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Training Tips to Overcome Your Barn-Gate-Buddy Sour Horse



Richard Winters

Richard Winters

Have you ever found yourself in one of  the following real life scenarios?

  1. You and your  husband have paid good money to ride in a  clinic and both horses get frantic every time  you attempt to ride in opposite directions.
  2. You’re  riding in an arena and every time you start  back toward the  gate your horse  speeds up.
  3. You  are out on a long  trail ride and as  soon as you  turn back toward  home, your horse  becomes excited  and jigs all the  way back to the  barn.
  4. You want to  ride out from the  barn and go for  a leisurely trail  ride but encounter  a horse that will not  go forward and is attempting to rear, whirl, and  run back to the barn.
  5. Maybe you have asked  your reining horse to do a run-down through  the center of the arena but rather than run in a  straight line, it feels like there is a magnet  pulling your horse off the line and toward the  gate.

Barn sour, gate sour, or buddy sour.   No  matter the label, it’s no fun!

Let’s talk about  what causes these behaviors and see if we can  try to counteract them.

Horses are creatures of habit and they  quickly pick up on routines.   They soon realize  where they experience discomfort and where  they can be comfortable.   They understand that  the arena means work and that the gate leads  back to comfort.   A horse learns quickly that heading  back home from a trail ride means that work  will soon be over.   Of course, they’re right!   We  subconsciously train them to understand where  they have to work and where they can rest.

The  following suggested training tips will probably not  be the most convenient.   However, they are simple  and can go a long way in balancing out your  horse.

  1. Don’t make a habit of riding out the arena  gate and going directly to the barn after a workout.   At the end of your training session, ride to the  far end of the arena, stop, dismount, loosen your  cinch, and lead your horse back to the barn.
  2. If your arena has more than one gate, exit  from a different gate than which you entered.
  3. When completing a ride, continue to ride past  where you would normally dismount and unsaddle.   Keep riding well past that area and then dismount  and lead your horse back.
  4. If your horse speeds up when  going toward the gate, trot multiple  figure eights in front of the  gate and then trot to the other end  of the arena.   Now, stop and rest  there for a few moments.
  5. If your horse is resistant to  leaving the barn area, begin a  training session right there.   Trot  around the barn, trailers, and  hitching rail and then  walk out away from  the barn quietly.   If  you encounter resistance,  trot more circles  around the barnyard  and walk away again.   When your  horse leaves the barn area willingly,  ride out a ways and then dismount  and walk your horse  back to the barnyard.
  6. When schooling,  at a horse show,  allow your horse to  stop, rest, and relax  at the farthest point  from the gate that he  gravitates towards.   When your horse starts looking  for his stable mate, head right  over to his pal and trot about a  dozen tight circles around him and  then take off and rest somewhere  else.   Repeat this as often as necessary.   After a while your horse  won’t be so inclined to want to be  with his buddy.

I imagine that you’re getting the  idea!   As with any training scenario, you simply  make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.   If your horse wants to go to the gate, make  him work at the gate.   If he won’t leave the barnyard,  make your horse work at the barnyard.   Rest  where your horse thinks he should be working  and work where your horse would generally rest.   Whenever I feel “magnets” drawing my horse to  a certain spot ““ I begin using reverse psychology  to reprogram my horse and get him mentally balanced.   A conscientious rider feels these things  and begins to nip it in the bud before it becomes  a serious issue.   Paying attention and taking a little  extra time can turn your sour horse back into  something sweet.

For more information  about Richard Winters Horsemanship  please go to


This article previously published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 3, Issue5


Barn or Buddy Sour Horses are hard to love . . . how do you tackle this training issue?

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