First Step to Managing the Barn Sour Horse? Understanding Horse Psychology.

First Step to Managing the Barn Sour Horse? Understanding Horse Psychology.

What's the first adjective that comes to mind when you think of a "barn sour" horse? 

Inconsistent? Unmanageable? Risky? Annoying? 

When it comes to a barn sour horse, the first thing to come to terms with that “barn sour” is just a behavior or attachment; it’s not all your horse is, and your relationship with your horse doesn’t have to be defined by it. The good thing about behaviors is that they are absolutely manageable and can be improved through patience, understanding, and practice. A lot of practice. 

Let’s start by breaking down what a “barn sour” horse is. A “barn sour” horse is a horse who has a tendency to think about or try to return to the barn, even when you’re trying to get him to engage in other activities or focus on other things. A horse can also be “buddy sour”, “ring sour”, or “herd bound”. Here’s a breakdown of the different attachment behaviors according to our latest Equestrian Masterclass instructor, Chelsea Canedy

The Four Attachment Behaviors

  • Barn Sour: when your horse is focused on returning to the barn
  • Buddy Sour: when your horse is focused on returning to their one special friend or pasture mate 
  • Ring Sour: when your horse is hesitant, afraid or straight up rejects entering the arena 
  • Herd Bound: when your horse is is focused on getting back to his group of friends 

Learn more about your horse's tendencies and attachment behavior with our diagnostic quiz.

Understanding Horse Psychology

Okay, now that you’ve determined which attachment behavior your horse most closely relates to, it’s time to understand how to manage these behaviors. Horses are biologically wired to seek the company of other horses as a matter of safety, since they are herd animals. While this may be inconvenient for riding, the more you accept and learn to understand your horse, the more you will be able to build a better partnership with them. 

Once you come to the realization that these types of behaviors are a safety mechanism built into your horse's DNA, you’ll be able to work in a way that feels safe and comfortable to them when they are away from their home or “herd”. Before starting your training, ALWAYS rule out any physical discomfort such as ulcers, saddle fit, lameness, etc. with a veterinarian. 

Next, start your training with as few variables as possible. This means training in a place that your horse is already familiar with or with some friends your horse is used to riding with. Once you begin to introduce new variables, being patient and process-oriented in your approach is the name of the game. Remember: slow and steady wins the race!

Ready for the next steps to solving this behavior? Check out Chelsea’s Barn Sour Masterclass course, with step-by-step video guided lessons, here.