Mare Refusing to Enter Arena

My name is Courtney and I am having a problem with my barrel horse. When I bought her she went in the gate without a problem. I have had her 2 years now and the year that I bought her I ran gymkhana on her. It was once a month. She went in good at first but after the 4th show she started refusing me. By the end of the year she was uncontrollable in the arena.

Story originally posted by: Maggie Training Director

So I let her take a year off from barrel racing. I took her to a show about a month ago and she wouldn’t go in the arena. She didn’t act up she just wouldn’t move. I was led in the arena so I could run. Once I was in there she didn’t want to move. She well go in arenas fine as long as there isn’t a show going on. I do everything to keep her mind good. I don’t work in an arena very much, I am always taking her on trail rides. What can I do?


Hi Courtney,

Wow what an ordeal! A horse that has had nearly a year off from the situation that she decided she was not having any part of, is a horse that needs a little refresher course. What I mean is that she needs you to take her back to a desensitizing, reaffirming, positive reinforcing, training program.

What you need to do is to continue taking her to the shows, but not to compete. Take her ride her around the outside of the arena working yourself closer to the gate. Take her to the gate entrance area, if she begin to feel ‘funky under saddle,’ relax, your hands, legs, reins, and seat, allow her to eat grass or just let her stand there…but don’t let her back herself out of that spot. If you decide to round her out, it will be your decision not hers. Take her around a distance away from the entrance, but still keep it in view. Take her back to the entrance this time inch in a bit closer, if she begins to tense up, repeat the procedure. Keep repeating, each time inching closer and closer.

When you finally get her to step just inside the gate, let her stand there awhile, reassure her and then you round her out again. Make a small circle and re-enter the gate again inching in further. Continue doing this until you have achieved going in and circle the arena (with barrels in place) and she does not bulk. The one thing you should not do is have someone lead her into an arena. This just tends to add to your problem.

Good luck and Happy Holidays!
Maggie Flowers