Bolting when Mounting (Green OTTB!)

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Bolting when Mounting (Green OTTB!)

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    07-01-2011, 01:25 AM
Bolting when Mounting (Green OTTB!)

Hello all!

I just recently joined, because I've had a bit of a training problem. I live on land with my family in Texas. I own two mares, one of which was my first horse and we've recently (as of April 1, 2011) rescued. Flash is a 2003 OTTB mare that didn't have the nicest history at the track. She was adopted through a friend who could not care for a horse that sent her back to the ground the moment she got on.

Flash is a perfect girl on the ground. She's sweet as a button and will come to me from across the pasture when I call her. My grandparents say that she's the best horse they've ever owned (and this is after operating a farm for 30+ years with over 200 Thoroughbreds). I'm an experienced rider for someone of my age, and my mare needed a friend (we were moving from a boarding facility to home), so we figured that it would be alright to take Flash home with us when we loaded up our little red bumper pull. She didn't hesitate when loading the trailer; she lets us pick up her feet, play with her ears/head, etc.

After letting her settle in with Penny (or other mare) and a week of lunging in a surcingle and getting her used to the saddle, I decided I'd try to get on Flash and go for a hack around the home with a friend and Penny.

I'm going to interrupt here and say that the saddle is not what is bothering Flash. We have fitted our saddle to her, gel pad and all, and she is comfortable in it.

Anyhow, she's an angel up until you walk her to the mounting block. She tries to run over whoever is holding her. I have tried rubbing on her neck and easing my foot in and out of the stirrup. We've tried to let her relax before I ease onto her, and we've even resorted to a humane twitch. It is a fight to get on her, and when I do get on, you've got to do gymnastics to sit in the saddle whilst she's at a full-out gallop.

As soon as you're on her, Flash is as much as an angel any inexperienced green horse could be. Even if mounting is a fight, she responds to leg and voice commands, and is even starting to collect. We're 90% sure that some sort of accident in her racing days have scared this sweet little girl, and any help would be fantastic!

We are not planning on showing Flash. If anything, we would like to make her sturdy enough of a horse for either of my grandparents to ride, should they decide to hack together in the new future. I'm also wanting to foxhunt on her when she's trained enough to pursue such a task. However; regardless of her future, I'd like to make sure that she is sound enough if any sort of situation where mounting/dismounting in uncommon situations would be necessary.

Thank you for reading my rambling! All help is welcome with grateful, open "arms." :)

Marshall & Flash
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    07-02-2011, 02:21 AM
I've never had this problem before, but I think your on the right idea. She's scared of something, so it's you job to do your best to calm her. Maybe someone decided to "spook" her as the rider was getting on, who knows what happened. All I can suggest is going back to basics. Don't twitch or restrain for now, it won't solve the problem in the long run. I would suggest practicing standing. Lots and lots of it. Make her stand in her saddle EVERYWHERE. Then when she's used to it start petting her, and every time move further and further back. Maybe have your helper hold her while you "pet" her. Make sure you can do everything with her while someone else holds her (tack her up, pick feet etc.). Next just stand on the mounting block, or walk over it and keep walking while leading. Don't make a fuss and just ignore it. Also do the same practices next to the mounting block. Maybe even add multiple mounting blocks. From there on do the whole mounting a new horse thing, just REALLY REALLY slowly. This will probably take a LONG time, as in maybe over a month. Just patiently keep working on it until you regain the trust. This is how I would try to work with the horse, but since i've never tried it it's the only advice I can give you. I worked with an OTTB and from her I learned the importance of being very,very patient. Sometimes you just have to take a step back in order to move forward, and with OTTB's this is often the case. I hope this helps =)
    07-02-2011, 02:31 AM
Can you face her into a corner and have someone hold her? Get her used to weight in the stirrup and progress from that would be my suggestion.
    07-02-2011, 04:03 AM
Do you check her back to the side when you get on? It's not restraint, it just prevents her from flat bolting or bucking when you mount. Just shorter your left rein so that she tips her nose to you and hold that steady as you mount. That should at least help given the problem as you've described it.
    07-02-2011, 08:21 AM
Hello and welcome to the forum. Happy to have you here!

There could be many reasons at play here, that are causing the results you are getting. Firstly, how are you positive that the saddle correctly fits? Does it fit well without any pads on? If so, adding the gel pad is just making it worse...besides, gel pads are garbage. Reason being is because they do not take the force of the saddle, nor do they evenly dispurse the pressure points that the saddle creates. Instead, the gel moves away from the pressure, allowing the pressure points to remain. Gel pads and foam pads, garbage.

Also, this could be a pain issue - I would have a chiro come and assess your mares back, poll, jaw, nect, withers, shoulders, hips. There could be a vertibra out, her pelvis could be tilted, who knows. There could be something going on joint wise - have you had xrays done and a correct and thorough vet check to ensure that there is nothing going on in the hocks, stifles, knee's, ankles, back, hips, pelvis - etc, etc???

Another issue that could be at play here, is that she could have a cold back. Do you thoroughly lunge her before you get on?

I would re-assess your saddle. I would hire a professional saddle maker/fitter to come out and check this out to be sure. I would also get a vet involved, and an equine chiro. Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate any question at hand. This could be far more than just a "abuse" issue.

If this horse is friendly with you on the ground, and not so when you get on - PAIN ISSUE screams out at me.
    07-02-2011, 09:25 AM
Green Broke
Hi Marsh, welcome!

I felt like I was reading about my current mare for half of your post. I had the exact problem when I first got her except that when I could eventually stop her after I got on (key word being eventually) she would rear.

I can't speak for your girl Flash but my girl Bobbie was in a complete panic and so scared when I got on that when she eventually stood still, her whole body would shake. I could go in to what happened to her at the track, but suffice to say she did not have a very enjoyable experience there. I wonder if your girl is similar.

So, first and foremost you have to be a strong leader. If you are dealing with a frightened horse or even just an unsure horse, they are going to look to YOU for leadership and you have to provide it in a cool, calm and collected manner, no matter what they throw at you.

Secondly, even if your girl DID have a terrible time at the track, that is behind her now. You can't treat her with kid gloves (not suggesting you are) in an effort to make up for the tough time she has already had. Treat her with kindness of course, and fairness, but if you need to be firm then you must be firm. Bobbie (my OTTB) had two 'come to Jesus' meetings in the first few months that I had her because she needed to know that some behaviours are completely unacceptable. The first was for rearing, the second was for kicking. Neither have been an issue since.

Thirdly, for the mounting at the block issue *sigh* I remember how hard that was! Like trying to jump on a moving freight train from a small box. Take a look at this vid that one of our members made, you might find it helpful:

Ever have trouble mounting at a block?

As for the bolting while you are mounting, I did this:

Originally Posted by bubba13    
Do you check her back to the side when you get on? It's not restraint, it just prevents her from flat bolting or bucking when you mount. Just shorter your left rein so that she tips her nose to you and hold that steady as you mount. That should at least help given the problem as you've described it.
Your description of how you get on made me smile, I can imagine exactly how it is happening

Good luck, she sounds like a wonderful horse! In case you were wondering, it took me a couple of weeks to iron out my girl's rearing and a couple of months to sort out the mounting. She still walks off occasionally but the bolting has stopped completely. You'll get there!

ETA: Pain disclaimer. I had Bobbie vetted and seen by a chiro in the beginning to addresss the pain issue, you may want to look in to doing the same.
    07-02-2011, 09:51 AM
I train horses for a living and I would NOT under anu circumstances get on a horse that had to be twitched. You are braver than I am. If it were my horse I wouldn't try riding her until she could stand for mounting. Don't get in a hurry and get her used to seeing you next to her. Lead her to the mounting block several times a day until it becomes an okay place to be. Teach her to flex her head both directions so that you can bend her neck towards you without her feet moving then do that when you prepare to mount.

By mounting her when she is panicing like she is you are reinforcing that the mounting block is not a good place to be. She probably feels the same way about you forcing yourself onto her as you would feel about a man forcing you to dance with him. To take the dancing analogy a little further, if the man waits until you feel comfortable and asks politely you are apt to be a much nicer partner when the music starts and both of you will have a better time.
    07-02-2011, 10:00 AM
Great post Kevin! Great example as well.

I agree, you should not be forcing yourself onto the horse.
    07-02-2011, 01:13 PM
Agreed with Kevin's post.

Also keep in mind that on the track, the horses aren't mounted on a mounting block, nor are they mounted while they're standing still. The jockey gets a leg up as the horse is moving.

Do you know if she's had any chiropractic work done in the past (after she was off the track)? A lot of ottb's need some chiro. Work, and adjusting to a heavier rider (not meant offensively, just in comparison to a jockey) and much heavier saddle can throw some stuff out of wack. So even if you saddle does fit she could have some other underlying issues, even a few equine massage sessions could benefit her if that's the case.

If all pain related issues are ruled out, you can do lots of ground work with her tacked up. Lead her around the mounting block, halt beside it, and continue that until she stands beside it without a fuss. Keep your sessions short, and try not to discipline her, but rather reward any teeny tiny progress she makes like it's the biggest accomplishment she's ever made. Once she can stand quietly beside the mounting block, you can walk up, pet her, and walk back down, repeat. Just take baby steps in each session, and gradually get closer and closer to mounting her (put a foot in the stirrup, add some pressure, take your foot out, lean on the saddle, etc etc).
    07-02-2011, 01:27 PM
Green Broke
Have you tried getting a leg up, instead of using the mounting block?

If she is an OTTB, I doubt she would be used to having someone climb up on a step to get on her. As far as she knows, the mounting block is a horse eating monster.

Obviously, you will have a lot of work ahead of you to get her used to the mounting block, and you will have to do slow steps, as others have suggested.

bolting, english, green, mounting, ottb

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