How to Solve a Barn Sour Horse Problem

A horse that refuses to leave the barn, or tries to rush back to the barn while you are out riding, takes the enjoyment out of riding. Instead of spending your riding time relaxing or learning new skills, you spend the time wrestling your horse away from the barn, and then keeping him from bolting back to the barn at the first opportunity.

Work Close to the Barn

Mount up close to the barn and work on simple patterns, such as circles and figure eights. Try to stay close enough to the barn that your horse doesn't balk. Your goal is to get your horse listening to you without engaging in a battle of wills. As you and your horse become comfortable working on these school figures, increase the size and change the pattern gradually, so that you work your way further from the barn. Your goal is to stop just short of the point where your horse balks. Over a period of rides, your horse should become more comfortable working further away from the barn.

Always Walk Home

No matter how far away from the barn you are, whether it is 20 or 200 feet, dismount and walk in at the end of your ride. Riding right up to the barn and then dismounting can encourage your horse to hurry to the barn. If he learns you always are going to lead him in at the end of the ride, he will learn there is no reason to rush home while you still are mounted.

Switch Things Up

Sometimes, after you have dismounted and walked him back to the barn, remount and ride for a few more minutes around the barn, stand around holding him without taking the saddle and bridle off immediately, or simply hand walk him around the farm some before ending your session for the day. The goal is to teach your horse that he's on duty until you say otherwise.

Stay Safe

While most horses show their barn sour tendencies by needing extra urging to walk away from the barn, trying to speed up on the way to the barn, or neighing at their buddies while you're riding, some horses can be more aggressive in showing their disapproval. They may rear or buck to show their resistance to moving forward, or become difficult to steer and try to head back to the barn on their own. If your horse's behavior feels like more than you are comfortable handing, seek help from a professional trainer.