Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has developed an effective method to train horses, regardless of their age, history, or any behavioral issues and past traumas. Join him on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and with problem owners. This week we’ll watch as Clinton shows us how to correct a barn-sour horse.
It’s fairly common for horses to develop magnets or a degree of comfort that make them want to get back to the barn. While many horsemen call this type of behavior a barn-sour horse, it’s more like a barn-sweet horse. They want to return to the barn because they’re comfortable there. If you have a horse that wants to constantly get back to the barn or doesn’t even want to leave in the first place, you need to take a work-heavy approach. The more you try to make a horse leave the barn, the more he wants to rear up, or run backwards, or spin around and pitch a fit.
The secret to fixing this behavior is getting him to move his feet while you’re at the barn. Every time he wants to go back to the barn, let him get back and then you work him right then and there. If he wants to be at the barn, that’s fine, make him move, make him hustle and show him that the barn doesn’t mean relaxation. Even if you don’t have a lot of room, just make sure you’re moving your horse’s feet. If you need more space, you can use the immediate area surrounding the barn, but don’t stray too far. The goal is to get the horse to associate the barn with work—it’s important to make them hustle.
Once you’ve worked the horse and really made them hustle, leave the barn and find a place in the field for them to rest. The little rest away from the barn will show them that the barn doesn’t equal avoiding work. Start by resting about 300 feet away from the barn and slowly move your way up to 700 feet and then 1,000 feet away from it. Each time you take a rest away from the barn, go a little bit farther. How far you can take the horse away from the barn will depend on the individual. The key is to find a distance away from the barn your horse is comfortable with before he starts trying to get back to the barn. If your horse is extremely barn sour, you may only be able to ride him 20 feet away from the barn before he starts throwing a fit to get back to it. If that’s the case, you’ll stop him 19 feet away from the barn and let him rest. Once you have a starting point established, you’ll continue to build the distance you can take the horse away from the barn.
After a while, put your horse on a loose rein and let him walk back to the barn. If he wants to run, let him run. You don’t want to hold him back. You want your horse to eventually think, “Man, I’d rather be out with you than come back to the barn. It’s twice as much work back there.” Continue to repeat the process whenever they want to go back to the barn. Repetition is the best way to correct a barn-sour horse and train them effectively.
Remember, whenever you go back in the barn, it’s time to work. In the beginning of this process, your horse is going to be excited and power walk back to the barn. Over time, your horse will head to the barn more slowly, realizing that the barn means time to work. You can be creative with your training exercises, as long as you’re keeping the horse busy. You can apply these principles for any area that your horse seems to favor, and as long as you stick with the training, you’ll see a huge change in your horse’s behavior.
Just remember that barn-sour issues require maintenance. Anytime you feel your horse in a hurry to get back to the barn, put this training into practice.
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