California 14 year old TWH with Professional Training ridden in English bridle w/ caveson and a medium port with copper roller and Big Horn Western saddle in  round pen, indoor/outdoor arenas but no  trails, by Beginner rider.

Question: I have spent a lot of time teaching my horse his gaits, ground manners, standing to mount, using his hindquarters, backing, transition and stops. Everything I mentioned above took some time for him to get comfortable doing but now does very willingly. I believe my horse is barn/gate soar and wants to quit after about 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes he starts with a dance (sort of balk and rear 2-3 inches off the ground).  He would do this dance next to the gate often.  The other night we went around some cones in the arena and on the second pass he reared up about 5 inches when previously it was 2-3 inches.  I am sure he has no fear of the cones but just did not want to do as requested.  

My response when he was by the gate doing his dance was to cluck him forward and ride an additional 5-20 minutes still passing the gate making sure I focused him on moving forward and not the gate.  My response by the cones the other night was to stop him, calm down (both of us) and move him forward.  I did not return to the cones but rode him another 20 minutes after the incident.  I will be moving him to a new location where there are trails available thinking he is extremely bored with arena the work.  Because I am a beginner I only do what I know I am able and I always wear a helmet!  Should I sell him to an experience rider or do you have any suggestion I could try?

From Panelist Steve

Yes. Behavior problems after about 20 minutes of riding are USUALLY, not always, due to saddle pain. It takes about 20 minutes before the pinching or whatever shows up. The behavior you described is precisely what a Walker will do when in pain. Do yourself a favor and trade your saddle in on an Abetta Endurance saddle or one of their upper end Abetta Western saddles. All of our Walkers like these saddles. No exceptions. We  wouldn't buy anything else.

It could also be his mouth. Have his teeth floated and change to a Wonder Bit. There is never a need for any curb bit more severe than a Pelham. 

Hope this helps. 90% of the time it does.

Stephen B. Chasko,

From Panelist Erica

Here is what I would do in your situation. If your guy is comfortable with a riding whip (dressage whip), then carry one, if not then don't. I would ride him past the gate area in a circle fashion, each time he makes a fuss at the gate either lightly tip him with the whip (not hard at all, just a reinforcement to move forward), or use my legs to make him keep going. 

Don't look at the gate, don't think about what he might do at the gate. Just focus on your circle pattern & making it as perfect as possible. Go both directions. When he does well doing a circle, ride him on a straightaway past it. Then ride him directly towards the gate, turning either left or right as YOU ask. 

Keep him busy. Don't let him think about stopping or acting up at the gate. I personally feel that if you are still confident riding him, I wouldn't think you need to send him to a "professional" trainer. I would always try to give him something to keep his mind working
though - obviously he can get bored & tries to get out of work when he does. 

:-) Good luck!
Erica Frei

From Panelist Stella

It sounds like you are developing into a good, thinking rider- your solution to the problem was right on target. I think a change of scenery, especially some trailwork -where you can all the same exercises as in the ring, is a good one. 

Many horses do get bored in the ring; once you practice some of your exercises in the great outdoors (such as, trees to work around, instead of cones!), I find many horses
seem to have a light bulb go off in their heads when they discover there's a purposed beneficial to their agility in these varied and more natural circumstances, and seem to enjoy them better later, when they go back into the arena. I think most trainers find that varying the scenery is helpful to the training of many horses to keep them "fresh" and interested. 

Another thing you can do is be sure to vary your routine while in the arena. Maybe start the opposite direction first, and change the sequence of tasks. Before leaving, get off somewhere other than the gate, and hand lead him out, making it a different place each time - and always after something he's accomplished very well, and totally willingly. 

One other thing- which I likely should have mentioned FIRST....being you've been working him regularly and his condition has been steadily improving, check his saddle fit now. Conditioning works like body-building, the muscles, the shoulder and back as well as hind end, will become rounder, fuller, and it can change the conformation of the back, if only to just widen it a bit more than before - you may simply need to change to a thinner pad; it could be it only pinches a bit when on turns, such as doing cones, and may be why
he'd prefer avoiding them now. While boredom is more than likely the problem here, its still a good idea for any rider to periodically check fit as the horse's conformation changes with various degrees of fitness.



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