Horse who bolts (a bit long) - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 03-05-2014, 02:24 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Italy
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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^^"
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post #2 of 11 Old 03-05-2014, 02:38 AM
Join Date: Sep 2011
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I am concerned that you say that 'hard bucks' are normal for him.

This sounds like in the few years he has been on pasture he has completely forgotten how to be ridden under saddle.

Is there anywhere in Italy where you could send him to a trainer? My best advice would be to treat him like a youngster, and start from the beginning.

If he gets excited on the lunge, the problem with a 'few minutes' means he gets to wind himself up and up and up, then you get on his back, take him to a new environment and it blows his mind.

Has he had a chiro out to check him over, teeth checked and saddle fitted? Hard bucks on the lunge or disrespectful, no matter how well you think groundwork has been done. If ANY of my horses did that, my lunge whip would crack their backsides and they would run until they wanted to stop, and then run some more until I was satisfied. The horse has 22 hours a day to do what it wants, when I want to groom and ride, its my time.

Also, what feed is he on?

ETA: The problem with lunging him thoroughly before a hack out, or riding... he will get fitter and fitter and be able to mess around longer, harder and faster. Its counter productive, and I would never recommend anyone lunge their horse because they can't cope in the saddle. A youngster, or fit horse to get a few beans out if they've had days off, fair enough... but not an hour before going out and about to be able to cope with him.
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post #3 of 11 Old 03-05-2014, 12:07 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Italy
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He's just on hay and whatever he finds in the pasture (this is the season when the grass is taller), no grains of any kind.

Regarding the bucks, He does that just when excited and never seemed to consider "running more" a punishment… by the time he gets tired I'm sure he forgot he even bucked.

Yes there are trainers here^ I usually prefer not to ask them for reasons too long to explain here, but I'm willing to try if I cannot solve things alone.

I don't think the horse is in any pain - his attitude changes just depending on his mood, when he's calm he doesn't buck, rear or react badly in any other way.
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post #4 of 11 Old 03-05-2014, 04:08 PM
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I will tell you one of the 'rules according to Cheri' that we work with around here to avoid problems like the ones you're having.

1) NEVER do anything new on a 'fresh' horse. Riding out in the pasture or on the trail is not what this horse is used to doing. So, you should ride him for 1 or 2 or 3 hours BEFORE you head out and do something new. This does not mean that you lope him endlessly until his head is hanging, but you put in a very good schooling ride. Lope some circles, lope some 'squares' (this teaches riding on straight lines), do mixed fast and slow work (this is very important), do lateral work (like leg yielding exercises), do lead departures and stops mixed in with rollbacks and turn-arounds and more lead departures, do stops and back-ups, and on and on and on.

Do you get the idea? Ride the fresh or the edge off of him but not going around in mindless circles. Get him more 'broke' in the process. You do fast and slow circles so he learns how to handle speed and you learn too. Running just completely blows some horse's minds if you do not teach them that they can run and then slow back down and walk.

Now, if you have a horse well worked, listening and not 'fresh', then go out and do something that he is not used to.

Say, I want to teach a horse to pull a log from the saddle horn. I will take a horse that has been on a 3 hour trail ride and 'log' him when I get back to the ranch. He is not fresh, silly or hunting boogers. He will settle right in and usually will pull a log like he has done it all of his life.

Now on the rearing. I would guess that since you were already spooked, you were holding your reins too tight. Almost all rearing is rider error and that error is 'trapping' a horse with too tight of a rein hold when he is nervous or overly 'forward'. If a horse (or rider) is wound up, nervous or scared, ride with one rein or the other to avoid this pitfall. Only put pressure on both reins at the same time with a 'compliant' horse.

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post #5 of 11 Old 03-05-2014, 06:58 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the answer it makes muuuuch sense :)

I can't honestly remember what I was doing or how when he reared, but I'll put more attention to the one-rein thing.

One-rein stopes went smooth and painless even with the horse overexcited so I hope I did well at least that small part in the oceans of mistakes.
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post #6 of 11 Old 03-07-2014, 02:49 PM
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I mostly trail ride and we have a big TB/Oldenburg X that we take out from time to time. He's not ridden very much and his training is spotty (he was a foxhunter who suffered a bowed tendon, so was given to us for my husband). He has bolted a few times on the trail - the first time I couldn't do a one-rein because we were on a dam and it wasn't safe, so I rode it out. What we have done since that seems to help is a little lunging and arena riding before trailering to the park (15-20 minutes). Then at the park on the trail he gets to be the back or middle horse (2 or 3 of us ride). My husband is good with the one rein should he need it, and the rider in front will turn sideways on the trail to stop him if needed. We've only had to do this 2 or 3 times, but having a plan helps with the riders anxiety! If your trails are nearby and don't require trailering, have you considered walking him on the lead on the trail when you don't have anyone to ride with you? Get him acclimated to the trail and good exercise/bonding for both of you.
Good luck!
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post #7 of 11 Old 03-07-2014, 10:16 PM
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Since you mentioned it was windy that may have brought on his behaviour. The wind plays havoc with their senses and they rely on their senses to survive. Mine are always on edge when it's windy. I think this horse needs wet saddle blankets. Ask the fellow if he'd be interested in an all day ride. Nothing like a pooped horse to take the stupid out of it. When horses are ridden 4 or 5 hrs daily they becomes experts at conserving energy. It's not long before the idea of being silly or bucking or rearing loses it's appeal as it's too much work.
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post #8 of 11 Old 03-08-2014, 01:20 PM Thread Starter
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If your trails are nearby and don't require trailering, have you considered walking him on the lead on the trail when you don't have anyone to ride with you? Get him acclimated to the trail and good exercise/bonding for both of you.
I think I'll do this, good exercise for me is another thing I need and I know we'll be ok with me on the ground.

Nothing like a pooped horse to take the stupid out of it. When horses are ridden 4 or 5 hrs daily they becomes experts at conserving energy. It's not long before the idea of being silly or bucking or rearing loses it's appeal as it's too much work.
Unfortunately I cannot ride for 4-5 hours a day, but I'll try to work him more, you're right he has too much energy inside XD
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post #9 of 11 Old 03-08-2014, 01:30 PM
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I found this video very helpful to me in working on getting Mia to stop better:

Mia does well in a simple western curb bit. I'm starting to work on transitioning her back into a snaffle, but I have no intention of trail riding with her in a snaffle anytime soon...she's too good at grabbing a bit in her teeth when excited or scared. My favorite curb bit:

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"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #10 of 11 Old 03-09-2014, 10:40 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2013
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I'm riding bitless right now, anyway neither me nor the horse ever used a curb so we're not likely to start now ^^"

Horsie stops just with the whoa when he is listening… I don't even have to touch the reins.

Today noticed clearly that the problem is that the horse is not ridden much.

With me on ground he is just awesome. He probably doesn't realize it's still me on his back, or maybe he doesn't think he should listen…

This morning we did our normal exercises in the arena (good from the ground, meh from saddle), and then after we finished we went outside with me walking.

My evil steed was an angel. We walked mostly, trotted a little, made many stops, he never pulled, never tried to run away, never anything. The most "disrespectful" thing he did was trying to eat grass when we stopped. I even picked all 4 feet in the middle of the trail. We passed 1 meter from a free cow, and nothing more than a glance.

He does so well when he thinks he should listen… I guess the only cure is hours and hours under saddle...
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