GallantGirl

Help! My Horse Doesn't Want To Go Home!

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I am hoping someone can help me out with my problem with my horse. I have been riding for almost 30 years and have never experienced this problem.
I have a 7 year old gelding who is super smart. Last summer he developed a habit that I can't seem to figure out how to stop. He loves to go out riding, loves to go exploring, loves to have a job. My problem is that when I turn around to come home he doesn't want to go. He has a small little fit ( a little rear) and then locks up his legs and won't move. I have tried turning him tight circles but he will almost tip over instead. I hold his head right tight to my foot but he doesn't care he'll leave it there for many minutes withouth even changing his facial expression. I have used a crop and get nothing from him. He stands firmly in place and won't move. His back leg just relaxes and he just stays put. My friend who rides with me comes up beside me an pulls on the reins and he'll finally move but only a few steps an then he locks up again. If I can finally get him turned around to go back out he is then fine. I have tried riding him in different places but he knows the turn to the point when we are heading home and this all starts again. He doesn't care if my friend rides off and leaves us alone either. He loves our barn, gets lots of attention and food there and has 3 other barn mates that he loves so it isn't like he hates to go home becuase it is a horrible place.

I am at a loss as to what to do. My next effort is to just let him stand (even though he'll stand there for 15 mins and then take 2 steps and it starts all over again) but I feel like perhaps I'll just have to do this over and over and perhaps he'll get bored and stop this habit.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

UPDATE: Just wanted to let you all know that my boy has taken a turn for the better. I caved and tried to use spurs. Although I didn't want to I felt it was my only option and it works great. Just had to use them gently but it was enough to get his attention and earn the respect I needed from him. Thanks to everyone for all of your suggestions. I really appreciate it!!!!

Edited by GallantGirl

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Oh wow, never had a horse not want to go home before, try ponying him out with other horses and see if you can get him to go that way.

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You HAVE to figure out a way to make him uncomfortable while he is just standing there. If you have to crank his head around and tie off to your saddle horn, then do it....just be prepared to let him loose the SECOND he starts moving his feet again. Do this when you have time enough to sit in the saddle and wait him out. He can NOT stand like that forever.

Your other option would be to wear a pair of spurs that will get his attention. I am not talking about making him bloody, but I am talking about poke-poke-poke until (and ONLY until) he starts moving his feet again. The only problem with that is he might fight back and you would have a war on your hands. I, myself, would opt for the more passive approach.

If he will move in circles, then do it...HARD. Make him work his behiney off EVERY time he sulls up.

I am sorry to say that back in my youth and gross inexperience I created this self-same problem with my first horse, a mare I broke myself. The difference was her sulling up on the way OUT. I did not know what to do about it, so I would give up and take her home. You can see where this is going.

My point is not that you created this (although that is possible) but that I have spent a lot of time thinking about that young girl and young mare and what I would have done differently had I known any better at the time.

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Very strange, and hard to figure out why he is àway sour`, versus home sour`The term for his situation isn`t even coined because it is opposite of any usual reason horses balk-ie horse or barn sour

Is he penned up at home, stalled or kept in a small paddock. That is the only explanation I can come up with, besides the usual pain disclaimer, which would not just pop up when he is headed towards home

If he is penned up at home, I would suggest turn out.

Other than that, I guess take him on a long ride, so that he becomes somewhat hungry and tired, making going home pleasant, but at the same time, you have to be able to ride him though a balk and make him a believer that when you ask for forward motion, he has to comply. I don`t know what your purpose is in taking his head tot he side, as that is a method of disengaging the hips and getting a stop, and not a method to get a horse moving

If you are not sure or feel uncomfortable using spurs, then carry a crop, or get some heavy harness reins and over and under him when he balks. Be set for a possible explosive reaction.

Work him around home, before tiding out, making him more obedient to the aids

He might be balking going home today, but the next time he could be balking when asked to go somewhere else he would rather not. Point being, while you should try to find out why he is doing this going home, you should also put that body control and respect on him that he does not balk in the first place

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I agree he needs work on his forward motion. He has associated in his mind that for whatever reason, turning home means I stop and I'am done.How did you get him back home if you couldn't get him to go at any point? If you got off and led him at any point, he just won the argument.Not saying you did,but that could have established the behavior to start.Some horse it only takes one conquest and it's hard to get them to give it up. I agree with asking with a good set of harness reins on his tush, over and under as suggested Ask nice first, and slap your leg,ask next time on his tush.

Have you tried ground driving him to see if he pulls this? If he still stalls out you can work on this from the ground and apply the same pressure for forward motion and be at a better advantage than if you don't feel comfortable riding him through it. Least ways he knows there's consequences for his decisions.

Just curious, but do you work him when you get him home?If so, maybe he thinks it's easier being out on the trail and has made an association of this. Sometimes we work horses harder at home and the trails become a relaxing ride also.

Edited by Floridacracker

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If the terrain is clear enough, back him. KEEP him backing up til he WANTS to go your way.

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If the terrain is clear enough, back him. KEEP him backing up til he WANTS to go your way.

Energetically driving a recalcitrant horse into the bit to back him up as a reprimand can easily lead to a rearing event. At the first inkling he's getting very light in the front end or tossing his head too far above the horizontal pitch him slack reins to get his feet firmly back on the ground and follow up with doubling him hard until he finds a place to stop. Let the adrenaline subside before resuming the reprimand. Stay safe. ~FH

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What I used to do with Chief when he decided he didn't want to go a certain way, was to turn him in tight circles, letting him rest only in the direction I wanted him to go. I'd urge him forward, and if he didn't go, it was more circles.

Eventually he decided forward motion in my chosen direction was his only option unless he wanted to do circles all day.

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I would not back a horse that is already refusing forward motion.

Many horses that balk, then go up to the .next level, either rearing or learning to run backwards, and believe me, you don't want to create a horse that does either!

We all know the danger of a rearing horse-easy to sit a rear, but can be life changing if he goes over and lands on you. A horse that runs backwards, whenever he does not wish to go where asked to, does not care where he is backing, and will go backwards over a bank or even a cliff.

You asked for forward motion, and that is the cue you have to enforce. If a horse understands the cues for going forward (which I think every horse who is at the point of being ridden out does), then you ask, ask louder, and then demand. Time fro artificial aids , like spurs, a crop or some good leather reins, giving a good 'over and under"

The only time I use backing, as a training tool, is if a horse is leaning on the bit ie-too foreward. I expect my horses to walk on a loose rein, both coming and going.

If a horse tries to rush going home, leaning on the bit, a first ask for their face and then back them with my legs, until I feel them doft in my hands, giving at the poll. I then give them a chance to walk on, with a loose rein

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My mare, Jet, is not quite like this horse, but she is much more enthusiastic going out than headed back in, and if given her head will march straight past the trailer and hit the trails again. It's a good trait, but obviously you still need an obedient horse. How long have you been riding at the point he refuses to go home? Are there any signs that your routine is unpleasant (hosing off, brushing, removing tack) for him? If he isn't turned out, that would be my first change. He obviously prefers movement. I'd do a nice, long, challenging ride, to have a tired horse, and maybe consider buddying up with a horse that is a little too eager to go home. If that doesn't work, I think you're back to using a crop or spurs. Nothing you do that restrains his movement or moves him in the wrong direction is really going to be helpful in this situation, in my opinion.

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Obviously, your horse has an issue with you not being able to "move his feet". This needs to be corrected on the ground. Get in a round pen or arena and do some groundwork sending him off in a circle around you and make him move his feet. If he stops, you need to use a stick/string/whip - "spanking" the ground to get after him, and send him off away from you. Then, when he is moving correctly around the arena, step in front of his driveline and ask for a turn in the other direction. You need to do this for several days until when you ask him to come in to the center of the arena to you - by backing up away from him - he should respond by stopping his movement and facing you. There are other exercises that can be done on the ground so that you gain his respect and when you say move.....he will move those feet. I agree that sending him backward is not the answer to solving this issue. He could rebel and fall over backwards when rearing, or you are giving him mixed messages that aren't clear about moving forward - not backward. I find Clinton Anderson's method with groundwork is the best around....very easy to understand and apply.

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I'm a bit more curious as to why this habit developed. Can you think of anything that changed that might have caused him to start doing this? I for one would not start getting in a fight with this horse that's already doing "a little rear." This could potentially push him into more serious behavior. Not that he shouldn't be punished for misbehavior, but I think it would be much more beneficial to sort out the root of the problem before just going into battle with him. If it were me, I would try to ride him as far as we were going to go, get off, and start walking him back in hand. Avoid the fight and see what happens. Then maybe get back on him and see if he'll walk on. See what his reaction is first to that, then go from there. You wouldn't be getting off because he fought you, if you've avoided the fight entirely.

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I'm a bit more curious as to why this habit developed. Can you think of anything that changed that might have caused him to start doing this? I for one would not start getting in a fight with this horse that's already doing "a little rear." This could potentially push him into more serious behavior. Not that he shouldn't be punished for misbehavior, but I think it would be much more beneficial to sort out the root of the problem before just going into battle with him. If it were me, I would try to ride him as far as we were going to go, get off, and start walking him back in hand. Avoid the fight and see what happens. Then maybe get back on him and see if he'll walk on. See what his reaction is first to that, then go from there. You wouldn't be getting off because he fought you, if you've avoided the fight entirely.

Yes, as I posted , looking into why the horse does not wish to go home, is the logical place to start.

Beyond that, I try never to ride my horse somewhere that I feel I won't be able to ride him through. Certainly, get off, if you are in danger, but try not to go there int he first place. The last thing you want your horse to learn, is that as soon as he feels his actions are going to make you dismount, the more he will learn to use that to his advantage. Instead, go back to working him in a controlled area and get more respect and body control on him.

In the words of John Lyons, 'ride where you can, and not where you cannot'

Certainly don't want to ever back a horse that is already refusing to go forward, and backing can sure make a horse that already is threatening to go up, to rear. You are in fact, putting him in the perfect position to rear, by getting him on that back end

Nope, I'm all fro getting those holes fixed, so that the horse is a believer that he must ride where you ask him to.

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how is his home situation? my husband's 21 year old gelding who is kind of a peacenik anyway is getting a little bit bullied by his herd mates (2 mares and another gelding). he's not displaying this kind of behavior, but there is a certain reluctance to reenter the communal turnout. (as soon as he gets in there they start pushing him around, but he can get away).

there isn't too much that we as humans can do about the way they treat each other when they're just among themselves.

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I think we are all still waiting to hear what the life style of this horse is at home

It is a horse's very nature to wish to be where he feels secure (buddies ) and also a place he associates with feed.

The only logical situations I can come up with, where a horse would rather not go home, are

- he is worked harder around home that out on a trail

- he is alone at home, but has buddies on a trail

- he is kept confined, as in a stall or corral, at home, and trail rides are thus a taste of 'freedom

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Thank you all for your suggestions. I am still having problems with my guy.

I have been really paying attention to him and I believe it is almost a battle of power with him.

He is king of the heard and I feel like he is trying to group me into that category.

To answer some of your questions:

He just did it once about 6 months ago coming back from a ride out of now where and then now it is developed into every time he goes out (on the trails, in the neighboring fields and even in our own pasture that he is out in all day).

He has 3 other barn mates that he gets along with great.

He isn't worked hard when I get home

He has a great pasture of 8 acres of grass to play in with his 3 other friends. He also gets fed great and has shelter in all of the fields.

Overall I think his home life is pretty awesome.

I have been lunging him before going out just the last few times because I thought he could burn off some steam and it would help however it doesn't. In fact in lunging him now he'll just stop and refuse to go. I can get him going though because I have the lunge line to crack a bit and he will go out again. I just feel that now he has learned how to do this stopping and now is using it everywhere.

I thought I would go back to the beginning. Just lunging him and doing ground work. Kind of starting from scratch working together for him to learn what is right and wrong. I thought riding him in a ring for a little bit and just working on basics might be the way to go. He did do well however on the way back to the barn he pulled this stopping business in the gate and he wouldn't move. I mean I am a strong rider, no fears, and I have done everything but use spurs to get him to move and he locks up his legs and would rather tip over than move forward.

I am thinking spurs might be worth a shot but I have never used them before and don't know if that is the solution.

I feel once again that it is him being the "alpha" to the other horses and he is putting me in that group. He has figured out that if he just locks up he has won. I don't get off becuase I don't want him to think he has won however I waiting approx 2 hours getting him to move a couple feet and then he would stop again trying to get home. I can't go out for long rides because I can't get home. I ride with another horse and he doesn't care if that horse leaves him alone on the trail. My friend actually has to come up and take my reins and pull in order for him to walk a few steps and then he stops again.

Any more suggestions would be awesome.

I feel like I am going to give up and he is a wonderful horse for everything else but this problem is just stumping me.

Any help would be great!!!

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How about a little more info?

Does he lock up at any one place, such as the gate? What is the proximity (distance to the barn) when it happens? Does he do it anytime you face the direction home even if he cannot see the barn? And how do you wind up getting him back to the barn when you have these episodes? Dismount and lead him? If so, how does he lead? ~FH

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Does he do it when someone else is on him?

If it is a power struggle, and I have a horse who is similar in that he is herd boss and constantly toes the line with me, try putting a very confident alpha personality rider on him and see what happens. Someone who from the beginning will convey an alpha attitude.

It sounds like he might just have you number and he's stubborn enough to wait you out. It can be broken, but it will take a while and likely professional help from the ground up.

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Sounds like he;s got your number since he does it on the ground as well. Do you have a pair of heavy leather split reins? You say you are a strong rider..what I would do in this situation is when he stops, ask him to go forward. If he ignores you, take those reins and give him a STRONG over and under just once. Shouldn't take too long before he figures out it's a heck of a lot easier to keep moving than get his butt spanked.

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I worked with a little paint horse an old boss of mine owned, and he would do the exact same thing, except he would do it every time HE thought the ride was over. When he was done, he was done! Didn't matter if we were in the arena or on the trail. Here's the series of things I tried with him over some odd like three months:

Checked ALL of his tack for any pinches, checked along his back for sore spots.. nothing.

Would fly spray him before we rode, thought maybe he's getting irritated by flies.

Backing! I figured, any hoof movement is what I want. So I would trying and get ANY motion out of him and then stop asking and allow him to sit for a minute. Some days this worked fantastic for a little while, other days it only took a second and he would end up rearing and getting very frustrated.

Spurs! Only annoyed and frustrated him. Same with crop.

People getting behind him with a lunge whip. (only further frustrated him and only attempted this once)

I also tried carrying a plastic bag in my pocket and would rustle it. (again only attempted this during one session) I DO NOT recommend this unless you are comfortable enough with the chance that you might spook the horse and he might bolt. With my little "Angel", he would perk his ears right up and scoot a couple steps and then went right back into being annoyed and frustrated.. no matter how much good praise/release we gave him.

With none of this working, I thought to myself that I wanted to see his movements. Maybe he had a hitch that I wasn't feeling when I rode. I had a friend of mine hop on him and wouldn't you know he was LITERALLY an angel with her. She was a small-framed girl and maybe weighed 90lbs? I'm not large myself, maybe 120lbs? She got him to walk, trot, canter, back in the arena. I thought to myself.. there's no way. We decided to go on a trail ride. He had one small ounce of frustration and gave her a quick rear, but that was it. The rest of the ride he perked his ears up and enjoyed the work. So I said, well maybe it's me! So I had tried two other people riding him, and he was a devil with them just as he was a devil with me. I don't even know how to explain it! I ended up letting her ride him all of the time, as good work was better than bad work. My boss eventually sold him and the lady who purchased him came back and said he was doing the same thing with her. Not sure what she did with him after that call.

I also had a friend who trail rode ALL of the time. Her paint had a tick when we rode. If horses got IN FRONT of him during the trail ride (and I am even talking about just a NOSE ahead of him), he would do the same thing your's is doing. We would all have to repack behind her, and THEN her horse would move. Maybe try that as well?

Good luck to you and hopefully some of my (interesting) experiments help!

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Oh! I almost forgot the most important thing I wanted to write!!

With a barn-sore horse, many people use the exercise of pushing the horses "comfort" zone with the horse further and further away from the barn. Maybe reverse that exercise and walk ten feet from the barn, turn around come back. Walk fifteen feet from the barn, turn around come back. And slowly extend how far away you get until the point where he knows is when you turn around to come home on the trail. That might help too. :)

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Our 12-year-old mare has this same problem! She does it only out on the trail, not just riding around by our house. She did it in the mountains in Montana and she does it here in Arizona. As soon as she realizes that we are headed back toward the trailer, even on unfamiliar trails!!!, she refuses to go in that direction and tries to go on the trail away from the trailer.

We usually try to ride on loop trails, instead of in-and-out trails. But once she has done a trail once, she learns where she is and we can't trick her. Last time, we took her on a brand new loop and as soon as we passed the halfway point, she wouldn't go. Needless to say, we are running out of new loop trails!

We do not believe in being aggressive or mean so, boy, has this been an issue! We have tried using a Monty Roberts-type "giddy up rope" on her neck, which worked a few trail rides. We once dismounted and she followed us--at a very far distance--back to the trailer. We have dismounted and walked her back to the trailer.

Our latest trick is riding another horse in front of her, with some treats on that horse (currently mequite pods). We periodically give her one and she grudgingly goes on the trail.

Once the treat trick wears off, we will be looking for a new idea!

We have done loads of ground work, being in control of her feet, backing up, obedience lessons, etc. She is just really smart and wants to go on the trail for miles and miles. Once the kids are out of the house, I think I will take up 50-mile rides.

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