Ten Fixes for the Horse-Show Sour Horse

Use these tips from Team Wrangler member Dolly Chayer to keep your horse show-pen ready.

Entering the show-pen can be trouble with a show-pen sour horse. It’s best to keep him calm and happy to do his job. Journal photo.

In the past, I have had many English horses that became sour in the pen, mainly anticipating the gate. I have sacrificed many classes to school these horses in the pen. But you have to be very careful when doing this so as to not get other exhibitors in trouble, make judges upset and to keep your horse enjoying his job.

The show pen should always be your horse’s happy place. That’s why schooling in the show pen has to be done smartly, quietly and discretely.

Are you just getting started with showing American Quarter Horses? Download the Beginner's Guide to Showing report!

There are several things that you can do in and out of the show pen to ensure that your horse is healthy, happy and ready to go show.

Dolly’s Tips

  1. Never show an overly fresh horse. The horse should be a little bit tired as to not pick up bad habits.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use earplugs. Some horses will not tolerate earplugs, so do your homework at home, not in the show pen. Some horses never get to liking them and some horses get a calm feeling.
  3. Turn out daily. We have turnouts at our ranch and use them daily. I believe all horses need outside time for a break; it gives them time to be a real horse.
  4. Change up the routine. Turn out at different times of day, ride at different times of the day.
  5. Put different riders on. Everyone rides a little different with different leg pressure and hand feel. Horses may enjoy their owner after different riders and handlers get on.
  6. Get outside the arena. We have some land with cows, buffalo and Longhorn steers. I will do pasture riding, chase roping steers and do some small hills. It freshens their minds up doing a different job.
  7. Try a new pattern. Doing different patterns on your equitation horse will keep them a little fresher in the mind. Just try not to do the same thing everyday, especially for the older, seasoned horse.
  8. School at an open show. That way you don’t see all those AQHA points go down the drain. It’s hard to do sometimes, but it has to be done eventually. Especially the smarter horses; they learn too fast sometimes.
  9. Check your equipment. Saddle and saddle pad fit are very important, so check often for proper fit. Bit inspection is also important. Wear and tear on your bit can cause a pinch or rub that can make it very uncomfortable.
  10. Check out your horse’s health. Sometimes he could have a soreness, either muscles, joints or even his stomach. Some kind of ulcer medicine might help keep your horse happy. Bottom line – keep your horse healthy and happy.

Download the Beginner's Guide to Showing ebook to make sure you're prepared when you enter the show-pen.