Barn Sour?

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  • ponygirl360 Original Poster ponygirl360
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 41

    I adopted a rescue horse September 13, 2014. When I got him, he was the typical underweight, sluggish rescue. However, after much turnout time, quality feed, and supplements, he has put on weight and his personality has changed drastically. He is now more alert and loves to run, which I expected. This horse, Comet, who is 14 years old, lives with my 26 year old Paso Fino, Sam. They usually get along fine together and are turned out for about 10 hours a day when the weather is nice. Comet used to love going outside to eat grass and play in the pasture. My boyfriend lives on the property where my horses are and he has recently told me that Comet has started running back to the barn when he is put outside. My boyfriend walks Comet into the pasture, takes his halter off, and Comet bolts back to the barn. It does not matter if Sam is already in the pasture, or if he is still in the barn, Comet still bolts back to the barn. So, I don’t necessarily think it’s a buddy sour issue, but more of a barn sour issue. Before he was rescued, Comet was stalled in terrible conditions for who knows how long. So, shouldn’t he enjoy the opportunity to run around outside? If kept inside too long he gets anxious. I have also tried putting Comet in the pasture myself, and he seems to get nervous as I close the gate on him. He starts running around the pasture. I don’t like my horses stalled all the time, but I am not sure how to fix this problem? My boyfriend is a pretty new beginner with horses-he can handle Sam no problem, but Comet is a totally different story. Any ideas on what I can do to work with Comet on this issue? The pasture that he goes out in is about 30 feet from the front of the barn, so I have a little bit of room to work with Comet in that area, if need be. Thank you for any ideas or help you can provide! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    Sounds like he is afraid of something in or near the pasture, or has a memory of a bad situation in a pasture. Most recently, the trees have lost their leaves (fall in your area?), so possibly his scenery is changing, and that’s enough for some horses to worry. If so, it is a new pasture, daily, and he prefers the familiar barn. Would it be possible to hang a grain feeder on the fence and feed him there – or maybe put a flake of hay on the ground for each horse, and let them eat there instead of the barn? He needs a positive association with the pasture, and food might do it?

    Also are you sure your horses are getting along? I have pasos and they are fast and tough horses, bossy. Who is the alpha? If your paso is boss, does he force Comet to run? Comet may be tired of it. Does he react the same way if there is no other horse in the pasture?

    If you only feed him in the barn, maybe he wants to go back and get more to eat, grass this time of year isn’t what it used to be in the earlier fall, and a horse that has been hungry will always fear hunger. Something in the risk/reward ratio has changed and going to the pasture is not worth it to him.

    Try entering the pasture with Comet and then close the gate. Do not release him outside the pasture. Put him out first so you don’t have to worry about the other horse escaping as you go through the gate. His behavior will only worsen if he is intermittently allowed to run off.

    Horses want security/safety first, food second, and freedom third. If they wanted freedom most – they would never have been domesticated.

    If he won’t eat hay in the pasture and continues to pace, you may have to use de-sensitizing conditioning to get him to accept the pasture. That is to say, starting with small periods in the pasture with rewards, and gradually increasing the time spent there. Put him in – take him out – repeat – and gradually he’ll get the idea that he is okay there.

    Good luck and kudos for taking on the responsibility for Comet. He is lucky to have you.

    Alois Podhajsky: โ€œWhen I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure itโ€™s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Could it be the weather? My boy wants to come out and graze, but he keeps staring at the trees, in case something (it is just the wind) leaps out and attacks him. This is new for him – he usually acts up by the dragons, but has always grazed quietly until we get near them. Now, even birds twittering make him jumpy. We have been having fairly drastic weather changes lately, and I have assumed it was just that. The dragons are imaginary.

    It is never the horse's fault

    ponygirl360 Original Poster ponygirl360
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 41

    Thank you both for your input! I have done a bit of experimenting, and I have found that Comet does not have a problem going outside if he knows his hay is waiting for him. So, that was the easy fix. He is definitely the more dominant horse, as he is 14, and my Paso is 26 and is very laid back. He just kinda wants to be on his own, but is always getting pushed around by Comet. I also have no problems with him wanting to run out the gate as soon as I put him in there anymore! I think he now associates the pasture with food, so he is definitely doing better. I think he still sees the pasture as a ‘scary’ place, but he has calmed down about it. I think the weather did have an affect on him, because he was in a stall for so many years. When the rescue got him, it was summertime when he was put outside, so I think this may all be new to him. Thank you so much for your suggestions and the time you took to be so thoughtful in ideas for me to try! I really appreciate it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Glad to hear things are going well! Joe Joe was also a rescue (OT Arabian) who now prefers to be outside all the time. He is only happy in the barn if he is eating or I am entertaining him. Once Coment has completely settled into freedom, he may be the same.

    It is never the horse's fault

    ponygirl360 Original Poster ponygirl360
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 41

    I wish Comet was happier being outside than in the barn! I think the whole starvation issue is what is causing him trouble though. He is not spooky outside, but I think he just feels safer in his stall. Hopefully time will help!

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Give him time and patience – everything is new to him at your place, and trust is not easily acquired.

    It is never the horse's fault

    ponygirl360 Original Poster ponygirl360
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 41

    Definitely agree with you! I am giving him lots of time. I hopped on him for a short walk around the arena at the rescue-but have not yet ridden him since he’s been at home. I’ve put a saddle on him and lunged him, but nothing more. I think he needs time to settle in and just relax and be a horse before I try to ride and teach him new things. We work on ground manners and picking up his feet and such, but not much more than that. He almost seems very stand-offish. Have you experienced that with your rescue? He is overly interested in food, which is to be expected, but I feel like it’s going to be super hard to bond with him because he seems disinterested. Any ideas on that?

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    I did not personally rescue Joe Joe, but the people who did took him because he followed them around like a puppy at the sale. Got in touch with his last registered owner, and apparently he was always like that. So, standoffishness was never an issue. I did find that training him to do things (some of them) my way was easier if treats were forthcoming when he got it right (he likes peppermints). I also work with rescue dogs, and when one doesn’t know the background and previous experiences, it can be difficult to gain the trust you want to have. Try playing games with him (hide the peppermint, walk laterally, let me spray things on you, etc.), and if you feel comfortable with it, get on him bareback in an enclosed area (not the barn) and just sit. Might want to have someone else there, just in case. Anything that doesn’t seem to be routine work, that will keep him interested and interacting with you should help. Good luck, and post updates.

    It is never the horse's fault

    ponygirl360 Original Poster ponygirl360
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 41

    Comet was drastically different when he was malnourished. He wanted to just stand there and be pet and rest his head on you. I knew this would change, but I thought maybe he would be more willing to be around people still. I will definitely try to work with him with treats and see if that helps. Since food is so important to him, that will probably get us started on the right track. Thank you for all of your ideas! I will keep you updated on our progress! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    That is good news, ponygirl! Thank you for the update. You will know best when his head is in the right place to ride him, but I would begin teaching him things that will earn him a reward. After you work with him, reward him with a small bit of food. That midday meal becomes an association with that work and he’ll look forward to that time for the extra ration. Recent studies have shown that it’s a good idea to provide extra ration for a worked horse after work and cool down.

    Take the time that he’s eating hay to stroke him, groom him, massage and stand closer too him. He needs to have positive associations, and he’ll accept your proximity better if there is reward/food involved. Pull him out sometimes just to pet him, hand graze him, give him a light snack and back he goes.

    The first thing I teach a new horse is to present feet for cleaning. (not wait for me to tug there – but when I stand by a specific foot, he/she will lift it) I do this by cleaning exactly the same way with the verbal command every day, starting with LF, LR, RR, RF, always in this order. I conclude with a treat. They know it’s coming. (Mischief has even tried skipping feet to hurry the reward – HA – picking up his RF when I ask for his RH! LOL! Now he does it for a joke because he knows it makes me laugh.) No matter who is cranky or what, this is routine reward. It works. And my farrier and vet both appreciate it because it makes their work easier. And me? I haven’t bent over to pick up a foot in years. It’s such a simple thing – and foundations are built on simple everyday things. The next thing I teach is that if I run my hand down the leg, the foot doesn’t move. If I touch, they stand still. Reward. Simple. Things. Once you feel safe in proximity to him – that he won’t barge at you or step on you, you can relax more.

    It’s to be expected that he has reluctance to deal with people, but you are not ‘people’, and the more he gets to know you, the more he learns the difference.

    A horse is similar to a mirror. They trust us as much as we trust them, and sometimes it is counter-intuitive to have faith in them, but that is when it is most required. Have faith in yourself, too. You are making good progress. Your confidence is the number one most important gift you give him – it is from you he gains security and safety! Calm confidence and the occasional treat will win the day. Love wins. Please keep up the good work and keep us posted!

    Alois Podhajsky: โ€œWhen I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure itโ€™s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    ShilohsGirl ShilohsGirl
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 49

    I have always wanted to try the Paralelli SevenGames but my mare was so smart that we didall seven in one day so that didn’t work out. But, you can always give it a shot!

    "Think of riding as a science, but love it as an art" ~George Morris

    ponygirl360 Original Poster ponygirl360
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 41

    Mapale, thank you for all of your suggestions! I admit, I am still slightly leery of him, just because I have not dealt with a horse like him before. But, I think we are starting to make progress. Yesterday, I had my boyfriend hold Comet while I picked out his feet. Each time he picked up a foot and held still, he got a treat. When he nicely put his foot down when I was done, he got another treat. I have not yet cleaned his feet out so easily! I spent time grooming and just loving on him, and he seemed very calm and willing to spend time with me. I would love to teach him to pick up his feet like you have taught your horses! That definitely takes time though-my Paso that I’ve had for 10 years is that way when I groom him. It just takes lots of repitition and patience!

    Comet’s stall is 19 x 25. Since the ground is super muddy where I live right now, do you think it would be safe to hop on him in his stall? I would have my boyfriend hold his halter while I do so. Just curious, as Joe-Joe suggested just sitting on him bareback to work with bonding. Just trying to think of some things that might help!

    I have never tried anything from Paralelli before. But it sounds like you have had great success! I will definitely have to check into that and see what I can do with Comet. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    Ponygirl,
    I very much admire your willingness to take on a rescue; it takes tremendous caring and courage, the commitment to make a difference. Comet will be a different horse after he has some time with you. Take lots of before and after photos, and maybe make a journal of your progress. Seeing him everyday, you might feel stagnant, but if you go back and read how he was on his earlier days, you will feel encouraged.

    Everyone is different in their approach and you will know best how he responds if something works or doesn’t. I’m so glad the feet cleaning worked well, in no time he’ll get the idea that you say when the feet get picked up and you say when the foot stays put. That will increase your safety working with him on the ground. I don’t ride a horse until I reach that point – but that is my rule because I don’t bounce anymore – I splatter. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Since I have no idea how he responds under saddle, I can’t safely advise you on this point. If he is used to bareback riders, he may respond to that, but if he is used to a saddle, he may wonder what is up with you?! Mine would not be as nice to you bareback as with a saddle (daughter proved this with a Peter Pan off the back of Mischief) because many of their cues are seat cues rather than rein cues. Tugging the reins on a paso (as you know) collects them rather than slows them – stride then becomes shorter and faster and holding on with legs is the cue to go faster still. Bareback would not be my suggestion. I’d put a saddle on him and see how he responds. Does he get tense with a saddle? Have your boyfriend lead you when in the saddle – does Comet tense up when moving? Then if his ears are mellow, I’d try moving out on your own. However, Joe-Joe has lots of knowledge and experience too, and perhaps bareback is the way to go.

    My trainer would take the small stall approach and she is way smarter than I am, but I’d try to take the stress out of the small place and mount in an open pasture – what you do should be strictly based on the horse’s response to both. It sounds like Comet may prefer his stall to the pasture, work with him where he is less stressed/distracted.

    Alois Podhajsky: โ€œWhen I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure itโ€™s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    ponygirl360 Original Poster ponygirl360
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 41

    Well, I rode him at the rescue, when he wasn’t in tip-top shape. I have taught him to lunge, and I put a saddle on him while lunging. I used a western saddle and he did not seem at all bothered by the bouncing stirrups or anything. He was a very good boy! When he sees something that he thinks might be spooky, he is the type to stop and stare, instead of run me over or lose his mind. And that makes me happy. haha But anyways, I have not gotten on him yet at the farm. I am unsure of what kind of bit to use, so I have put it off. I was hoping to get on and, as you suggested, just have my boyfriend walk him around with his halter on. See how that goes and maybe move on from there. I’m thinking the saddle would be the safest way to go for now. I’m hoping to experiment with this, this coming week! I will definitely let you know how it goes ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for me not knowing what kind of bit to use, do you have any suggestions? At the rescue, I rode English, and I can’t remember exactly what type of bit it was. I want to say an eggbut snaffle. Is that a thing? Comet was NOT happy. He was continually tossing his head whenever I touched the reins and was reluctant to turn. I don’t think he liked it at all. I don’t want to put something on him that is way too severe for him and that will scare him. But, I also don’t want to throw something way too light on him and have him take off. I was thinking start with my basic snaffle and go from there? I’ve never actually had to do this with a horse before. My 3 year old Paint is a complete dream to work with-so willing and he must’ve had a very good start with the breeder he came from! So, I’m a little spoiled, and again, Comet is complete new territory to me ๐Ÿ™‚

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