Q: My horse is arena sour. At first she would just resist a little when I led her toward the arena, but it’s gotten worse. Now she’ll stop and refuse to move! I make sure to take her out on trails to prevent her from getting bored, but she’s still arena sour. Why is she doing this, and how can I fix it?
Next, consider how you relate to your horse. For example, did you discipline her when she first resisted entering the arena? Tapping her side with a crop behind your leg, or having someone on the ground stand behind your mare (safely out of kicking distance) cluck or clap their hands, might be enough to convince her to move forward and into the arena. Unfortunately, if your mare has learned that she can control a situation by threatening bad behavior she has assumed the leadership role in your relationship. You must regain that position, but the process can be both difficult and dangerous without professional help. Refusing to go forward and balking at the arena gate can escalate into rearing.
Consult with a riding instructor in your community who can help you become more assertive in your relationship with your mare. Ask for some insight on designing a reward-based program of arena work that complements your trail riding. Professional guidance combined with short sessions of appropriate arena work will make your relationship with your mare more enjoyable.
— Cindy Hale
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