Horse Training: How to "Unsour" a Barn Sour Horse
Horse Training and horse training tips
This article is about horse training and horse training tips. More specifically, it's about re-training horses that are much too fond of their home barn. If you’ve had much experience riding a number of different horses, chances are that you’ve run across at least one that was “barn sour.” In other words, this guy didn’t want to leave the barn, and once he left, he couldn’t wait to return. Barn-sour horses usually start out a ride leaving the barn at a slow, reluctant walk. They plod along like an old plow horse, and some constantly try to turn back in the direction of home. Once the ride is over and it’s time to return to the home barn, this same horse suddenly turns into a spirited prancing steed that’s full of new found energy and chomping at the bit to get back. And actually, it’s no wonder.
Most horses love their stall and barn. It’s safe, warm, and cozy. It’s where they rest and take naps. It’s where they get food. It’s where they “hang out” with their buddies. When they’re taken away from their “pad,” they have to work. Sometimes they have to leave their pals behind. So why would they ever want to leave?
Effective Horse Training
To change the horse’s behavior and to achieve effective horse training, you have to think like a horse. Horses' brains are fairly simple, really: barn = good. Leaving barn = bad. You’ll have to make some changes with the horse’s associations to make him think differently, and this could take some time, so be patient and determined. Negative behavior is always harder to correct than positive behavior is to establish.
Horse training tips
First of all, stop his thinking that the barn is always equivalent to rest and relaxation. Work him at the barn sometimes. Make him understand that being at the barn doesn’t always mean fun. Canter in some small circles and do some figure eights on your mount. Afterwards, you can go on a trail ride or stop for the day.
Work from the other end, also. Your horse always associates leaving the barn with work. Un-do that thinking. Saddle up as usual for a trail ride, but take along a halter, a lead rope, and a little bag of grain or some horse treats. When you’re a good distance from the barn, dismount and remove your saddle and pad. Replace the bridle with a halter. Attach the lead rope and let the horse graze for a while, and offer him some feed or some treats. Just let him enjoy his time away from the barn. Before long, he’ll realize that leaving the barn isn’t so bad, after all.
Don’t establish a pattern. Mix up your activities with the horse. Don’t always work him at the barn, and don’t always give him R & R away from the barn. Let him know that you’re in control of the situation by keeping him guessing.
An extremely barn sour horse can be dangerous - an equestrian accident just waiting to happen. I’ve seen horses run headlong back to the barn, ignoring their riders’ instructions to stop or slow down. If the horse actually runs into the barn itself with a rider on board, the rider could face serious injury. If your horse is beginning to exhibit symptoms of barn souring, correct the behavior now before it gets worse. Also, never run your horse back to the barn. If you do, you’ll be helping to establish a bad pattern. Always walk him back to the barn, making sure he's calm and relaxed before rewarding him with the removal of the saddle and bridle. This type of horse training might just save you from serious injury someday.
Read more about horses and ponies:
- Why and How to Ride a Horse Bareback
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