It is easy to understand why so many horses are “Barnsour” or “Herdbound”. They are reluctant to leave home. Going out for a ride means a slow pace. Conversely on the way home, they are in a hurry, have to be restrained, and want to accelerate.
Because home, the barn, the paddock or pasture means home. That’s where the herd is, even if it consists of one other animal. That’s where there is food, comfort and a feeling of security.
Being saddled and ridden out means work. It means discomfort, both physical and mental.
This is one of the most common behavior problems complained about by horse owners. It is an easy problem to prevent. The method I will describe can also be used to overcome the behavior, but, as in all equine behaviors, it will require much, much more time to change the horse’s attitude, plus patience, determination, and empathy by the human.
First, let’s reflect upon why the horse is reluctant to leave home, and is so eager to get back there.
Home means comfort and security.
What do most riders do when the ride is over?
They dismount. Aah! That feels good.
They unbridle and unsaddle. Aah!
Then, many tell me they offer a snack. Aah!
Next, some riders groom, or offer water to drink, or maybe hose off the horse’s back. Aah!
Or maybe they just return the horse to its enclosure and companions. Aah! Comfort! Security!
Wouldn’t you prefer to get home than to head out to the outside world filled with physical and mental discomforts?
Let me describe the methods I have used to prevent these misbehaviors when starting colts and which, as a result, is the reason I have never had a “barnsour” or “herdbound” horse.
Remember, this can be used to prevent the problems, or to correct them, except that the latter will require much more time and repetition. “An ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure.”
The first time or two I take a horse on the trail, away from home, I lead the horse from another horse. The horse I ride is well known to the one I ma leading and teaching, and they get along well together.
I make that first trip outside a short and comfortable one. Of course I’m talking about a horse already broke to ride, even if it has all been at home, close to where it lives and close to its companions.
Then, if all went well on that first (or more) brief explorations, I will saddle up the horse to be trained, making sure it is thirsty. Then I quietly ride out, not too far, and allow the horse to drink at the creek across from my place. I will also allow a few minutes of grazing.
With each such ride I go a bit farther, varying the direction, and rewarding with a bit of grass and water.
Soon, going “out” means comfort.
Doesn’t that make sense? No wonder my horses love to go out and see the countryside.
Next: When I get home, even from those first ten or twenty minute rides, I go direct to my arena and work the horse for a while. That’s work. Discomfort!
Then, importantly, I don’t unsaddle and put the horse away. That’s comfort.
No! I tie the horse up for half an hour. I may loosen the cinch, but standing tied for a spell prevents the desire to rush home, especially if preceded by a brief workout.
Each time I lengthen the time the horse is tied up, working towards a two-hour session.
Pretty soon that horse wants to go out to enjoy the trail, even if I discontinue the drink and the brief graze, and it does not want to go home because it knows that will mean work and being tied up for a spell.
As my horse develops a fondness for leaving home and a reluctance to return, I may do some variations. For example, I will ride home and then continue my trail ride in another direction.
Or, I may do that after the tie lesson.
Or, I may reverse the order: ride, tie, then workout, then tie again.
What it’s all about is preventing anticipation. Horses are extremely fast learners. If you teach them not to anticipate the day’s work, but to accept it, you will avoid the problem of the “barnsour” or “herdbound” horse.
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