How to stop a bolting horse. I wrote a reply to this problem partly because I used to own a horse prone to whirling & bolting. I had intended that the article be viewed from an English style rider’s point of view. British riders are not usually taught sliding stops in any form – quite simply neither the English bridle set nor the English saddle are designed for such techniques and then there is always the risk to the check ligament. Yes, a spirited horse may be ridden restricted by leather martingales or nose bands but of all the bits available few match the severity of an American levered bit. Yet the need in Britain to control a frightened horse in the narrow country lanes and over crowded highways is much greater than in the wide open spaces of the US. In Britain the majority of horses must be rideable within the community amidst fast moving traffic. Indeed an experienced rider can hire a horse to ride in the very centre of London. A persistent runaway horse cannot be tolerated as they may maim or even kill innocent passers by. Consequently the British approach to horses is different. Persistent bolters become classified as “lawless” and are put to one side. However a severely frightened horse that gallops off through fear needs help in controlling its fear. The application of pain onto a severely frightened horse will merely reinforce the fear. Generally speaking to control a runaway the horseman can either turn or bend the neck or seek obstacles to forward movement or exhaust the horse. The over use of a harsh bit may provoke other additional forms of evasion such as rearing. The present trends in training techniques in Britain, thanks partly to the influence of Monty Roberts, concentrate more on the encouragement of the horse to comply with and trust the rider rather than to submit to and fear the hands of the rider. Barry Godden
Mr. Godden, I do believe that you need to make a trip to the US, or, if you already have, look a little further. The "wide open spaces of the US" are few and far between where I live. Many of my trail rides include major highways, busy bridges over major highways, busy intersections, even the occasional fast food drive through. If a horse is not yet prepared for that, it will not be leaving my property. If a horse does not yet know how to look to me as the leader when it hits a sense of panic, it will not leave the property. If I have not yet learned to manage the fight or flight reflex of a horse, then I have no business being on that horses back.
The only wide open spaces that my horses see is when we are working cows, which we have to trailer them to. Again, they won't do this until they can be attentive to me in a less than perfect situation and not panic at the sound of a gun shot or a bull whip popping over their head. Once the cows are off to market, the horses are right back in dressage training.
If I am on a horse that bolts, then I obviously did not do the best job training that horse. I would work at it until it did stop, I would then back track in training until I figured out what went wrong.
If a novice were put in the unfortunate event of being on a runaway horse, then their only options would be to pull it together and work to stop, ride it out, or bail and hope for the best. I find that it is much easier to train the horse than to train the people to ride it.
I personally have never met a bolter that was beyond help. I have also never met a horse so spirited that it is incapable of looking to a person as a leader. I have met horses that are spirited because they lack leadership and manners. English and Western are simply saddles between a human and a horses back. Proper mechanical structure and function are the same regardless. Teaching the horse proper posture and self carriage are the same, the horses body doesn't change. Correct frame of mind where true learning is achieved is the same from breed to breed. Different breeds may have different tendencies, but they all have the capabilities to be comfortable in their frame of mind given that they have had the proper instruction. When given a problem, I do not look at how to avoid it or how to stop what I see, I want to know why it is there in the first place. I want to know why that horse thinks that its decision to run is better than my decision to stay. I don't work around my horses, I work with them. That is how I do it in the US anyway.