Posted: Mon Nov 08, 2004 9:47 pm Post subject: Barn door
Our barn is relatively small--big enough for a tack room, feed room and one stable. We have an open door policy--Awesome can enter the barn when he pleases to go into his stall. Which he hasn't done much all summer or fall, but as it has gotten colder he spends more time in there. The door is always open-hence, he's never been in there with the door closed. When he was in the other day my father closed the door and he did not like it one bit. He stomps on the floor and kicks the wall. He's definitely not a happy horse. How can we get him used to having the door closed for times when it is snowing or heavily storming?
Why do you need him to be closed in during such times?
Free access to shelter is often the healthiest way to manage a horse. You can let him choose to come in or stay out; that will allow him to come in if he's cold or wet, but stay out if he is comfortable.
My 3 are quite happy with this arrangement. I will often see them out, happily grazing, in rain or storms where I myself would be very uncomfortable. Since I have seen them run for cover in some weather, I know they will come in if they are not comfortable out.
Horses often know best whether they need shelter; they usually don't need to be locked in to stay out of weather that is bad for them.
Having said all that, it is good for a horse to accept being stalled, for a number of different reasons. If you take him anywhere for an overnight trip, he'll probably stay in a stall. If he is injured and needs to rest, he'll need to be in the stall. If conditions are very dangerous out--for example, slick icey ground--it may be safest to keep him inside.
It sounds like your boy is unused to being closed in, and so he feels trapped. He needs to understand that being locked in is not a permanent thing. You can help him develop an expectation that the door WILL open, just...not yet.
Closing the door briefly while he's eating can, hopefully, get him started. If you leave it closed only while he's distracted, then open it right away before he finishes, then he may not have a chance to become grouchy about it. If that works well, then you can gradually extend the amount of time that you keep the door closed, as he gets more calm about it.
the first times, have the door closed only while he is distracted;
the next few times keep the door closed while he's finishing up and turning around;
then the next few times leave the door closed for a moment after he gets to it, and so on.
Be sure to only open the door while he is still calm. Be careful not to reward a "tantrum"--if he gets upset and starts fussing, walk away. Wait for him to stop--THEN return and open the door (quickly!) You'll help him associate being calm with being let back outside.
After a while, he should become more comfortable with the door being closed, and feel less trapped. He'll understand, and expect, that the door will be opened...eventually. And he will not associate throwing a tantrum with getting the door opened; he'll wait calmly.
The only reason we would want to close the barn door would be when it is snowing really bad out or really windy. Too keep the elements outside I guess. We will try your suggestions and keep you updated! Thanks!