To introduce this week’s Q&A video, I’ll start with a metaphor… let’s say you experience headaches often, that were actually caused by a serious (but unknown to you) health condition. If you were able to completely resolve the symptoms by taking pain relievers, you might think “problem solved!”
That is, until some time down the road, when the headaches continue, or become more frequent, and you start having stomach problems from the pain relievers, or the actual underlying condition causing the headaches gets worse and starts to wreck havoc on the rest of your body and your health.
The same goes for gate issues – they are a symptom of a deeper problem.
Those deeper problems can be difficult to recognize. Just because we can get our horse in the gate, doesn’t mean the underlying issue they resisted is resolved, or that the symptom (your horse being unwilling to go in the gate) may not occur again, get worse, or that the underlying problem will eventually cause issues in other areas as well.
I feel as though there are three main causes of gate problems.
The first is physical. When a horse becomes unwilling to go in the gate, there’s a good possibility he’s hurting some where. If you had a close up video or photographs of the positions your horse’s body has to contort in as they round the pattern, it would really open your eyes to just how much physical stress they go through.
The second is an emotional issue. This is a more common occurrence in horses that by nature are more insecure and nervous. They are the HOT, sensitive horses that if we don’t do our part to meet their needs, will struggle to hold up under the mental pressure involved in such an intense, high speed event. I think of these horses as having a bad case of “stage fright.” They most likely want to please, but their reaction in the alley is akin to a human having an anxiety attack.
The third is an education issue. This may occur more commonly in horses that are typically pretty confident and secure in their day to day life. If left to their own devices they might become quite pushy and rude. If we don’t do our part, these horses will challenge us, they’ll object to our plans and insist on their own agendas. They’ll test us and if they learn that their tactics are effective, it will become increasingly difficult to get things turned around.
The bottom line, however, is that horses that are normally confident can become fearful, and fearful horses can be totally rude and pushy. Fear and respect issues run together and can look the same. It’s easy to get confused by which is which.
Fortunately, there is a solution for either case that is VERY similar. It CAN be helpful to understand more details about WHY problems occur, but the most important thing we can do is take ONE, specific and effective action. That one action, along with other numerous tips are provided in the video below.
I invite you to check it out and answer one of the questions below in the comments at the bottom of the page…
1. If you have a gate problem, what do you think could be the cause?
2. Are there any additional tips you’ve found helpful to resolving gate issues?
3. What first action will you take to fix your existing gate problem?
4. What do you do to prevent gate or alley problems from developing?
Barrel racing is a competitive sport, but this web site is all about sharing! It’s an opportunity to receive even more help for your challenges, as well as help others in the process! We’d love to hear from you!
For even more support to prevent and resolve gate problems, see ‘Exercise 40 – Down the Alley’ in my book The First 51 Barrel Racing Exercises to Develop a Champion.