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Old 11-09-2011, 07:48 AM  
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What to do when your horse bolts

This event occurred last year or the year before (can't remember).
My sis and I were riding in an open field along a road. My horse was misbehaving (not listening to cues, trying to go a different direction, trying to turn around, not going forward, not standing still for remounting, going sideways to avoid walking straight) the whole ride. I should have went back home and lunged him for awhile, but I thought maybe I could ride it out. I even got off a couple times and lunged him a little bit thinking this would help. He continued being difficult until he decided to turn around, jump a pile of rocks and run home. I stayed on (by the grace of God...or my own fear of falling off) and managed to stop him right before a rather busy road. We were close to the barn so I quickly walked him back to the barn, took off his tack and lunged him in the round pen until he was breathing heavy and sweating. I wanted to demonstrate to him that if you run off, you don't get to go back to the barn and eat, but rather, you get to go run some more for as long as I tell you to.

So, my question is, was taking him back home and working him in the round pen the right thing to do?

What would you do if your horse did what mine did or what would you have done differently BEFORE the bolt?
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Old 11-09-2011, 08:31 AM  
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I'm really interested in what Smilie and EA have to say about this, but here is what I would have done. First off, before the bolt I have have made him work in circles and spur the back end around in both directions, thus showing if he didn't want to walk forward, he got to work. As for not turning the direction you wanted... that is just not acceptable. I would have asked him to turn that way, first with one finger pulling the rein... if he didn't listen then i would have pulled harder. Still not listening? Tug tug tug on that rein until he turns his big booty around. If he wanted to act up again? Well, I would have done more circles.

As far as the actual bolt goes... do you know what a one rein stop is? You should practice this at home, it could be useful for situations like this. If you don't know what it is, I'll explain. However, this is what I would have tried if he did still manage to bolt off.

Once he stopped after the bolt I would NOT have gotten off. Bet your bottom dollar i'd go to a fenced area to ride though, like an arena. I would make his butt work double time in the arena. Doing cantering on both leads, A LOT of one rein stops, backing up, trotting circles and figure eights, making him really really work for a good hour or so.

I'm sure someone else might do things differently and I'm a firm believer in if you're worried enough to get off, then you probably should because the horse can just feel your anxiety which will make him anxious as well. Come to think of it, could this be WHY he bolted? You said he was acting up and you were probably getting frustrated/upset and possibly a bit nervous? Then, you get off and he thinks, that's not right... then you get back on and he acts up again and you're again anxious, anticipating he's going to do something stupid so in turn he did? Just a suggestion to maybe get you thinking about that for next time.
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Old 11-09-2011, 08:31 AM  
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I think you did the right thing working him in the round pen after you got back home. I probably would have left the saddle on though. You definitely don't want to reward him by untacking and letting him rest. Also trying to do ground work out on the trail was good too. Seems as though you have/had quite a few holes in your ground work to begin with though and probably shouldn't have been out on the trail to begin with.

That being said -- I did the same thing as you with Dakota when I first got him. He was a big time bolter (and loved to buck too). Any hint of danger (fallen log, funny looking stone, moving leaf, you get the point) and he would spin and bolt, whether out on the trail or in the arena. It wasn't until I started doing lots and lots of ground work and desensitizing that he improved (I use the Clinton Anderson method). And even though I still took him out on the trail, I was always aware of the possibility of a bolt and was ready to shut him down before he even had time to react by using the one rein stop and doing lots of circles.

This year, he has still had a few hiccups out on the trail but they are few and far between and now instead of bolting, he stands his ground. I still always anticipate what "could" happen at any given moment (which I think EVERY rider should do no matter what horse they are on) but Dakota has made great strides in becoming a confident trail horse.
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Old 11-09-2011, 08:46 AM  
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just ride it out
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Old 11-09-2011, 08:59 AM  
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Giving you the benefit of the doubt that you had gone through all the proper training steps before riding him off property, and that this was an isolated incident...

Perhaps there was something there that you couldn't see or smell, but was really and truly freaking him out. If my normally well-behaved horse was acting up like that, my first instinct wouldn't be to up the ante and make the situation even more emotionally charged. My first instinct would be to try and calm him down and settle everyone's nerves before proceeding any further.

IMO, he was trying to communicate with you that he did NOT feel safe in that field, for whatever reason, and you weren't listening. Instead, you applied even more pressure by lunging and disciplining, which only increased the emotional tension of the situation, until he finally had enough and went into survival mode.

Even if you had to get off and hand walk him for a while until he settled down, you would've ended up further ahead than trying to ride it out, or discipline him, with the result that he high-tailed it for home.
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:02 AM  
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Even though I know CN is being sarcastic, I just want to reiterate that riding it out or not doing anything can be very dangerous. This is a forum that people learn from and I don't want people to get hurt just because they didn't get the joke.

When a horse that just got back from the trainers and decided to bolt on me I did a one rein stop and followed with circles.
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:05 AM  
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Even though I know CN is being sarcastic, I just want to reiterate that riding it out or not doing anything can be very dangerous. This is a forum that people learn from and I don't want people to get hurt just because they didn't get the joke.
Completely agreed.
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:17 AM  
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just ride it out

Not sure if you're serious or trying to "make a funny?" Bolts are not funny or a laughing matter.
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The poster was obviously not happy with her horse. She luckily was able to regain control just before a busy road. Not an experience she wants to have a repeat of by what she has written and asks advice of to prevent.

Many of us have ridden a horse that is bolting... scary to realize you have no control... and a horse that decides to do as it pleases, when it pleases, regardless of what the rider is telling it to do is dangerous.
You may not feel that way about your horse and your riding capabilities... but others are more safety conscious and looking to save their hides from a fall or disastrous injury to horse, rider or both.

Just ride it out... at that moment it maybe all you can do, but learn from that mistake so it doesn't repeat itself it the smartest thing you can do.

I now bow my head to those that can eloquently and without emotion(usually) explain in simplicity how to save yourself some anguish and safely learn a way to prevent such a thing happening....

Smilie.... EA... where are you????


ETA:.... need to agree with others posts above... now off the soapbox!
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:41 AM  
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i agree with all the posts, except that of CarolN. That is the final last ditch resort, same as trying to steer a car down a winding road with brakes that have failed, when it would have been much better to have made sure the car had brakes in the first place
I would not ride this horse out on a trail until I had some really good body control on him. When a horse is trying to do his own thing, resistant to the rider's cues, it is only a matter of time until he takes things into his own 'hooves'
Often people get away with trail riding a horse that is not really broke, with them being more of a passenger that actual rider, by their horse happy to just stay with another equine companion or so, but it can / will backfire at one point or another
I would get that shoulder control, hip control, obedience at all gaits and a one rein stop on this horse in an enclosed area before ever riding him out
Once you have some real body control, work him first hard around home, then take him out on a short relaxing trial ride. Don't try and ride him beyond where you think you will be able to, but make sure it is your decision as to when to head home. The horse does not know how far you were going to go, just that you and not he made the choice. Gradually increase the distance
For an example-you know he is pretty willing and relaxed for about a mile or so from home. Then turn around just before you get to the point where he might become difficult. If you do ask him to go beyond that point, make sure you have the skill to ride him past it
I agree that you should not try and use the one rein stop if your horse has gotten the jump on you , far as a down right bolt, as you might make him trip and fall. Also, don't use it if you have not taught him the stop at all the gaits , starting with the walk, first
Thus, try to disengage those hips before he ever gets to the point where he is going to bolt, and use some of the exercises you taught him in the arena to get his attention back to you.
If he does get the jump on you, and space allows, guide him in a circle. Do not just pull back on the reins, as that only gives him something to run against, like a race horse that is run on the bit
There are ways of using the two snaffle reins independly to get the horse back under control, but to be honest, i have never really had to put that in practice as the last horse that bolted on me when I was about 20, had me never want to go there again
I had come home for a weekend from college, and my parents had sold my horse. I brought two friends with me
I wanted to ride, so borrowed three horses from out neighbours that lived across the highway from us. I had never ridden any of these horses before. One was an old blind in one eye horse, that I gave to my friend with the least riding experience and the other two were young fillies that the boys rode
We had a very nice long ride, found a dirt road on which Janet and i raced the two young fillies As we had a long run, I had no knowledge that the horse I was on, was a bolter at times.The horses just slowed eventually as they got tired
We then were riding back to the neighbours. I was in the lead when we were about a 1/2 mile from his place, just walking on a loose rein. For some reason, my friend Janet decided to catch up with me, either at a trot, or canter, can't remember, as my horse jumped ahead into a full out bolt.
I knew I had little chance of stopping her before hitting the highway, so opted to try and turn her at full gallop into the driveway
She slid in the gravel, and hit a tree, which made contact with my head and shoulder, dislocating my shoulder and giving me a concussion, as I was knocked backwards out of the saddle
Janet;s horse followed at less speed, so she made the turn, but her saddle was somewhat loose and turned. She broke her wrist
By the time the last friend rode up on the old horse, she thought that Janet and I had gotten off and were resting under the tree!
I can give many more examples of people that have been seriously hurt when a horse bolted The point being, to get that respect on a horse so that he never tries to bolt, to have that body control on him that you can shut him down before he gets into a full out gallop, and then of course, the final option, if all else fails, ride like hell and hope you don't have a wreak!
You might get lucky a few times, but sooner or later that bolter will hurt you.
And yes, a horse that has been successful at bolting will try again.
Horses are creatures of habit and learn by repitition.
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:48 AM  
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It's nuts and bolts: if the rider's nuts, the horse bolts.

My rotten horse ran away with me the first time I rode her outside in the pasture next to our boarding stable this spring. I think she was just freaked at being in a 'new' place after a long winter of home rides at the barn in the arena. Her buddies were standing at the gate and I did ride it out because:

a) I knew she would stop once she got to her buddy and
b) That pasture is FULL of gopher holes, she is not the most sure footed thing, and I was worried that if I cranked her head around she'd crash or get her foot caught in a hole or something. Truthfully I panicked.

I just didn't know what to do. It was really scary.

After that I took her to the other side of the pasture, away from the barn and her buddies and make her walk and trot in circles alone, and do some side passing and backing up, just so I knew she was listening to me. Then I walked her to the barn and worked her in the outdoor arena. Then I tied her up saddled for awhile. Then I eventually put her away without her grain. (Not to say I starve her, she is a fatso and only gets grained a small amount as a treat in cold months after a ride and she still had access to her hay and water).

I wasn't sure what to do either but ride it out. It hasn't happened since, though, and we spent all summer riding out and doing trails and riding down the road etc. She certainly walks faster when she knows she's headed for home or for the trailer but won't break out of the walk without permission. So I guess whatever I did that one time worked.

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Old 11-09-2011, 09:53 AM  
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It was very scary at the time. I heard my sister say, "get his head around." However, he was running so fast, I thought if I really cranked on his rein, he'd fall. Instead I applied steady increasing pressure on one rein and eventually that is what stopped him, but it took longer than it should have. He probably ran about 400-600 feet before I got him stopped.

I do know the one rein stop, but I've never practiced it at that speed.

I've had this horse for about 5 years and he's one of those horses that is good one day, then the next time you ride, it's like he forgot everything. I know the problem, it's that I don't ride him enough. He is for sale because of this, but in the meantime I'm still working with him.

I only had this bolting issue once, but I also stopped riding him outside of an enclosed space following this issue. I just recently started riding him in the open again, but it's far from the road and I just work in a field doing circles, transitions, lots of trotting, and no riding with others, etc.

Will the fear of him doing it again ever go away? Sometimes I feel like no matter what he does right, I'm never going to trust him like I want to.
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:55 AM  
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I would have the horse do circles and figure eights and whatever he does not like doing i.e standing ,backing and little things like that and I would look into having the horse re-trained change the bit or use a bit .
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:56 AM  
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The more you ride him successfully, the more your fears will dwindle. It just takes time. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt, though. If he has been very reliable the last year then he deserves some trust. Just be in tune with his body language and keep him focused on a task if you get nervous. It will keep you both calmer. And sing!
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:58 AM  
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Wow, smilie, that is a scary a$$ story, scary and something I never want to happen to me!

It's probably my biggest fear about riding.
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Old 11-09-2011, 10:05 AM  
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I'd like to jump in and hear the answers too..just yesterday I think I got bolted with..lol. It was either a bolt or a spook, but since the horse took off toward home I think it was more of a bolt. I have a new horse, and she has done shows forever and trail riding, but not a lot of work alone. She will balk and refuse to go if alone, til I get a crop after her. Yesterday she was just going along fine and suddenly took off running sideways and i came off. We had ridden away from the group.

I got back on and worked on making her go and she acted like she was threatening to buck. I made her go forward some but of course, I just had surgery and shouldn't have even done that much.

I rode some then walked her home and did a bunch of groundwork (I do mostly clinton) and lunged her til she was listening. However, I'm frustrated that this will become a habit.

Didn't want to thread jack, I just also want to be included in the advice!
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Old 11-09-2011, 10:19 AM  
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I would have the horse do circles and figure eights and whatever he does not like doing i.e standing ,backing and little things like that and I would look into having the horse re-trained change the bit or use a bit .
I had him sent out for a month, it helped, but consistency is our enemy. I'm not a consistent rider

I use a regular snaffle....oddly enough I noticed he is better with an english bridle. That is what the trainer used for that month.
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Old 11-09-2011, 10:24 AM  
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I had the one rein stop drilled into my head by a trainer who helped me start a horse. I was trail riding another horse who bolted and I did the one rein stop without thinking (mistake #1). We were running down a Man From Snowy River steep trail and I pulled the one rein stop and pulled the horse over. I remember thinking oh crap, and the thud of us hitting the ground. I did the snow boarder break the fall move by throwing out my arm to break our fall (mistake #2) so I broke something all right!

Anyway my point is that a one rein stop doesn't always work and you need more than one idea in your approach to stopping bolts. I believe I should have used a pulley motion to slow him down, or maybe i should have let him run to the bottom of the hill and he would have stopped going up the other side. Another idea is to sell the horse (which I did)

I got no warning (that I noticed) of the bolt, although DHs horse in front spooked which caused my horse to 180 and bolt down the hill.

At the time I just wanted to stop him, and was worried DHs horse would be bolting behind mine down the hill - which he didn't he had a few more brain cells.
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Old 11-09-2011, 11:20 AM  
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My friend got a second OTTB from someone, we knew nothing of its history, he was small and cute, anyway we had taken him and her OTTB (that I re-schooled for her & taught her to ride on!)out a few times with no problems..........

one day we were riding along a rode that we had done many times before when BAM my horse bolted, now I have ridden horses before that have bolted........NOTHING and I mean NOTHING I did had any effect on him, his mouth was dead, completely dead, he did not get his tongue over the bit he just set it and ran, my friend followed at a respectable distance so not to encourage him, he was flat out gallop on a tarmac country road round blind corners, I just had to ride it out till he tired, I was so lucky that the road was quiet, not more than 2 mins later a milk tanker came round the bend, I have never forgotten that day, needless to say we gave him back, then the owner told us he had this problem on the track too hence why he no longer raced, I was so angry that they did not warn us
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Old 11-09-2011, 11:23 AM  
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Don't worry CG, I highly doubt anyone takes CN's posts seriously, unless they're learning what NOT to do.
*sigh* just when I was going to agree with your good advice to Mav you have to ruin it with your rude and petty comment about me. so unnecessary and unprofessional

Mav I do think you weren't listening to what your nervous horse was trying to tell you. My horse has done the same things and when he acts up from the GET GO, I try and figure out what he's telling me, and I have even just taken him back home and foregone the ride that day, no big deal, I ride almost every day...maybe your cinch/girth was too tight, maybe he picked up a stone, maybe he sensed something you couldn't--I would not have pushed him to keep going, I would have walked him back home. Riding is also about compromise, not forcing a ride no matter what. Listen to your horse.
I was half joking with the riding it out advice, it worked for me and it has worked for others, yes, as a last resort.
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Old 11-09-2011, 12:20 PM  
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Very well put Sonseeahray girl and Smilie. Bolting is how I was severely injured. I was scolded by a very respected trainer in my province for not "running it out of him" the first time. I can say from experience that if I had let this giant 17hh Hano "run it out" every other time I probably would have died when the sixth major bolt happened- no dramatization. I am an experienced and knowledgeable rider.Still, bolting is scary beyond words, and it has proven in my case to have very serious consequences. I so respect you for seeking wise counsel and not minimizing it, as so many do.
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