I have a friend, Rachel, who runs barrels. For the last couple of years, her horse, Pistol, has been resentful of entering the arena. However, with effort, he goes in and completes his run. Now he goes in quietly and just stands there. She cannot get him to go forward no matter how hard she tries! Thank you in advance for any help you can give her.
Usually when a horse refuses to work, you can narrow down the problem to one of two things: Pistol is sore or he is lacking respect and confidence in his rider. In this case, I suspect there may be a little of both involved.There are several things that Rachel needs to address. First off, a trip to the veterinarian will help rule out leg, hock, back or dental problems. Check to make sure Pistol’s saddle and bridle are fitted properly. Once these issues have been addressed, remedial training becomes the resource to overcome the problem. Pistol needs to understand that a rider’s request needs to be followed by a response. Whipping or beating is not the answer. Returning to education, and creating a respectful communication and understanding, will be critical to correct this issue.
After Pam addresses the soundness issues, suggest she returns to training equipment, ground work and skill drills until Pistol begins to respond. The round pen can be a wonderful resource for remedial work, providing a safe working environment for horse and rider. Further information in these areas can be reviewed in The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing book.
Remind Rachel that allowing this situation to continue to volatile and dangerous to both horse and rider. She should take two steps forward and one back for evaluation and review. Good luck,