"Gate Sour" Horses
Some horses often become "gate sour" and will refuse to enter a gate to an arena. This could be caused by several different things, the horse knows he is about to run and is getting nervous or maybe the rider wants him to walk in the gate but the horse just wants to RUN, RUN, RUN! The list goes on about why a horse may refuse to enter an arena gate. When other spectators see a horse refusing the gate they may think the horse is misbehaving or is a "bad" horse so to speak and being the one on the horse can sometimes be embarrassing when your horse won't walk through the gate like the other horses. I know from experience that having a horse refuse to walk through a gate isn't the most satisfying feeling. Zoey my quarter horse mare, barrel racing prospect started to refuse the gate and wouldn't walk in before our runs which ultimately affected our whole run cause she and I would both get flustered. It didn't take long for me to correct Zoey's "gate sour" tendencies since I caught it early and corrected the issue.
Fixing a "Gate Sour" Horse
This may take some time depending on how badly "gate sour" your horse is, but be patient and try not to get to flustered cause it may increase the problem. While at competitions where you must enter through a shoot, such as barrel races is where I see the problem occurring the most so this information is directed more towards competitions where you run your horse through a shoot into the arena. More professional, high end barrel racing organizations allow exhibition runs before the actual barrel race begins. During the exhibition runs, after the competitor taking there practice run enters the ring, walk your horse into the shoot calmly and have him stand in the middle of the shoot. Then walk him out as you see the rider taking there exhibition finishing the third barrel so you don't get in the way and so your horse does not get excited as another horse comes running towards you. This may mean, depending on how fast they take their exhibition, that you are walking your horse in and out of the shoot a number of times. That is exactly what you want! You want your horse to associate the shoot with walking and that he will come right out again calmly. That way when it is your turn to race your horse will be calmer cause you stood in the shoot and your horse didn't have to do anything but stand and relax. Another way to help this issue is to have your horse stand in the shoot why the arena in being dragged by a tractor. Doing this will allow your horse to stand for a longer period of time since dragging the ring will take longer than an exhibition run. Not only will it help your horses "gate sour" issue but it will teach your horse not to spook at tractors or other moving vehicles.
NOTE- Your horse most likely will still be on the hyper side when going in cause your adrenaline will be pumping since your about to run and your horse will feel that. Also, don't expect your horse to magically be fixed, it will take some time and it also varies with every horse!
In the picture above, I am helping Zoey's "gate sour" issue by having her stand in the shoot while the arena was being dragged by a tractor. Not only will it help with the gate issue but she is learning not to spook at moving vehicles such as tractors.
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