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Cheri Wolfe

Re-schooling Gate Spoiled Barrel Horses!

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I hope you fellow board members do not mind me writing up a separate post instead of just replying on a certain question. I have been asked by several of you to do this so they could find a certain post and they could copy ones they want to keep.

More than once I have offered my observations and suggestions of how to deal with gate spoiled barrel horses (or any arena horses) and how to avoid this from happening. When I was training for the public, I never trained and hauled barrel horses but I helped no fewer than 20 barrel racers (some very serious ones) with their horses and several of those had arena spoiled or gate spoiled horses .

I don't think many riders relate what they think they are doing to what the horse knows they are doing. It is like giving a horse a 'treat' when you get back to the barn -- because the horse gave you a good ride. Does anyone here really think the horse relates how they trained and worked during the last hour to the treat they got at the end of the ride? If he actually relates it to anything, it is going back to the barn, getting his rider off of his back and being rewarded for going to the barn.

So, I think many riders need to analyze what their horse actually thinks about going into the arena, running a barrel pattern, leaving the arena and being 'rewarded'.

How often do we see a horse argue (at best) or fight going into the arena, then run a pattern where he is 'jerked' going into a barrel, pulled on all the way around the barrel, spurred and whipped to the next two barrels, then spurred and whipped with an 'over and under' all the way out of the gate. Then, as soon as the horse gets out of the arena, the reins are relaxed and the horse is praised and patted or dismounted.

Now, do you think he related the loose rein, the petting and the total release (relief) to running his heart out and doing a good job in the arena or to getting heck out of that da**** place where he was whipped, spurred and punished? Now, I am not saying this is how everyone rides that has gate problems, but I have watched many horses develop problems from just this kind of riding.

When you effectively train a horse, you should be trying to not punish him or make it uncomfortable for him to do the job you are teaching him to do. If you have to jerk him, whip or spur him, he isn't trained enough and he will soon get tired of doing this job. He WILL rebel. Have you ever watched good reining horses run a reining pattern? Have you seen any good trainer spurring a horse to do a spin? He may have used a spur when teaching a horse to spin or to remind and correct a horse that is not working up to par, but you will never see a horse being spurred in a pattern while being shown. It would be the best way to get a horse to quit working well for his rider and to resent going into the arena.

There are several ways you avoid this from happening. Here are a few of them:

1) The most obvious is to actually 'train' the horse to do his job so you don't have to jerk and spur during the pattern. Watch videos of you riding your horse. Watch your ride instead of watching the horse's performance. Ask yourself if you would want to go into the arena to be ridden the way you are riding your horse.

2) One of the most important thing to remember is to do MANY slow patterns working on correctness and not speed. 10 to 1 or 20 to 1 or even 40 to 1 slow to fast patterns is much more productive. Do patterns at half speed, 3/4 speed and only occasionally at full speed. Race horses are trained with hundreds of slow gallops, 'breezes, 2 minute miles (3/4 speed) and a very few hard work-outs at race speed. If they were not trained this way, every race horse would be too loony to ever get to a race. They would flip in the gate, wash out in the paddock or post parade and would never make the winner's circle. (They would make the 'Steward's List' instead.) All of the slow work keeps their mind working as well as 'legging them up'. A barrel horse is no different or a roping horse or a reiner. It take MANY, many more slow correct maneuvers to build a horse that can make a correct fast run. Roping horse are taught to score in the box, rate slow cattle and rope slow cattle by the hundreds before they are ever asked to run after and rope a fast steer. Then, they are asked to score again and rope 20 or 30 slow steers.

3) When training, DO NOT run out of the gate at full speed. If a horse knows how to run and runs full out when you ask for full out, then you do not need to practice that anymore. One 'tune-up' run occasionally will assure you that he is ready.

4) Whenever you can, DO NOT ride out of the gate at all. Ride to the far end of the arena or ride to a barrel, stop, stand, relax, dismount, loosen your girth and lead out a different gate. I learned that when training roping horses, when you are through riding, ride into the box, score a couple of steers, relax, dismount, loosen the girth and lead out. Most show trainers dismount at the far end of an arena and lead out whenever they can. I teach the 4-H kids to never stop, stand ride to or dismount by the gate or by a person standing along the rail. Always go to the far corner or to any place that a horse does not like to be , stop, relax, dismount, loosen the girth and lead out -- a different gate if possible. Do I sound like a broken record? You bet. Hardly a day used to go by that I did not have to remind someone that they should not ride out of the gate, much less run out of the gate. You would not run your horse to the barn (I hope) so do not run him out of a gate and expect him to want to go back in.

5) Do many schooling rides and slow runs in busy, noisy arenas. When I used to re-school blown up horses, I went first to playdays and practice ropings. I stayed away from jack-pots and events where money was on the line so I would not be criticized for 'messing up' someone else's ride or concentration. I was careful to only ride in the arena and lope circles when the ropers were in there warming up or were running cattle up the return alley. If everyone else was going one direction, I also loped circles that way (you'll be doing a lot more counter-clockwise circles than right hended circles at a roping practice session). I made sure to stay out of everyone's way. If someone got on my case for going too slow at a playday -- well, I would explain one time that I came to school a horse and not practice for time. Then, I just ignored them. No need to be catty or on the defense. Just go about doing your job at hand. After a time or two, they will learn to give you your 'run' to do as you pleased. I just stayed out of jack-pots or money events.

6) If you can 'play' with another event and not put pressure on your horse, go for it. You just have to keep in mind that you are not trying to 'win' that event but are trying to use your run for schooling your horse. This is not the time to be 'competitive'. Lots of barrel horses get a lot more handle on them and learn to respond to a rider better when you 'play' with them at a team sorting. I have ridden them in everything from equitation classes to hunter hack classes over low fences. You cannot get a horse too broke or too responsive. At the same time, you start slowly giving the horse back some confidence in his rider and more comfortable at being in an arena instead of dreading it and wanting out.

7) Finally -- have the right mind-set when you go in to actually run the barrels. Concentrate on riding in a relaxed manner to the gate and into the pen. Most people give a horse many 'pre-signals' that they are going in a run a pattern hard. They ride with a tighter rein, tighter legs, lean forward more, etc. Unless you have a lot of money on the line and you HAVE to 'go for it', it is not set in stone that you have to run a fast pattern. If your horse is on the verge of falling apart, trot to the first barrel, trot to the second barrel, trot to the third barrel, get off and lead out. Anybody that counts will understand what you are doing.

Re-schooling exercises and maneuvers:

First -- Teach a horse that you can take his head away from him. I know some barrel racers think that doing this will teach a horse to stop instead of 'check' or rate going into a barrel. It will not do that as long as you apply it differently than you ask a horse to check. Think of it this way: A reining trainer teaches a horse to do sliding stops. He also teaches a horse to go from a wide open fast circle to a slow circle with only body language to differentiate it to the horse. A finished reiner will go from that fast circle to a collected slow circle without the rider ever picking up the reins. Different body language will tell that same horse to lock up and slide 30 feet. The difference -- usually it is that the rider shoves his feet forward to stop and keeps them under him and just sits back in the saddle to drop to a slow lope. A finished horse does not get confused and slide in the middle of a circle.

If you sit back and sit deep into your saddle for a 'one rein stop' and stay more forward with your feet more under you to check a horse, he will never confuse the two. All you have to do is be 100% consistent -- which you should be anyway.

You want to teach a 'blown up' horse to stop and give you his head so that you can 'turn him off' if he starts to get reactive and out of control. You can do this in the lane going to the arena or at any time he gets too silly in the arena. You take his head away from him before he starts rearing or leaping and lunging.

You absolutely need to fully teach a horse to give you its head before you put him in a stressful position. Look up my old post on how to teach a horse to correctly give you its head. Here is the link to it if you need it. When taught correctly, any horse, anywhere will stop and give you his head -- no matter what is going on. It really works.

Another thing to remember is that you have very limited control on a reactive horse if you use both reins equally at the same time. This is what quite often brings on rearing. Either bring a horse's head to your knee and ask him to come to a complete stop or do serpentines and leg yielding exercises to get him back on your page.

Also, If a horse has the bad habit of ducking around to head away from the arena, always turn him back the opposite direction. If he ducks around before you can stop him, take away his head by bringing it to your knee ALWAYS going to the other direction. If he ducks around to the left, take his head away from him to the right. Then, continue on, expecting him to do it more than once. If you take his head away every time he ducks around and then immediately turn him toward the right direction, they usually give it up. If he doesn't, you just have to get quicker, grab a rein, stick a spur in his ribs and 'drive' forward with both spurs until he does give it up. Just be sure that you only inflict misery on him when he is misbehaving and never when you are trying to get him to do something he is cooperating with you on.

Finally, teach every barrel horse to spiral in and out of circles. Teach a horse to make a 10 foot circle and continue on to a 20 foot, then 30 foot and finally all the way to a 40 foot circle with only leg pressure widening out the circle. Keep the horse's head in the exact same position the entire time. Then, work the circle back into a small 10 foot circle with only outside leg. Try to keep the horse's head exactly straight, directly in front of him and not bring the circle in by using the inside rein. Teach a horse to do it only with obedience to your legs. Do left and right circles. Spiral in and spiral out. When a horse gets broke enough, you can spiral in with his head to the outside (reverse bend). But, make sure you can get correct circles with his head straight in front of him before asking for reverse bend. If a horse is not pretty well between your reins and your legs, this exercise with reverse bend can result in a horse dropping his inside shoulder. I make sure a horse is 'standing up' very good in his shoulders before teaching this exercise. Getting horses to work into and out of circles of varying sizes with their head exactly straight in front of them demonstrates to them and to you that you have good body control without doing them with reverse bend. But, teaching reverse bend is a very good way to teach correct flying lead changes without having a horse 'dive ' into the new lead.

Edited by Cheri Wolfe

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[Not Worthy]

Good post Cheri.

I remember watching a very gate sour horse who was treated exactly as you said...whipped and spurred HARD all through the pattern. This was a horse who had some talent but not at the level the rider wanted to be...the rider wanted a 1D/Rodeo horse and at best this horse was a 2D. I watched this woman spend 15 MINUTES trying to get her horse into the arena for a run. She ended up leading the horse in and mounting in the arena, which led to the horse rearing up and throwing her off. Then the horse ran to the far end of the arena and tried to JUMP the panel...right in front of me, which was scary. When she finally got on the horse and made the run...she knocked over every single barrel.

And you might ask, why didn't the association director put a stop to it? well, she WAS the association director.

:rolleye0014:

A good barrel horse might fuss a little at the gate out of excitement but not totally refuse. If they are refusing the gate, there's usually a problem to be addressed. Just like if a horse runs up a wall (goes by a barrel)...there's a reason. I've done show classes and dressage on my barrel horses to keep their minds on their job.

A good barrel horse cues with body position, hand position, leg position, and guidance on the reins. I set up my turns by shifting of weight, using my inside leg to arc his ribs and engage his hind end, roll my wrist, and simply guide my horse out of the turn. No yanking or spurring, just contact with leg and reins.

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:notworthy:

When I was schooling my reiner at shows. My trainer always had me go to the warm up pen and school after a run so he didn't associate leaving arena to being done. And if I was schooling in the arena, I would get off, loosen the cinch and leave through a side gate. Worked like a charm, that horse NEVER got fussy about a gate ever.

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:notworthy:

When I was schooling my reiner at shows. My trainer always had me go to the warm up pen and school after a run so he didn't associate leaving arena to being done. And if I was schooling in the arena, I would get off, loosen the cinch and leave through a side gate. Worked like a charm, that horse NEVER got fussy about a gate ever.

Oh absolutely! And i forgot to address this part, but when training i never run out of the arena, and i make it a habit at home and at runs to dismount IN the arena and lead my horse out whenever possible (not always safe at a warm up at a run).

Even if i'm coming home from a simple trail ride i dismount AWAY from the trailer (where i tack up), loosen the cinch and lead my horse. When i'm riding in the "arena" pasture i face away from the gate, make my horse stand quiet, then dismount, loosen the cinch and lead them out.

It's common at small barrel runs for people to ride a horse in the arena gate during a rake, dismount, loosen the cinch and lead the horse away. That's what small runs are for...training. I make it a point to make even Panama, who has been doing this for 15 yrs, walk in during a rake, stand quiet, and leave the arena on a loose rein.

It's simply good horsemanship.

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Great, pithy advice, Cheri. Thanks. (And I rarely do anything in the arena with my horse, but it's just good sound training, what you suggest.)

My daughter rides at a local gymkhana, and an acquaintance showed up one day, and as we were standing at the rail of the arena together, watching the out of control riders, she commented, "These parents must hate their kids."

My kid is still in the lower levels at this gymkhana, but I stress safety first, and have put her horse in the trailer and gone home when she didn't listen to me (only had to do that once). Two dollar ribbons are not worth a trip to the hospital or a bowed tendon.

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Okay, So Im guessing this was kind of directed towards my desperation or it may seem that way anyhow.

BUT...In my case, no, it doesn't even convey the entire issue. The issue here is simply foul/rank gate entry.

NOW...when I go to the arena and work him or practice for an upcoming race he has no issues what-so-ever.

Add people to watch him ((5 or 500)) and its a steady battle.

I have been working with this horse for a while now getting him back soft and controlled.

He gives very well to pressure and moves all aspects of his body off leg/position changes.

But the SECOND he takes a step towards the gate. Breaks hit and nothing short of purely giving up will make him go in. Which is exactly what happens. As for "bring his head to your knee" Thats alot easier said than done when he's at your knee but just spinning further and further backwards.

Now...with all this said....my post was not purely a "gate issue".

My post was a question of sorts to explain and present the situation in its entirety to get a simple and direct answer on how any one of you would go about starting to overcome this problem. Not that all you said wasn't good points or anything, but Ive thought about all that myself.

example: he gets strung out and ducks away from the gate...i turn him around and he ducks away again. I bring his head to my knee and bam....shotgun goes off and he's literally jumping off his front feet to get away. I agree with everything you've said. But no amount of slow work and release has yet to get a reaction. and when I say rearing Im not talking about sissy stuff Im talking about high enough to really cause some damage if anyone was nearby. WHICH is why I dont push the issue when people are around...but HOW are you supposed to fix the issue when the only time he does it is around other people??? I can slow work him all day long in the situation but literally it was about 10 foot to the holding pen from where we slow worked (along with everyone else) and it still didn't help. Its the same situation EVERY time I take him somewhere. Im not putting other people and their horses in my line of fire just to "get him over something" so working in the situation is just something that can't be done given how bad he actually is. Now I have no problem with dealing with a rank horse. Im balls to the wall-get it done kind of attitude but not when it comes to the safety of others being in jeopardy because of it. Although I love my horse and he's amazing at what he does, this has become a problem I fear will wind up getting me or someone else nearby very hurt.

TRUST ME. Ive had a nervous antsy horse, now retired after running for 10 years. But this is beyond antsy and nervous. Its almost "afraid".

""a horse that is taught this will defuse just about any situation""

I read that post. Very good.

But the more you ask of him, the worse it becomes.

and like I said...how are you to fix a problem that never occurs but in certain situations??

EVEN though he does all these things you have mentioned...applied to this situation

it doesn't seem to matter because he doesn't respond AT ALL. I can get off and hit the ground and he acts like Im coming at him with a chainsaw in my arms.

Edited by SkipsInvested

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Skips...

You won't like this. Part of the problem with your horse is you. You can prove me wrong though.

You must know at least one person who is a hand enough to ride your horse. Have them ride him at an event with people there. See what happen. You likely get all keyed up prior to a run and with people there it only amplifies your feelings. Your horse is insecure and when he feels you get ramped up, it only serves to let him know that there is indeed a reason to avoid doing anything.

If he acts the same, well at least you'll know.

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Ok -- here we go!

To start off, I have my flame-proof suit on and zipped up.

First thing you did wrong the other day is run a fast pattern and run out the gate. If you had that much trouble getting in the gate, you should have loped a circle, and gone out a different gate. Like I said before, the people that would care don't count and the people who know enough for me to care about will understand.

Now, If your horse spins around in circles when you take his head to your knee, you have not practiced it enough before trying it under pressure. If you practice it enough in the training pen, even your flaky horse will give to it under pressure.

Next, if he only flakes out with a crowd, I suggested working him at roping or team sorting practices. You ride in the gate and lope circles every time the arena is available. You lead or ride out a different gate every time. These are not suggestions to ride in an empty arena. These are suggestions to put him in busy arenas.

I would also put a halter on under his bridle and teach him to pony -- first without a rider and later with a rider. At a roping practice, it should be easy to find someone that will pony him in and then after loping one or two circles with him, have them take of the lead and you can ride him there.

There are a lot of things you can do to be more creative in your training. BUT--

Now, a question for you?

Is this thew horse at the bottom of your siggy? Is he a Conclusive bred horse? If he is, you have what you have. Impressive bred horses (particularly Conclusive) are noted for flaking out when you put pressure on them. Many will train OK but never let someone actually compete on them at a decent level. I've seen them by the dozen and they are just like yours . I've seen people try to run barrels on them, rope on them and work cows on them and have only seen one that took the pressure, a barrel horse by 'The Heavy Hitter' that won $25,000.00 (and it did not look like an Impressive). The Heavy Hitter was an own son. Now, you can get many generations away and there are horses that train for performance IN SPITE OF THEIR IMPRESSIVE BREEDING, but I do not know of one performance trainer that likes them or looks for them. Many do not even take them because they don't need the money bad enough to deal with them. I do not know of any performance trainers (barrels, roping, cow horses, etc.) that will not tell clients to stay completely away from them. There are just too many of them that will let you put one to two years in them and then find out they won't take the pressure.

They are VERY smart -- but they use their intelligence to try to beat you at your game -- whatever it is. This one has gotten smart and has a very ingrained habit of ducking around at the gate. He is in charge there and he knows it. If there is any fixing it, it will take a crude and severe form of punishment that makes him wish he had not tried it the first time.

I know we have been here before, but I have seen too many for anyone to change my mind. If you have an Impressive bred horse and you have competed on him at a high level successfully under great pressure -- well, he trained to that level IN SPITE OF HIS IMPRESSIVE BREEDING. You will never convince me otherwise.

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Cheri...i have friends who own one of those exceptions. He's Impressive (4 gens back) but also Easy Jet. Thankfully, the Easy Jet was stronger and this horse was a solid and honest barrel horse. They called him their "money" horse because he almost always got a paycheck.

Other than those exceptions i agree with you. I've had some experience with Impressive horses but not extensive, mostly i've seen others dealing with problems. My paint gelding Spot is Impressive (N/N) but it's 8 generations back. He's also line bred SKipper W on his mother's side with a little more Skipper W from the sire, so he has more of the Skipper W attitude than anything else.

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EDITED:: I didn't mean to come off rude if I did. I guess you just have to (or maybe you do) understand my frustration. Its so disheartning.

They are VERY smart -- but they use their intelligence to try to beat you at your game -- whatever it is. This one has gotten smart and has a very ingrained habit of ducking around at the gate. He is in charge there and he knows it. If there is any fixing it, it will take a crude and severe form of punishment that makes him wish he had not tried it the first time.

THIS is what Im talking about. HE is intelligent and will do anything you ask, but he knows he's smart...too smart and everyone in my family ((including me)) has said this. He is impressive bred. He's out of mr conclusion. Ive heard the same thing about his breeding as you.

Your right, I should have not ran, but after already having paid 45 dollars and working him so hard to be better in general I was PISSED!! I meant I wasn't leaving till he ran that pattern. Maybe wrong, but thats just how I felt. The thing is I don't have anywhere to go and work him like this. I live in south alabama and the only ropings around here are few and far between. Playdays we have an abundance of, but Ive been doing that on him for years now. Sometimes he's fine. Sometimes he's not. Ive always felt that was a good atmosphere for imporvement and a way to overcome certain things, but it seems like maybe its going to be this way forever. I mean I hate it, but Ill ride him like this till the day he dies if things dont get better. I mean there's only so much I can do I guess.

I on the other hand DO NOT think that any amount of "training" will diffuse this bomb once he starts ticking. He shuts down completely and becomes like some kind of game to him. He's 1200lb horse...if he doesn't let me get his head (which is near impossible in that state of mind) he doesn't have to let me. He has more strength in his neck than me and you put together. But Im not going to tip toe around him; not going here and not doing this just because he acts like an idiot.

I refuse to get rid of him and I refuse to stop racing him. Laying off for a while and coming back, hasn't done a thing for him. THIS was his very first time out in a year and it was still this bad.

maybe if I season him a little more and more often things will get better. I mean he's been seasoned one year and that was the year after I graduated. So its been a good two years since all of the barrel racing, play days.

Might I add that I used this horse for drill team for two years and even then he had his moments where he wouldn't go into the gate with 20 other horses trying to go in all at the same time. I ended up having to quit due to college, but even after two years, he'd still try me and was very unreliable about going in. So I never even got to run a rodeo on him.

I went to many parades with no problems what-so-ever. He doesn't spook the first bit.

They are VERY smart -- but they use their intelligence to try to beat you at your game -- whatever it is. This one has gotten smart and has a very ingrained habit of ducking around at the gate. He is in charge there and he knows it. If there is any fixing it, it will take a crude and severe form of punishment that makes him wish he had not tried it the first time.

My retired is a skipper w and the attitude is so much different. honestly Ive been looking for a young one ever since we retired him. They have such a nack for being headstrong and allout manly. I loved him. It just hurts my feelings so bad knowing that my old reliable isn't there anymore to help me out when this one throws me to the wolves. He was such a doll....We had some good times me and Skip. Lordy I dont know what Ill do when he isn't here. Ive had him since I was 15 (im 21 now) and he is the same age....we both have may birthdays. :D

Edited by SkipsInvested

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I'm so glad you posted this. I have a mare that I'm attempting to rehab. I took it really slow with her when I bought her a year and a half ago. We did walk/trot and western pleasure classes at small local shows. That got her less nervous about going in and out the same gate we ran in for barrels. I started "running" her again after doing the other classes a while and I got her to where I could walk her in the gate. Previously she would rear, spin, anything to get out of there. So all went well, I took her back to an arena we run a winter series at every year. A place that she had been "practiced" on many times before by the previous owner. The day I took her back to that arena, all my work unraveled. She was a nervous wreck and acted like she did before I bought her. So after that I attempted to fix her again, but decided I would turn her out again until I could figure out another/ better way to "fix" her. I should mention that she rides like a dream. When she is really in tune you basically just need a voice and shifting weight to control her. She is such an amazing horse, that has absolutely no self confidence. She is Streaking Six/ Peppy San Badger bred. I wanted to try sorting on her, but she is deathly afraid of cattle. My other barrel horses really enjoy team penning, the few times I've had the opportunity to do it. I will definitely try some of the techniques you posted. I guess I should also add that she has been checked by a vet over and over. She had ulcers, but she has been treated for them and is on a preventative supplement now. I try to keep hay in front of her at the trailer for that. So I guess I may be asking do you think that there is a hope of me ever getting her to accept that arena? She also was the horse that got picked on in the pasture by everyone, but now she is with a yearling that she can push around. Previous to now I had never seen her establish dominance so I'm hoping that by being with that yearling she will become more self confident. That might be crazy, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

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Great post, Cheri.

First, Skips Invested .... I truly hate to hear a barrel racer working on issues like you've got who refuses to 'stop running'. I don't know your philosophy ... or even what 'stop running' means to you ... so this may not apply to you at all.

BUT .... when a horse stops working (and not coming in sure fits under that category), competition stops until that issue is resolved. If your horse is good enough to haul, pay fees and fuel for ... he's good enough too care to fix. A simple 'pilot error' issue can be ridden through. A issue for your horse turned patholigical such as refusal, ducking, shouldering, bowing off of the backside? You need to dedicate yourself to going back to the basics and/or retraining. Continueing to run such a horse is just asking for further disaster .... more crap to try to fix or just totally toasting your horse.

Competition is only good when you are at your best .... why haul and pay fees just to train your problem more deeply on to your horse?

Training/EXH/time only's, formal practice sessions with friends? Use those to keep your eyes on the ONLY goal for the entry ... which is just that. Getting in .... getting off ... getting out. No runs until you can do this with out struggle.

Then ... spur and whip and hustle free .... get him in a work a set correctly with sweet hands and body position from you. Pull up in the arena and pull your girth loose as you walk him out. When he's OK with all that ... re~evaluate WHERE you need to pressure him to get your best runs .... and don't pressure him anywhere else. He needs batted to catch a gear? Hit him ONCE. Needs 'kicked' to keep moving? Use your pulsing calves instead of trying to gouge his heart out with spurs every jump. TEACH him to run when you ask with sprints outside of the arena .... bat him HARD and SMOOCH. You'll find that the 'smooch' will stick and you won't have to actually crucify him with artificial aids during a run.

Keep the arena a sweeter, fairer, saner place.

I rode a novice barrel horse of mine in the warm up pens at a big barrel race this weekend. He's been hauled some, but has never felt the different pressure of such a place or been warmed up in close quarters with riders of all kinds doing all manner of crazy things with the intensity that comes with LOTS of cash on the line.

My ex racehorse found himself working against some pretty heavy and quick moving traffic in a tight area and just sold out. It terrified him and he was going to fly backwards, turn and try to run off ... once in each different warm up pen. I talked him out of it ... but the second time (worked down a bit by then) when he started to stick when faced with loping up the middle of two oncoming horses, I just sat down, legged him forward and smooched a little. I felt badly doing it because smooching and random whip baths aren't real polite things to do in barrel horse company .... but it didn't take a lot before mine found his courage and loped on.

Horses are like baking ..... they need ALL of the ingredients and the time it takes to bake in order for them to be all that they can be. Find a way to give your horse what he's missing no matter how long or how many 'points' you might miss fixing him.

If he's worth hauling? He's worth getting right.

Edited to add: Winners LOVE what they do ..... it's up to us to figure out how to keep them fresh and loving it. Some horses will run barrels even though they hate it, but they won't be any fun at all. Career change for those horses would be in order.

Edited by quarterflash

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Skips Invested-

You have a lot to think about don't you?

I am not going to sugar coat this, because I think you need to hear straight out how this seems from an outsider.

You REFUSE to part with the horse.

You REFUSE to quit racing the horse.

And yet you refuse to properly school the horse.

I cannot STRESS to you how important it is PROPERLY keep a horse schooled up so that it can compete and work in a controlled and safe manner. You are stressed out because your horse is gate sour. But you ARE making matters worse by refusing to take the advice of members on this board. You might just have a flaky horse. And if that is the case, he will probably always be a flaky cheater and you will always have problems. But if the case is that you have a horse that at least wants to be honest, than you have an option.

Go to a penning, or a small race, or somewhere where you don't have to dump a lot of money into big entry fees.

Attempt to calmly and quietly enter the arena. When he pitches a fit and gives you the finger, make his life **** there outside of the arena, make him trot tight circles, take his face away, do something that makes life harder outside the pen than inside.

Once he goes inside, lope a couple small, easy, quiet circles.

Stop, and get off your horse.

Loosen the cinch.

Walk out through a side gate.

Rinse and repeat a few more times.

And make a habit of doing that once or twice at each race.

And once he gets better, don't take him straight to his stall or trailer after a run, take him to the warm up arena and make him continue working. Just because he ran doesn't mean he gets to quit and go hang out at the trailer.

If you like the horse enough, you need to do right by him. Either work with him yourself, send him to someone who will do that, or continue fighting tooth and nail and both of you being miserable.

It is pretty simple.

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i am not a trainer-but i have the same problem skip is having--and i found out it was me--i let my neighbor ride my horse--he is the 2007 & 9 nbha senior world champ--so he knows his stuff--and it was me---i was tensing up--making my horse tense up---hubby had someone secretly video me at a practice that i just played at and she went in fine--then at a show wher she spun tot eh left-then when i relaxed the rein she fired off into the pen--it was me--giving fear signals i guess--

now my friends yell-_YELL-get outa her face--and i just drop it--and we go in--sometimes bad habits become ingrained in us--and we dont even know what we r doing wrong!!

just a thought--good luck

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i am not a trainer-but i have the same problem skip is having--and i found out it was me--i let my neighbor ride my horse--he is the 2007 & 9 nbha senior world champ--so he knows his stuff--and it was me---i was tensing up--making my horse tense up---hubby had someone secretly video me at a practice that i just played at and she went in fine--then at a show wher she spun tot eh left-then when i relaxed the rein she fired off into the pen--it was me--giving fear signals i guess--

now my friends yell-_YELL-get outa her face--and i just drop it--and we go in--sometimes bad habits become ingrained in us--and we dont even know what we r doing wrong!!

just a thought--good luck

That is a great point. Sometimes when you expect your horse to act up you get tense and send the wrong signals to your horse. I know that when I get on Sixy it's nothing but keeping my breathing nice and even and my heart beat normal. If mine races so does hers. When I get on Sixy, I try to completely clear my mind and focus completely on the horse. It's hard because people know her and her past and many watch with critical eyes, but you have to ignore ignorant people like that. It's easier said than done though.

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exactly lisa--mine had a bad reputation from when we purchased her--but 6 years later--she listens to me and waits for the signal---its a time and accepting constructive criticism...and good friends that have no problem with yelling at you like your their kid!!!

she used to rear and bolt and everything else--practically ran wild when we bought her--now she is refined and when i stay calm & cool-- we lay down a nice run and usually in the $$--she is a hard horse to ride--but its worth it in the end-LOL

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I cannot STRESS to you how important it is PROPERLY keep a horse schooled up so that it can compete and work in a controlled and safe manner. You are stressed out because your horse is gate sour. But you ARE making matters worse by refusing to take the advice of members on this board. You might just have a flaky horse. And if that is the case, he will probably always be a flaky cheater and you will always have problems. But if the case is that you have a horse that at least wants to be honest, than you have an option.

Go to a penning, or a small race, or somewhere where you don't have to dump a lot of money into big entry fees.

Attempt to calmly and quietly enter the arena. When he pitches a fit and gives you the finger, make his life **** there outside of the arena, make him trot tight circles, take his face away, do something that makes life harder outside the pen than inside.

Yes. I do refuse, because there is no other way for him to get over. Like Ive said over and over and over. He's not gate sour. He goes in fine as long as people aren't around.

and he is properly trained and working fine. When he acts like this...if you take him away from the gate he will let you, and gladly might I add, do anything you ask him. BUT NOT AT THE GATE. Which seems pointless to give him ulitmately what he wants...to get away from it...WHY is my problem. I just dont see any reason why he would act this way in a certain situation given certain circumstances.

I will be going to some small shows and just letting him trot. BUT what am I supposed to do when everyone around me thinks Im crazy for fighting him to get in?? Ill be not only holding everyone up but also endangering other people on the ground?? How are you supposed to even go about conveying to other people what your trying to do??

My point is he's going to fight, no way around it, but the riding him thru it isn't what Im getting, its yet to solve his problem and he's been exibitioned countless times at the fun days. Just not at jackpots and rodeo's here don't exibition even if your riding in it, so no chance there.

Im not ignoring the idea of it being me. I mean Im sure Im partly to blame, Im always calm until he acts bad, then I do get a little tense but other people have tried to ride him in, so its not just me. We had such a bad time one night I wound up having to call the trainer out to help me with him...we didn't run that night. We would wait my turn take him in make a circle just inside the gate and come out and stand in the alley for a second before leaving. So its not just me, its everyone thats ever been on him. Which has been few and far between other than me and my boyfriend and the trainer. My boyfriend is a balls to the walls kind of rider and he finds it very very frustrating to watch me, because apparently he says Im not "man" enough with him. So I let him have at it one day when he started his bullcrap and he spent and hour just going in circles before he finally just walked off.

Edited by SkipsInvested

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I HAVE A VIDEO!!!! Let me get it. Its not of me but its my boyfriend. Maybe you guys can see what Im talking about.

Gimme a sec to upload them

Its only a short clip, but this was last year at the house. He had gotten really buddy sour after we had gotten a new horse. After this he has never acted like that before or since then at home. Just a fluke....but I got it on tape. This is nothing compared to him at the arena...but it shows the "control" you really don't have of him.

http://jaycut.com/mix/109838/preview?context=user_116008

Edited by SkipsInvested

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I know you don't want to hear this, but you said it yourself...the control YOU don't have over him.

He needs to go back to basics. He's threatening to rear, he needs to learn to move forward. Forward through the people and horses, and forward even when he's scared or stressed. And that takes time and not getting frustrated with the horse.

This is still considered to be "gate" or "buddy" sour, face it. I had a palomino gelding that acted a lot like your gelding. Once I got my nerves under control we worked on his issues. It took a lot of slow work, standing, stopping, and praising before we made it half way to the arena. I took the advice of many trainers to make the arena the "safe haven" and to work him outside the arena in circles or sidepass him if needed, but the key was to keep him calm. I started hauling to exhibitions and we put him to the test. Within a month, he went from the horse that ran backwards running into everyone and everything, to a horse who walked in quietly. That's not saying that every now and then he didn't bobble-but when we did we just went back to the basics, staying calm, and making the arena the "safe" area.

Trust me, you need to take time to slow down. To make the arena the "safe" area that means letting the horse go at his pace, no yanking, no jerking, no hitting, no spurring...you get the idea. You want your horse to want to be in that arena. Let him do the work that he wants to do. I know, it'll suck not being in the top of the 1D, but slowing down and allowing your horse to work just might extend his career and save you the embarassment in the long run.

Good luck!

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I completely understand what you guys are saying. Im not trying to be unaccepting. Really Im not. but how much slow work is it really gonna take. He's been slow working for A YEAR!!!

I dont yank or hit or slap, at first we tried that, give him a little smack...UMM....wrong...it makes it TEN TIMES worse.

I mean ugh...idk. maybe im just not getting it.

I guess what Im so tongue tied about is that I keep getting all this advice about slow work and do this and dont do that, but all thats already being done, with no improvement AT ALL!!!

What now??

just to note ((he doesn't attempt to rear up...he hit the truck before he got off the ground...he knows very well how to rear. of course thats not really an issue to bad anymore. Most of the time its just a pissy little stomp on the ground))

Edited by SkipsInvested

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Everything imaginable.

Over the course of time lets see.

Spurred him...in a normal go forward way though, I wasn't digging into him, thats just cruel.

I have picked up my over and under and smacked his butt, enough for some forward motion. ((again backing up up furiously is the main problem, that turns to spinning turns to rearing))

I have had people try to lead me in ((disaster))

I have backed him from here to hong kong, in the mind frame of oooh you wanna back up...lets back up.

Ive been ponied ((that didn't work well either))

Ive lead him in.

Finallly I gave up my bag o tricks and went to riding him again; re working some holes that I thought might be able to help. Well.....thats not working either. Its still the same problem. Same stubborn horse.

Once he's away from everyone and away from the gate. He's back to my 'new' horse, almost immediately.

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He sounds so much like Sunny...don't give up on him.

The goal is to make the arena where he wants to go, and not out with his buddies. You may have to set up a mock situation with your friends, so that way you don't feel rushed or compelled to give in and get off.

I'd ask some friends to meet at the arena to ride and have them stand around the gate. When he starts his BS turn him in circles until he comes to a complete stop. Praise him and ask him to move forward. If he refuses and starts to back up again turn him in circles and feel free to give him a pop with the over and under. When he stops, praise him. Ask him for forward movement. Encourage him forward with a lifted over and under, or even some spur pressure. If he moves forward, praise him and try to be as relaxed as possible. If he starts his backing again, pull him in circles and make him work. Again, when he stops, praise him. Yeah, this seems like an awful lot of work and time, but over time, once he gets into that arena and he no longer has to work being pulled in circles and such, he'll connect the dots.

There is no quick fix for this. He just needs to be reminded that he needs to move forward when he is asked to, regardless of what's going on around him. And that if he can't listen and move forward, then that means he is going to work where he stands. Also, if you feel him starting to rear, encourage him forward without pulling on his head.

Hang in there girl...

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Thanks so much!

Ugh. I feel like you completely hit the nail on the head. Geez hun you have me in tears!!

Thanks so much you guys. I know Im stubborn and irritating but I really appreciate your help!

[Huggy]

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I just read your post, and I had a horse that was doing the same to me. Then I realized some of it was me. While you go up to the gate and there are people watching YOU, do you get nervous? I'm not saying it's your fault, I'm just saying if you get tensed up and nervous, he'll feel that.

If you can get up to the arena to ride around in it, or even before a race, just walk him up there like it's nothing and pat him let him sit for a second, then get off. Then he'll associate it as being in a "good' place. This is what worked with my guy. Another thing you may try, is trotting him up as far as you can get, stopping, rollback, go the other direction, stop, rollback, and repeat until you can get him up to the gate. Once he gets there, stop him, pat him then get off. But when you go to make your run, keep the same attitude as if you're just walking up to hang out..

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So the cures for this out of control gate problem is to school the horse at fun play day type shows. I get that. But what about the bigger leagues where say these ladies/gents (Britni, Charmane, Sheri and those types of competators) don't have time for the fun play day shows to school at? Do the big money runs, allow for a competitor to do the sorts of things you need to do, to keep your horse from being or becoming an out of control gate monster? If they don't should they? How do they keep or school their horse from becoming gate sour?

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So the cures for this out of control gate problem is to school the horse at fun play day type shows. I get that. But what about the bigger leagues where say these ladies/gents (Britni, Charmane, Sheri and those types of competators) don't have time for the fun play day shows to school at? Do the big money runs, allow for a competitor to do the sorts of things you need to do, to keep your horse from being or becoming an out of control gate monster? If they don't should they? How do they keep or school their horse from becoming gate sour?

They (pros) will generally will take young horses or problem horses to a local NBHA or other Divisional run to work out problems. At least that's what i've seen here. There are also mid-week barrel runs all summer long here (Wednesday nights for us) so barrel racers can school a horse between big weekend runs.

But no, big money runs don't allow for schooling and the majority don't allow a horse to circle before running (young or inexperienced horses are often circled to settle them and get their lead before taking off to first barrel).

Bumper

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Ok, Thanks Bumper. [Huggy] Since I know nothing about barrel racers and how they train etc, I was wondering how they managed their horses behaviors at the in gate.

So, is this behavior at least partly a result of too much high intensive training at home? Meaning they run the horse at high speeds too much in practice? Or is this more a result of the horse getting itself hyped up in anticipation of the job ahead and getting to the finish line so it can go eat, or whatever? Or, a horse that is burning out?

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I THINK (from my armchair here in Missouri) that this horse just needs to be taken to a few places where he can be SENT hard and true into the arena with out being in his face at all. He looks like he's taking any contact with his face as an excuse to be balky.

I'd try to send him in hard ... at any arena I could with really no work to do inside.

Send him in 'loose reined' and hard ... then let him ease off in the arena and walk out and be done.

My horse's works (barrel/trail/circle ... whatever was on their agenda for that day) usually end with at least a strong trot to the arena and allowing them to stop before we actually start a pattern of any kind ... but on the track to the first at some point. Get off, loosen, rub and walk back to the barn.

This kind of thing seems to work for me.

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