along a riding partner when you worked with a barn sour horse, right?)

When we become tired of holding our horse back and frustration begins to set in it's only natural to want to just let him head home quickly to get the undesirable situation over with. But that natural reaction will only compound your frustrations later as you find your partner turning into a full-fledged barn sour horse.

Bringing Along A BuddyHerd bound horses resist leaving the property because they do not wish to leave their equine buddy behind. Often the owner of a herd bound horse will have another rider take the herd bound horse's buddy on a trail ride with him so that his horse doesn't have to leave his buddy behind. The thought behind this is the journey goes by smoothly and in time the owner's horse will become less barn sour by observing how easily his buddy rides.

This solution couldn't be any more mistaken!

When you pair up a herd bound horse and his equine companion on a trail ride all you succeed in doing is masking the symptoms, yet the problem still exists. In fact doing this will make the problem even worse over time rather than better, because you need to break the reliance on his buddy to overcome the herd bound problem. Never use a buddy as a pacifier for a herd bound horse; make sure if you have a riding partner he or she is riding a neutral horse.

To view more common errors as well as the key solution to remedying a barn sour horse view the second part of Working With A Barn Sour Horse.

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