When starting to work with a barn sour horse, make sure you have extra time. You should plan for at least two to three hours when working with a horse that is barn sour. Usually you would take your horse into an arena to work or away from the barn on a trail ride. Your horse realizes that at the barn it is his free time; time to hang out, eat hay and grain and be with his buddies. Therefore, your horse is reluctant to leave the barn and eager to return to it. He doesn’t want to leave the barn because he relates that with having to work.
To fix this you will get your horse ready to ride like normal. Instead of taking your horse away from the barn, you will make him work inside it. At the barn make him flex, bend, move off your leg, and trot in circles. Start right in the barn aisle way and keep him busy working for about half an hour. Work him at a fast pace and keep him constantly moving and thinking about working. If you have to keep him motivated, then use a bat or crop.
Next, you will take him outside of the barn. If you have an empty lot right next to the barn, that will work great. Trot him around the lot and make him work right outside the barn. Since he wants to be in or near the barn, this will teach him that the barn is not just a place to hang out and relax. So you’ll let him stay near the barn, but you are working him hard. Both you and the horse should become tired from working so hard.
Then you will walk further away from the barn. You can even walk out to a pasture or a place far away from the barn where there are other horses. Remove the saddle and let him stay there for the rest of the day. This will teach him that he can relax away from the barn. Horses are creature of habit and some get ingrained in their mind that the barn signifies rest and relaxation. You want to change that mental picture so that they identify the barn with work.
When you are riding away from the barn, you will want to ride more freely and with loose reins. This will prove to your horse that riding away from the barn can be fun and enjoyable, but be prepared to take some time in teaching your horse. It may take a few hours each day for a few weeks to break this habit. Once you break it however, your horse will be glad to be away from the barn and will no longer have any issues with being barn sour.
Translating the experience of a 30 year training career into his universal CPR (Confidence, Patience, Respect) Horsemanship methods, Garland offers horse owners unique and innovative training techniques. For more information, visit tommygarland.com