Help me: 'trained' horse now bolting - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 06:32 PM Thread Starter
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Help me: 'trained' horse now bolting

I am 66 years old and have been riding for 61 years. I have owned 10 different horses during that time, and all have been superb. Or, at least they've been superb once I convinced them that I would not harm them.

My ONLY problem is one of my current horses -- Preen, an 11-year-old Arabian mare. Preen is the daughter of my other horse, Sadie, who is 24. I bought Preen because I saw her being born, formed an instant attachment to her and felt it would be nice to have a horse who could carry me into my old age. (No, I'm not there yet!)

I started Preen out when she was 3 using natural horsemanship techniques. She was a joy to break and I have had very few problems but the ones I have had are somewhat frightening, at least when I thought my job was done and Preen was trained.

Let me first state that you will ride no more willing horse than Preen. She is light on the feet, responsive and when she is in the woods, breaking a trail, she is absolutely unbelievable and fearless. She stands stock-still when being mounted or dismounted, lets me do anything with her when I'm on the ground and is a pretty good horse. It is on established trails, roads and when around other horses that she becomes squirrelly, for lack of a better word.

Here is the sum total of my problems with Preen:

After owning her for 7 years -- and doing some cantering early on in the training process -- I was trail riding with a friend who, with no warning, began to canter. Without thinking -- after all, Preen hadn't cantered in some years with me on her back -- I kicked her up (like I have done with other horses in the past) and she promptly pitched me over her head and into a borrow ditch 15 feet away. It was a considerable buck, not one of those little baby bucks some horses throw to show their displeasure or excitement.

The buck -- or the landing -- broke my ankle. Not too badly, but I was out of commission for 8 weeks (mainly because they had told me it wasn't bad and so I kept doing what I had been doing until I found out it was getting worse).

The break made me somewhat fearful but when I was better I continued riding without incident until January, when the person who boarded my horses gave me a month to find a new boarding stable. (She and her husband had reconciled and he demanded that she sell her farm and most of her horses).

I moved Preen and Sadie to another facility where they encountered 8 new horses, mares and geldings alike. A terrible snowstorm struck and horses being horses, the established herd beat up my girls and kept them from the food. I hauled hay in on my back and carried it to where my two mares were huddled in 2 1/2-foot snow. Eventually they moved back with the herd, but Preen is still low horse on the totem pole. Sadie has moved up the pecking order and is doing well.

When I started trail riding with the group I noticed that Preen was more nervous than usual, which I attributed to her new surroundings and her low rank in the herd.

But things haven't gotten better, they have deteriorated. . . even though two of the horses Preen used to board with have moved in with her and Sadie, while the other 8, the ones who have beat her up, have gone to a summer facility.

The person who used to board my horses has moved to my stable, as well.

Preen now bolts for no reason -- and sometimes for reason, such as when a cow explodes out of nearby brush, which is understandable. When she bolts, she runs very fast for about a yard before I can stop her. I am now turning her after she bolts and making her go into circles but I just started doing this and I am not sure it will work. (the tactic did work after she became scared of vehicles when a monster pickup truck, with no muffler, threw rocks at her head and chest after not slowing down when passing us).

I have only fallen off once after her bolts -- when she ran smack-dab into the rear of another, unmounted horse and my leg went over the saddle. I was okay until she pivoted unexpectedly to the left. Boom! Off I went. I was unhurt.

I ride using a D-ring snaffle with French link. A vet told me to switch to something like a Kimberwick; another trainer advised me to use a Tom Thumb (which I have used without incident on another horse in the past. I have extremely light hands).

My friend -- the one who sold her farm -- told me that the problem was mine (she bred the horse and thinks her bloodlines can do no wrong). She told me I am a poor rider (albeit, one with 61 years experience who has never heard that comment from anyone else before). I have ridden in horse shows (limited success but not much money at the time, either, for good horses) and was a member of two mounted drill teams. I have also broken 4 other horses, all of which turned out well.

The horse that woman is now riding is a cousin of my mare, Preen. His name is Regal and while I have been trying to round up advice on what I should be doing I called the guy who trained Regal for her. (Yeah, why is she giving ME advice when she sent HER HORSE to a trainer?) Anyway, this trainer says, "Wait! You're not riding that mare, are you? If she's related to Regal you should be very careful. I don't get thrown often, but Regal threw me four times -- HARD." That guy is BIG; me, not so much!

I have returned to doing groundwork with her -- working on leg aids, yielding the head and neck, one-rein stops -- lots of the basics.

She loves me dearly and I get no sense that she does not respect me.

Again, she is still with her mother and I have been observing the two of them closely and what I see is a horse that follows behind her mommy like a young foal, making no decisions for herself. Could that be the problem? I owned one other mother/youngster combo but had no siimilar problems with that young mare.

Preen has been on approximately 200 trail rides of varying duration, most between 2 and 5 hours in length. ALL of them in the company of other horses.

She has never been ridden by anyone else.

Does she have 'mommy issues?' Should I take her out by herself for several hours each day for a month or so? (This has me concerned; I don't want to be pitched off an wind up in a ditch, unconscious).

Or should I simply work on circling her whenever one of her bad little bolts takes place? After all, that tactic has worked in the past on several other little bad habits she had picked up (i.e., vehicles approaching).

My friend says I should feel Preen tensing in anticipation of the bolt but I don't. I know what she is saying but Preen simply GOES with no type of forewarning.

I have taken to riding with two hands, but not using a death grip because Preen likes her head. By the way, she travels easy -- head low like a western trail horse, which I like and enjoy. The exception is when she takes off. . . without warning.

I have horses because I enjoy trail riding with others, not alone, but I am at wit's end. I want to do what is best for myself AND my horse. I am not exactly fearful any more (after being pitched), but I have become more conscious of what could happen and less reckless than in my younger days.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Last edited by rams2050; 07-10-2011 at 06:35 PM.
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post #2 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 08:05 PM
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For starters, the D-ring french link is fine. I trail ride my TB in that same bit and have no issues using the one rein stop on him.

Sorry to hear Preen has bone backwards a bit. That has to be frustrating. I'd love to pop that rider in the head who took off cantering in front of you. I rode with someone like that once and it is very unsafe. I was lucky that my TB didn't seem to experience long term effects of the panic he obviously felt my suddenly being left behind.

Assuming Preen does give you ample warning of her "moment", this looks like a job for the one rein stop. There are many many videos out there demonstrating it, so I won't go into detail about how it works. Just practice it in the confines of an arena at the walk/trot and canter before taking it out for a spin.

The cool thing about the one rein stop is, unless your horse is a total idiot, once she knows you can prevent her bolts 100% of the time, she'll stop trying. She'll still get scared, and may still react, but it'll be more spook in place than run for the hills. My TB and I are masters at it. He gave up trying to get anywhere 3 years ago! Good luck.

You just have to see your don't have to like it.
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post #3 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 08:33 PM
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I agree with Puck here...I wouldn't go throwing a curb of any kind in her mouth, especially if she IS so light in the mouth; plus you will lose your ability to laterally bend her, confusing her further, and you could both get hurt even more...stick with what you have.

Do you have an arena you can ride her in? Along with teaching her the ORS like Puck highlighted, I would start doing some cruising exercises; especially when you mentioned that she tossed you that one time, part of the issue may be that she doesn't have alot of 'self' gait control, and if she IS so dependent on her dam, it is time to start teaching her to 'think for herself' in some aspects.

My own mare was a bucker/bolter when I got her, and although cruising around an arena, may not sound like something that would help that sort of thing, it has helped my mare a ton, because she had to learn how to focus, and retain the gait I put her in, without me leaning on her mouth, or otherwise interfering, I just moved with her, and the only time I did anything was if she broke gait; a kiss, or click if she slowed, and putting her on a circle until she went back down into the gait I wanted, if she had sped up...this included if she had bolted. I DID NOT stop her all together...just put her into a circle small enough to get her to slow back down, dropped the reins again, and let her go.

When she has the cruising exercises down while just you and her are in the arena, then have a friend come in and ride in the middle of the arena, and do the exercises with the other horse in there. when she bolts, just circle her, and get her back down to the pace desired, and let her go again. I do alot of trot and canter when I cruise, mainly because it helps the horse focus quicker, and retain that focus, since he can't just look around and get bored.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #4 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 09:35 PM
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I totally agree with what Puck and M2M said.
You got the best of the best advisers here (not the only ones, tho).

I think your observation about her not making decisions for herself is a keen one and reflects your considerable experience. And you idea of working her alone at times has merit. However, start small. To take her out for a two hour ride alone would be so stressful for both of you and only create opportunities for a bad experience. you could do some very short rides by herself, like 10 minutes to start with, and build on that.

I know what you mean by the horse not giving you any warning. My horse is often like that, though rather than bolt, he spins.

If you do work more on your one rein stop, I agree to stay in a snaffle, and consider using a single rein (not split) so that you can shorten it faster if necessary.

You might even do some desensitizing stuff on the ground with her to build her exposure and get her to be able to spook in place.

I am sure you are a skilled rider and you are not causeing this, but it is possible that after it has happened a few times you come to have an expectation that it will happen again, at any time, and this cannot help but be transmitted to the horse in some minute way.

I have this very same problem and have been a bit shy to admit it. I am certain that though I try to be Ms. Confidence in the saddle on Mac, he knows that I know that he may spin, totally without warning, and put me on the ground as he's done 5 times. Folks say, you have to ride with confidence that it won't happen, then it won't. And the thing is, for folks that have NOT had that experience with Mac, they can do it. Me, I can only fake it.

SO, my point here is that there may be some merit to having someone else ride her from time to time. What do you think?
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post #5 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 09:45 PM
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Oh, I was going to suggest having someone else ride her too... Atleast if she pulls the same stunt for them you will know it's not "you" necessarily, but just a pony that needs to learn how to "spook in place" more or less.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #6 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 10:26 PM
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i'm very much against using one rein to stop unless you really feel like your going to be killed.

rollbacks, endless circles, backing up and standing still are all useful things for rushing/bolting horses.
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post #7 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 10:31 PM
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christopher, why on earth would you be against such an effective tool? Used properly, the horse doesn't even get a chance to bolt. My horse is so good at it that I can't even make an instructional video about it since he refused to bolt no matter what we do to him. He knows he won't get 2 steps, so he doesn't bother. Maybe you're confusing it with the pulley rein??

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post #8 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 10:42 PM
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However, the ORS still has to be taught, if you are going to use it...I want my horses to KNOW what picking up that rein means, I don't want to just have to pull his head around, hoping to muscle him into a turn; if he doesn't know that you want him to stop, he may well keep moving anyway...sideways, in a circle, or even forward, with that head bent. I don't want to get to that moment of "OMG!!!! I'm going to die!" before trying to see if my horse will stop using a ORS. You might as well use the pulley rein if you're going to do that... just my thought on it though, since I'm not sure how you implement the ORS if you haven't trained the horse into it...that can be extremely dangerous for both you and the horse.

I DO agree with you on using the other exercises though; keeping the horse's mind focused is one of the best ways of 'training' him out of unwanted behaviors, even spooking. Keep him occupied enough, and spooking starts happening less and less, because he can't focus on everything around him.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #9 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 11:41 PM
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because 1 rein needs to mean turn, not stop. if you overuse it then picking up 1 rein will begin to mean "look over there, but slow/stop the feet" to the horse. disconnecting the horses nose and the horses feet, which inadvertantly compromises the effectiveness of the 1 rein stop. and it teaches the horse to hold itsself in a terrible position when you aren't holding onto the reins (weight on the forehand, head in the air, hindquarters rushing)

simply put, in order to have a really good emergency 1 rein control mechanism, the horse needs to know solidly how to follow it's nose. teaching the 1 rein stop teaches horses that when you pull 1 rein, they are to stop their feet, which isn't a form of following its nose with its feet. which makes it more likely that if a horse runs away with you and you pull 1 rein, they'll just look to the direction you've pointed them but keep galloping straight.

it's for this reason i prefer to simply use 1 rein to regain control through circles and turns, but 1 rein shouldn't ever mean stop, because if it does then it means the same thing as pulling both reins, which defeats the purpose of using 1 rein.
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post #10 of 16 Old 07-10-2011, 11:54 PM
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Ummm...when I turn a horse, I am using leg pressure as well, and my seat isn't 'settled' like when I want the horse to stop. The reins are not the only tool used for turning, or stopping, for that matter.

When I am stopping, there is no leg on, and my seat is deep, and my body is not moving with the horse like when I am asking for forward movement. The horse DOES know the difference. I teach the horse to stop using just my seat from the basis of the ORS as well. I won't get into the mechanics of it, but the horse DOES learn how to stop on his hind end this way as well.

IF the reins are used as just a mechanism for turning or stopping with no use of the body, legs or seat to aid those cue, then, yes, when teaching the ORS your horse might get confused. If the horse is running around, or stopping with his head in the air, too, you are probably executing it wrong...I bring the rein around toward my hip which brings the horse's head down and in... I also teach him to flex laterally before I teach the ORS, so that I have that proper bend before asking for a stop. It's all in the execution, how you ask for it, and your expectations of it. It CAN be a beneficial tool in training, but if taught wrong, then, yes, you could experience some of the things you highlighted.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."

Last edited by mom2pride; 07-11-2011 at 12:15 AM.
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bolting , natural horsemanship , problem horse , training

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