Today I tested Ben's willingness to be ridden, now that he's had a massage to ease (hopefully) whatever was bothering his back. It was a perfect day for a test ride: warm and with light winds, rather than cool and stiffly breezy, so one could discount the weather as a factor. No strange horse between him and Commander; no Commander bustling off ahead away from him. I used the recommended pad to lift the pinch points of the saddle off him.
Ben was fine about being caught; fine about being groomed; fine about being saddled; fine about being mounted. We headed down the lane toward the culvert and the fields beyond the knoll.
Ben got to within a dozen feet of where the lane ran over the culvert and stopped. I pushed. He tried to turn away. I insisted. He began to yield.
And a long skein of motorcyclists went roaring and snorting and growling down the highway behind us. Ben turned to look, locked on, and stood rooted, all of his tiny mind focussed on the interruption, ignoring me. Drat!
When they'd finally passed and grumbled away out of sight and hearing, I swung Ben into the adjoining ring, got him moving at a brisk walk, and headed down the lane again. Again Ben tried to say "No" but I legged him on and he went ahead. I steered him out the same way we'd gone on our rodeo ride, around the back of the knoll, across the hayfield, through the gateway into the next field, and up toward the wooded ridge.
Ben was tense and apprehensive, looking for things to be worried about, stopping now and then and needing to be turned a bit to the side and strongly legged to get him moving forward again. Oh, no, he wasn't nearly as hyped as on our blowup ride, but leaving the barn was not something he wanted to do. He got happier when instead of heading down the Lane of Doom I turned him into the adjoining field and bent his course back more or less barnwards. I asked for circles and figure eights (all at a walk, for obvious reasons of Benly sanity, not to mention it was too warm to be doing anything faster on an out-of-shape fat boy whose winter coat has started to come in) and he settled down and listened to me.
We crossed into the next field homewards and zigzagged down its length. Ben was a Good Boy. When we got to the end of the field, where heading to the right would take us home, I steered him left. Ben's resistance to turning away from home and instead crossing over some dug-up ground where an irrigation pipe had recently been laid was minimal, barely one sucked-back half-step before marching on, so after a few dozen strides into the next field I thanked him and turned for home -- at last! Was that a sigh of relief I heard?
Ben was very lovey-dovey when we got back and I untacked him. Having his debridled face brushed with his very own special soft brush was so wonderful he snugged his nose into my chest and blissed out. He was so happy and relaxed, in fact, that when I hayed the boys he didn't even ugly Commander off the pile, merely came up on the other side to dig in.
So there you have it: Ben's barn-sour. He needs to be worked away from the barn, tactfully but firmly and steadily farther, till he gets over his worries about leaving his safety zone.