Buck/Bolt While Mounting
Hey guys :) I'm brand new to this forum, and the reason I joined is to hopefully get some help/advice when it comes to my little arab gelding. The problem I'm having with him is his tendency to take off and start bucking while you're mounting, and have one foot in the stirrup. Not fun.
Let me give you a bit of history. He's 19 years young, in great shape, and we've owned him for just under a year. Before I bought him, I went out to see him a number of times, but only rode him twice, which was a huge mistake on my part. Honestly I completely rushed into buying him. I was due to move up to Edmonton from BC to join my husband who was posted at the Military base there, and when I came across "Rummy" it was all just kind of a big coincidence. I was surprised to find that he was the same horse I had been visiting as a little girl, he lived down the road from my grandparents house and we used to go over and feed him handfuls of grass. I always thought he was so pretty, so when I found out he was for sale at a dirt cheap price I kind of jumped the gun.
The first few times riding him I noticed he was very tense when it came to mounting. His neck would stiffen and rise up, and his eyes looked worried. But each time, he would stand very still, and walk off only when asked. Then he would relax and we would get on with our ride. Now the woman I bought him off had nothing but great things to say about him, loved to jump, hack, countless trail miles, and he lived under an airport so he was used to loud noises. So this sounded like the perfect horse for me, and the reason she was selling him was due to the fact that she couldn't afford the pasture rent anymore and needed to sell her horses. A few days later his pasture mates were sold and he jumped the fence as if to go looking for them, lol. He was clearly more nervous being alone in the pasture and she had a hard time keeping him in. I had paid for and arranged his transport up to Alberta, and the day before we were due to leave, I went out for a ride. He fidgeted a whole lot and honestly made me nervous, so the previous owner offered to get on him first and... he bucked her off. She was shocked. Apparently he had never done anything like that before. So naturally... I began feeling disheartened about the whole thing.
Rummy was trailered up to Alberta. When he arrived, the woman remarked just how hard he took the trip. Apparently he was polite, but he shook and sweated the whole way. It took him a few days to settle in, and he seemed like a totally different horse. Pushy. Very pushy. Very nervous. Spooky. Of course I could understand this, as he'd spent nearly 10 years in that field and now he was in a brand new place having traveled a long distance. Suddenly he was a huge pain - he took hours to catch, refused to bridle and halter, and impossible to saddle. However, after a few months of work he improved in huge ways. He's now perfectly fine to bridle, saddle and to catch! He has calmed down alot. He's still rather pushy, but we're working on that. Finally it came to riding. At first, he would walk off and tense up the second you became taller than he was. He would shimmy away and you couldn't mount him. Finally after working on that, he began standing still and appearing less nervous. We got to the point of getting on, and I rode him about 6 times without incident. Just the other day however, he took off with me half on, and exploded into this bucking spree, and I honestly couldn't tell you why. He ended up throwing me of course, lol.
I've had the vet come and check his teeth and back, nothing seems to be wrong. His feet are perfect and he doesn't seem to be sore. The saddle fits, I've had it checked, I've taken his bit down from a heavy eggbutt to a regular snaffle. I had a riding accident about 5 years ago that landed me in the hospital for 10 days and had me bed ridden for 2 months, with a shattered pelvis. The injury still bothers me to this day so, I know how breakable I am and honestly, I don't feel like risking another severe injury. I understand that there is always a risk with horses but with this one, the risk is greater. I don't want to give up on him, but honestly I dont really know what to do or where to go with this. I'm really regretting not taking the time to look for the right horse, and feeling pretty stupid about the whole ordeal honestly. Apologies for the novel :( Any help would be greatly advised. Oh and, he always seems to have a pretty irritable mood -.-
Other little facts:
He lives in a large pasture with about 30 other geldings. Its run by the military so it`s very well kept.
He's on regular hay, no grain or supplements (however I'm considering a calming supplement... advice on that would be great too!)
When my horse started trying to take off on me I broke out the round pen and lounge line. Every time I try to mount and my horse moved away or any any direction except for adjusting for my weight being on him I asked him to trot briskly after getting off. And try again. But I always made sure to ask for the same thing from him. Consistency is key. But me sure you take care of your self first. If you aren't comfortable trying it by your self have your trainer help you or maybe a friend.
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And about his irritable mood. Work on your bond together. Lonuging and treats help with that too.
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I read this and I think you got dooped. I don't think this horse is broke to ride. It shows every classic example of a horse that isn't broke. When you say you rode him a couple of times...did you ride him all by himself or did someone lead you around while you sat on his back? Just cause the owner says the horse did all of this stuff - I wouldn't believe her. In horses believe none of what you hear about a horse and only half of what you see. So if we take out what she says about the horse being this or that...we see a horse who doesn't like to be mounted does the two classic defenses bolts to escape it and starts to buck when bolting doesn't work. Both signs this horses isn't broke. And I don't care that the horse is 19 years old either...thats no guarentee that its been broke.
I strongly suggest you find a trainer to help you with this horse; buck/bolt behavior is NOT an easy behavior to break, especially if you are nervous, or anticipating the behavior. Have someone work through it, and then have them work with you with him. THAT is the safest answer for both of you.
Look at the bright side. My mare got it into her head that DISMOUNTING was the scary time, and started bolting in mid-dismount.
However, it still sucks. I've got an injury from 3 years ago that still bothers me every day, so I understand the concern.
If you have $$$ for a good trainer to come and work at least a few lessons, great. If not...
I'd start with mounting lessons. Have someone hold him, and just put your foot in the stirrup. With time and a lot of repeats, progress to a little weight, more weight, and more. My mare likes face rubs, so good behavior = face rubs for her.
With time, work your way up to standing in one stirrup. Be patient, and remember one bad experience cancels out 20 good ones. It is better to go 'too slow' than a little too fast!
Before working on swinging your leg over, work a lot on desensitizing him to things touching his legs, his rump, etc. A coiled lariat worked well for me. Before going for a leg over, plan on getting him used to ropes, saddles, etc flopping around onto his back, hitting his butt, around his hind legs, belly, etc.
The helper can help you a lot by watching his response. Head down, ears forward, almost sleeping - good. Rolling eyes, neck perpendicular to the ground - bad. That will help you know how far you can go without scaring him.
A little tension, followed by relaxing is progress. Increasing tension without release means you are pushing too far too fast and about to go backward.
The goal is to eventually be able to swing your leg over and settle into the saddle with minimal tension. My mare will still raise her head a few inches, but her ears stay forward and she stands still - same on dismounts. With time, she is getting calmer about it.
Something else that has worked well for me is just leading my mare around the neighborhood on a lead line. At the beginning, we could go about 100 yards before she got scared. Now we go around blocks and are starting to go into the desert.
My mare was sold to me as a perfect horse for a beginner. The trainer I hired last November - after 3+ years of riding my mare - concluded she had never been broken to a bit (I had ridden her bitless), and that she had, at best, learned a few cues and nothing else. Her fear came when she didn't understand what I asked her to do - and I was confused, because I thought she had been trained, and because as long as I didn't push her too far, she behaved well for me. I didn't realize how little she knew.
So at age 11, she started riding 101 - going back and being taught as if she had never been ridden at all. And it has done wonders for her.
This sounds VERY similar to what I went through with my mare when I got her 4 years ago.
Along with what the other posters have mentioned (and definitely getting a qualified person to help you) the things I discovered that helped my mare are: getting a better fitting saddle (the one that came with her turned out to be much too narrow), switching her bit (she's a grey so she has grey horse melanomas lining the corners of her mouth, making her unable to feel a broken mouthed bit), and as her rider, I needed to be crazy confident.
The less confident I was, the crazier she'd be. If I relax on her back and just go with whatever she does (while giving her gentle guidelines), she will calm down much faster than if I just force her to shut the behavior down.
I also did a TON of groundwork. I literally did not ride her for about 6 months after I got her. I free lunged/lunged her 3-4 times a week, brushed her, saddled her (no riding), just hung out with her. We took walks down the road together, we looked at everything, basically I pretended like she was a big dog.
After those 6 months were up and I had gained her trust on the ground, she was much better undersaddle. I've determined that she's really one of those horses that isn't just going to trust and respect a human because that human demands it. I had to earn the right of her trust (most important for her) and then her respect. She'll now respect anyone/anything I expect her to but if I'm not there, she'll go right back to being "crazy" to whoever is handling her. It weird but true.
Another thing I've found to be really helpful was getting my mare on Mare Magic (or organic crushed raspberry leaves). Obviously your guy isn't a mare but I have heard of Mare Magic taking the "edge" off geldings as well.
Anyway, if he's a gray, especially at his age, I would check the corners of his mouth. If he has the mouth melanomas the corners of his mouth will feel really hard. Most horses are very soft there but the melanomas make it hard. I know my girl was/is very worried about broken mouthed bits because they use the corner of the mouth as a "warning" spot before the joint(s) close inside the mouth.
Melanomas can take away all, or most, of the feeling in that area so the bit could be pulling a "SURPRISE! The bit is pinching your tongue and you don't know why! hahahahahaha!" thing on your boy and freaking him out.
If you find that to be the case, I can suggest some bits/bitless options that will most likely work for your boy. :)
I wish you luck. I completely understand what you're going through. On the plus side, as a hopeful note for you, my girl is now completely sane and I actually use her as a lesson horse for small children.
I thought, more than once when I first discovered her issues, that I would be lucky if she wasn't absolutely dangerous for the rest of her life and here, not even 4 years later, she's not dangerous at all.
Sassy and opinionated, yes. Dangerous, no. :lol:
Thank you all for the advice in your replies! @herdbound, he's definitely broke to ride. Each time I've ridden him has been on my own, I've taken him over a few small jumps outside and done some arena work. He's very soft and sensitive, he moves like a dream and yields beautifully to leg aids. I actually got on him yesterday and he stood still, but I had someone hold him for the mounting. He was still very tense but he didn't buck or bolt.
Thank you Wallaby I will definitely check his mouth. If I used a sedative like Mare Magic during ground work, and he comes off it later on, would he go back to being his usual silly self or be better off having had more relaxed training sessions?
I also got some good advice about working on his back up. I was asked if he was heavy or light when it came to backing up and he's actually quite heavy, something I haven't thought about before. She mentioned this could be one of the causes of his very forward movement/flight instinct. So I will definitely try and work on that more.
Also, I have had a very nice lady with lots of experience handling the both of us since we bought him, and she's taken him this far. The only thing is now shes very busy and we cant afford to pay her to "finish" him. I still feel like he is beyond my scope. I guess my biggest problem is I never know what hes going to do. One day hes "fine" (worried, but doesnt bolt), and the next he's a bronco. At least if I KNEW he was going to buck, 100% of the time, I would have a little comfort in that as weird as that may sound. The fact that he only does this once in a while (but becoming more frequent....) is what has me on the fence about selling him. Can I get to the point of trusting him fully and completely? I cant send him off to training, I cant afford it. I don't have the confidence or the knowledge to tackle it all myself. I'm worried I'd do more worse than good, teach him bad habits or something...
Since you don't have the experience to fully retrain the behavior out of him and the woman who was helping you is too busy to help you, you may seriously consider finding someone who IS capable of working with him; someone who has experience with horses like him and is looking for another project to take on. Since he has previously been rideable (but in my opinion, definitely NOT finished), someone with the right kind of experience could turn him around rather easily.
You on the other hand, could wind up more broken and battered than is worth the while, and the horse could wind up with more of a bad habit than someone is willing to take the gamble on. Sell out now, while you are BOTH in one peice. The key to my saying this is that you stating that you don't have the confidence to deal with him...He knows this, that is why he is one way one day, and a completely different animal the next.
Just to clear this up: Mare Magic isn't a sedative, it's a "calming supplement" that's not chemical based at all. It's something that, I guess, naturally works with the body to help hormones n' stuff level out. Apparently women take raspberry leaves (which is all MM is) to help with PMS? Who knew! :lol:
Basically, in my experience (I've never used it on a gelding though), it kinda levels out the really crazy days and turns them into "I want to be crazy...but oh wait, the rules says I can't be crazy" days. My mare used to definitely act before she thought, now days (with the help of MM) she generally thinks before she acts.
I would try using it all the time. It's really not that expensive (especially if you order online, I can get 4 months worth for $12 - look on Amazon for "crushed raspberry leaves" in 1lb amounts) and if it makes a difference, it'll make a big difference.
I do know that with my mare, who's been on the MM consistently for about a year, I can skip a day or week and she'll be fine but she will be a little more "up" than she is on the MM. When I first put her on it, I couldn't skip a day without all hell breaking loose.
I'm not sure whether it's just that she's built more constructive behavior patterns now or if it's really changed something about her though.
In your case, if it works for him, you'll most likely end up wanting to leave him on it for some time, groundwork or no.
In my case, I don't want to take my mare off of it, ever! :lol:
Hopefully that helped answer your question sufficiently? :)
Another question I thought of is: is your boy getting enough exercise?
My girl really isn't the type to play with other horses/run around her field so she often gets crazy wound up just hanging out in her field (even though it's 3 acres). I have to make a point of getting her out to just get her moving/her mind working on a regular basis because otherwise she'll probably annihilate someone with nervous pent-up energy. :lol:
I do agree with M2P though, I'd hate for you to get more broken because you wanted to help this horse.
I can tell you (maybe I already did) that my mare nearly killed me more than once while I was retraining her. I really needed the help of an experienced trainer but there was no one to help me (plus I didn't have the money). I'm still in awe that I survived and it's all really due to the good character my mare has hidden inside her. There aren't any guarantees with horses though, you might be able to do it and survive or you might end up more hurt. I would hate for the wrong option to happen to you. :hug:
A good thread for you to read would be this one:
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