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.
Last edited by rams2050; 07-10-2011 at 06:35 PM.