Stopping a Bolter. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 02-07-2010, 11:30 AM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Stopping a Bolter.

My greenie decided he enjoyed taking up the habit of bolting.
He did it once, a legitimate spook, and caught me off guard. I ended up bailing off of him once he took off at a full gallop down the arena, because I couldn't stop him and didn't want either of us hurt.

Now, it is getting worse. He learned he could do it, and got me off, and just the other day he bolted from a stand still. Flat out just took off like a bat out of ****. That is how I know it is now a learned behavior and not something underlying. I have been using the same tack for as long as I've had him, and I've had vets approve it & also chiropractor work done on him. No injuries, etc.

He just flat out learned a new trick, and I'm beyond frustrated.

How do you fix a horse that bolts? I really hate this habit. Bolting and rearing are two that I said I'd never deal with. But lo & behold... I am now.
In all my years I've never had one do it this badly.

Ideas? Advice?
Where do I go from here?

I've thought about a bigger bit, as I only ride him in a plain eggbutt snaffle. I thought about a running martingale to give me that extra leverage so he can't get his head up, brace & grab the bit.

I've been told to spin him, one rein stop, as soon as he does it. And then I've been to put a western saddle on him and make him keep galloping until I say to stop, to make it not so fun anymore.
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post #2 of 14 Old 02-07-2010, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by LearnToFly View Post
I've been told to spin him, one rein stop, as soon as he does it. .
Don't ever teach a horse to spin as a cure for something else.

This horse does not trust or respect you and your cure lies in a more one on one relationship, starting from the ground.

If you are unable to do this then get a good trainer that can work with the both of you.
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post #3 of 14 Old 02-07-2010, 11:42 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Spyder View Post
Don't ever teach a horse to spin as a cure for something else.

This horse does not trust or respect you and your cure lies in a more one on one relationship, starting from the ground.

If you are unable to do this then get a good trainer that can work with the both of you.
That is what I thought might be the case too but it does not make any sense. I've owned him a year this summer, and he used to be very flighty and spooky. When I got him and started working with him, he has been extremely wonderful up until now. I could pick up contact and push him into it with no problem, or I could hack him on the buckle. He never spooked anymore, and listened so well. He was constantly paying attention to me. I could even take him for hacks down the road without so much as one spook. If he got scared he'd just stop and wait for me to push him forward towards whatever scared him.

Is it possible to loose trust that quickly? At one point, even the past couple months, he was trusting me completely, more than I think he ever has anyone.

I have always been very soft with him and very quiet, to try to instill confidence in him. It seemed to work, then this wrench gets thrown in.
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post #4 of 14 Old 02-07-2010, 11:49 AM
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What technique you use depends on a few different things, like where you are, what the footing is like and how balanced your horse is. I've done both the one-way stop with circles, and the run-through methods. If you are in an area with good footing, lots of space and no obstacles, either one could be done safely.

After I bring my guy back from a bolt using a one rein stop, I usually make him back up about ten steps or so, then make him stand completely still for about a minute. Once I know hes listening to me, I walk him out for a bit before continuing with what I was doing, as if nothing even happened.

Using the one rein method (when done properly) simply refocuses the horse and shifts his momentum, instead of doing what he wants and moving forward without thinking, he has to listen to you. You make it clear to him that you are still there, and that you are in control. Getting him to listen to you while he's bolting is the safest thing for both of you, even if it means you have to use a bit more force than he's used to.

Last edited by masatisan; 02-07-2010 at 11:59 AM.
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post #5 of 14 Old 02-07-2010, 11:55 AM
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Ahhh don't we love horses!!
Take a step back, a huge one. Back to like, tying and leading. He's obviously gotten something lost in translation here so you need to work from the very baby bottom ground up and figure out what it was.
Yes, it is possible for a horse to lose trust that fast. This is why the number one rule where I sack of potatoes to break horses is "do not fall off". If we can keep horses in the dark that it is possible for us to fall off for as long as possible, the better. I'm not saying be tense and waiting for the horse to spook, just stay centered and always be ready.
There is a horse with a similar issue like this at the barn I board at. Luckily they lunged the horse for a good 6 months before trying to get on it and "found" that it just randomly bolts off for no apparent reason. They worked through it on the ground and built up a routine about fixing it when it does happen, worked on some prevention and now the horse is broke, even under saddle. It's been almost a year since the purchase of the horse and it's has what like 30, 60 rides? You have to take these things really slow.

Good luck!
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post #6 of 14 Old 02-07-2010, 07:12 PM
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First, you don't actually stop a bolter. It can't be done. A bolter is in another world and does not respond to outside stimuli. It's why horses who bolt often run themselves into fences/walls/whathaveyou...because they don't 'see' around them. They aren't thinking. Their brains have shut off.

What I call a 'spook and scoot' is what most people experience and those horses can be stopped after a few strides just by sitting up or with a properly applied one-rein stop if they continue to be excited. No circling or spinning pls. Good way to take the horse's feet out from underneath him.

I agree that this is a trust issue. For some reason a loss of confidence has happened and he's no longer looking to you for safety. He may simply have become mentally overwhelmed at one point and now any time he feels the pressure rise, he reverts to fleeing.

I think the best answer is to back way up and do a mini restart on him. Go back to the groundwork, establish a consistent routine so he knows what's coming next, longe for a few minutes before riding to assess his mental state that day...if he's not quite right, then don't ground work that day. Perhaps do some clicker training and introduce a 'calm down' cue that you can employ in moments of tension.
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post #7 of 14 Old 02-07-2010, 07:35 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you everybody for the input.

It is just hard to imagine that a loss of trust has happened. He is so in-tune to me constantly, from the minute I walk into the barn he wants to be by my side. He watched my every single move. He is such an emotional horse and really looks for my company.

I rode him today, and he was back to his phenomenal self. The difference? I lunged him first, before even tacking him up, to let him get his 'crazies' out. He ran & bucked on the lunge, then once he settled, I took him back in & tacked up.
We put draw reins on him, but only had them tight enough to where if he tried to lift his head high enough to grab the bit & bolt, it would give some pressure and keep him from getting his head that high.
And he was amazing, exceptional even.
I changed the snaffle to a Boucher (sp?) to see if that helped, as it is a little thinner in the mouth piece, where was my snaffle is quite thick & very soft.

He was completely responsive, and was stretching through his back and down to the bit so nicely. He really was looking for the contact today, maybe only once or twice did the draw rein actually come into play. The rest of the entire ride by myself and my friend it wasn't used, was just there for us as something to hold.

It was so nice to have to push him forward again... =P

I think that the 'bolting' issue may just be excess energy that he doesn't know what to do with. Once he is concentrated and focused, like today, he works like an angel.

Thank you all for your input. :)
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post #8 of 14 Old 02-07-2010, 07:40 PM
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Just curious as to how one would teach the calm down cue? Is that when you pick straight up on the reins and the head goes down? OR were you thinking of something else?

Horses and children, I often think, have a lot of the good sense there is in the world.
Josephine Demott Robinson
Feed, muck, groom, ride. Repeat daily!
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post #9 of 14 Old 02-08-2010, 09:50 AM
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First let me say that this is not to stop a bolt in progress, but to prevent it in the future. Having good one rein softness and a gradual one rein stop will stop your bolt. If you can't do that then you need to go back work on getting your horse softer to your hands.

Let's say if you were in between two brick walls about 10 feet apart and not facing either wall. You take a tennis ball and throw it as hard as you can. It's going go for a while right? Alright, say you throw it into one of the walls, it's going to bounce back and forth a little but then settle in the middle right? This is what will happen with your horse if you practice 180 degree direction changes (one rein at the time), they will learn to just settle between your reins and legs. So what you would do is bait your horse into speeding up or taking off and just turn back the other way and drop the reins. Bait them and change the other way. Keep doing this untill your horse refuses to speed up or take of when you try to bait(spook) them. Then find another object you can use to bait them( I like using a feed sack) and repeat just to make it thorough.

I will repeat, you must have your horse wiling to give to your hands on each side very easily. Also do not every pull on both reins while you still having to work on this.

This is something that should be adressed within the first 10 rides and the bolting problem will never come up in the future.
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post #10 of 14 Old 02-08-2010, 11:06 AM
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He's taken off on you twice?
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