Horse who bolts (a bit long)
Hi, I just need to talk to other horse-people about this… yesterday it was a bad day :(
Brief intro: my horse (9yo arabian gelding) has been a pasture pet for the last years. We only did ground work and basic manners. Now we're really cool from the ground, the issues are on saddle. I started riding him again in the arena and we're doing ok for the circumstances, so not really well but not bad either. I know it takes time to improve, anyway he understands and reacts well to the command for "stop". He was supposed to be a trail horse, but due to circumstances I didn't have riding buddies so I was alone for a long time and didn't feel comfortable outside. We did go on trails sometimes when I had company and he did extremely well, just sticking to the other horse.
That was what made me think that it was doable to go outside again if I found company. Clearly I was wrong.
So I found this guy with a nice, decently behaved horse, who said he would go with me. Yesterday was the day. I was a bit worried, but willing to try.
Other rider arrived earlier than we decided, so I did everything in a certain hurry. The horses sniffed each other, both friendly horses, no issues there. My horse was a bit excited about the other but he let me groom him, saddle, pick his feet. I lunged him just a couple of minutes, as I always do before tightening the cinch properly. Then I got on.
After about 30 seconds outside the arena, my horse decided that he didn't care for me or the other horse, that the outside world is huge and full of marvels to explore, and he started at a full-speed gallop.
Here maybe I did my first mistake? I did realize he was about to bolt, but I didn't react in time, and he had made a certain distance before I thought properly about what to do and one-rein stopped him.
Slow reflexes on my part :( but my first thought was "I have to stay on". At this time we have gained some distance from the other rider, and the moment I turned to see where he was, horsie decided another gallop was good. Again, I was too slow at stopping him, though I managed to before we collided with the other rider (not that I think we'd actually bump into him).
At this point I was really nervous and didn't feel safe, so I asked the other rider if we could go back into the arena. Way back was pretty short and went decently.
Then in the arena, I don't know what happened. It was so fast. Clearly the horse was overexcited and all, but I'm still not sure what triggered him to rear (he never did that). He bumped hard my head with his neck and I somehow fell to the ground (bless helmets and vests, I'm ok).
He didn't run away through the open arena door, he just trotted around for a while and let me catch him without a fuss. Other rider decided we weren't going to do anything and after checking that I was ok he went away.
Since I was on the ground I decided to lunge the horse until he was sweaty, not really as a punishment (too much time had passed) just to make him run in safety. All well, some hard bucks (normal for him) but nothing weird. After he was calm again I got back on and we did some trot in the arena, and he was my super-lazy-when-indoor horse again. Good stop and all. I didn't ride much because I was still a bit spooked and it was really windy, but what we did was our normal "ok".
Now I wonder what I could have done better. If I should have lunged him a lot, like an hour or more, before going outside with a horse who wasn't used to. Or once we were outside, if I should have stopped him more forcefully, or if I should have just gone on with the trail (mixed feelings on this, he would have calmed down eventually, I don't know if I would have stayed on until then).
Now my morale is below ground… after putting some thought into this, here are the options I thought of:
1 - I might work more the horse in the arena, say some months more, and try again later this year. In the meantime I would go outside walking the horse from the ground, so he can get used to the idea to listen to me in the outside world (I am very confident with him if I am on the ground, it would go well).
2 - I might decide I don't want to have to deal with his tantrums and send him to a trainer, who'll be way less gentle than I am, but wondering if it might be the best thing? I always try to be gentle and understanding, maybe he does need something else.
3 - I might decide I don't want to have to deal with his tantrums and sell him. This is the first time I even think about selling my beloved horse… it wouldn't be easy. But I'm just not sure I want a horse who rears when he's slightly disappointed.
Ok, I don't expect to find a definite answer here, just some opinions. Thank you if you read this long long rant of mine^^"