Hi Lauren,
I enjoy reading your blog. Question do you have anything on a barn sour horse? I have a draft cross mare who isn’t buddy sour.. as there are no other horses where I keep her but she is barn sour and she rears and I get afraid and she gets her way. I have to walk her down this huge hill because she will rear to go out of the gate. Once I get her down i walk her like a dog and then get on her and we go right back home because she rears when I try and turn her around.. She is sweet I am just not strong enough and afraid..  I do ground work with her by the barn and she will disengage her hips she flexes she does it all.. There is no arena just a strip of area to ride back and forth..  Where I board is right out into a preserve but its a huge hill you have to go down. Any suggestions?

Well Stacey, there are several things going on here. But, I’d say the biggest one is ladder rung jumping. Since I don’t know your horse’s name, we’ll go with Buttercup. Rearing – I hate when that happens. It doesn’t make Buttercup a bad horse, just a horse that has figured out that you currently don’t have the skills to prevent her from using that tactic to win the day. Something I’d like you to consider is that none of us is strong enough. If it takes that kind of strength, we’re doing something wrong. The feeling that we need strength is what causes people to use stronger and stronger bits, to combat inadequate skills with mechanical power. What we want is to influence the gray matter. What I don’t know here is what you and Buttercup are doing before she rears. This is where the correction needs to be. That’s all about timing and feel. Dealing with the info I have, here are my nutshell recommendations.

Ladder rung jumping – thinking about wanting to get out the gate, down the hill and out and about when Buttercup doesn’t…do what you ask in a step-by-step fashion. And by that I mean, when you boil it down, she’s not moving each hoof where you want, when you want and how you want. In addition, I’d recommend that you monitor how you relate what she does and then try to make it seem nicer by saying “she’s sweet”. Really, there’s nothing sweet about rearing and when you say that, it basically allows bad behavior. Yes rearing can be scary, so consider this re-thinking. First, state out loud: “I hate when that happens.” About 8 times. Feels good and acknowledges the fact. It also gives you some power to start getting over the idea of the fear. Plus, it’s true! (I hope) I’ve found that some people don’t want to say it because they think it makes their horse sound bad. Well, hell, the horse rears!

For starters, read, understand and utilize all the info in the blog post called “Balky, Balky I Ain’t Going”. It’s likely that you had some rein contact (desire for control) at the wrong time, or lack thereof, that either caused Buttercup to go up, or caused her to know that she could. This does NOT make you an ax murderer. We just need to get you to back it up a bit to what happens before what happens happens. This is dealt with in many of the other posts so I won’t repeat it here, but patience and understanding and the art of waiting are all involved.

Second, you’re on when she rears, give yourself a little confidence booster by recognizing that you’re still around so maybe you can handle this after all with a few more tools.

Third, I don’t know what it’s like at the bottom of the hill, but what if when you got off you just stood there and petted her or sat on a log for a while or asked her to do some ground work? Make that area not a big deal, but a good deal.

Fourth, Judging by how you worded it, your ground work is probably at the kindergarten stage. This is another whole deal. But, you’ll want to increase your skills here.

Use, use, use the info in the Balky post. Just go as far as you ‘can’ until you get to the ‘can’t’ spot and put the Balky info into practice. You’ve got nothing else to do anyway, so you might as well practice your patience and understanding and I think you will be very pleasantly surprised. Just give up the idea of “going” somewhere and just go to where your lesson for the day is.

Let me know what happens and remember this is a Nutshell Version.