Spooking and bolting
My horse has a tendency to bolt when he sees something he doesn't like. He'll jump sideways a little then turn around and try to run the other way. I can usually get him under control by bringing him in a circle, but yesterday I was riding and he spooked at a deer that jumped out and took off towards home and I fell off. He was alone then, but he's done this with other horses on the ride too. If he sees an animal in a field way out in the distance he's okay, but when they surprise him in the woods he freaks. How can I get him to not be so afraid of things like this, and to not bolt?
I may not be much help .But I've always heard a horse thats intune or busy listening to it's rider it ,should be much more controlable .No matter what is going on . Don't matter what kind of bit it's packing, or if it needs a bit at all .
Maybe you and your horse need to have a little more trust with each other ? I don't know . I've never really delt with that level of spookyness before .Only spook in place horses and horses that just spook to the side .
Horse may have learned to do this, as a way of ending ride too, if ride has been cut short before.
But I would say that you need to spend more time on the basics with this horse, and also have a good vet rule out any type of pain too.
Good be your saddle is not fitting right with your weight in it, and horse is hurting and more spooky because of that?
Could be you are not reading what horse is up to fast enough to head this off too.
I would do a lot of work in the arena. I want to be sure that I can stop my horse before I get out on the trail.
'How do I stop a horse whirling and bolting'? A simple enough question which demands a very complex answer. I once wrote a booklet about it.
The only advice over the internet can be: 'go find a good professional horse and rider trainer who can visit locally and assess the depth of the problem'
Make home not so pleasant. He may be looking for excuses to head home. Take him only until you feel him begin to tense then turn and walk back but when you get there, work his tail off in the yard, driveway, whatever. Circles with lots of change of direction. Really push his butt around. When he's puffing hard you'll feel him want to quit. That is when you start riding him away again. You may not get far but just do as before. It often takes 2 or 3 times before a horse catches on that he gets to relax at the walk, and breathe, when he's leaving but has to work like hell at home. If you do this every time you trail ride, as a refresher, he'll quit looking for excuses to go home.
Over the years I have met with a type of horse which does not bow easily to man. I call them ‘Tough Hombres’. They are not aggressive in that they bite or strike out, nor need they be permanently ‘difficult’ and often they have redeeming features but they are horses which call for special handling. They are for competent, experienced riders only.
These are the horses one often meets in the hunting field fitted with double rein bridle sets incorporating fierce bits. How the horse gets to be as they have become will vary but usually it boils down to the fact that somewhere in their lives the horse has met with an unsuitable owner. Such ‘difficult’ horses get passed on regularly by owner to owner.
I once owned such a horse named ‘Joe’.
He’d been bred by gypsies and sold on as a youngster to a trekking centre. Whilst only 15h2 he was tough – cart horse tough - but with little feather. He showed lots of bone, a powerful butt and a thick neck. Relate him to a car and you would define him as a 4WD, 5 litre, turbo charged diesel, pick up truck. He was a lot of horse. He wasn’t fast, he wasn’t tall but he was as tough as old boots and it was noticeable that other horses were wary of him although I never saw him fight them.
I acquired him largely because he was unsuitable for trekking work. If he was used by a heavy handed novice then during the ride Joe would revolt. He’d balk (refuse to move), he’d allow the rider time to dismount, then if the rider persisted in staying in the saddle, Joe would go down on his knees , then onto his side and begin slowly to roll over - even if the rider was still on his back. He never actually hurt a rider, but he broke several saddles. Invariably the rider dismounted and quickly once it was realised what was happening. At first the disobedience was just with the heavy handed or badly sitting novice but gradually it got to the stage where the riding centre could no longer use Joe for paying customers. But not all of the trek leaders were competent to cope with Joe, so he had to go.
Eventually he found his way to me, who knew him and who felt Joe was worth the effort. He was an extremely sure footed horse even on the steep slopes of the hillsides. He was also fearless in traffic. He had his good points and I loved him for them. But a few years down the line he nearly killed me in the process of whirling, and bolting down a steep tarmacced lane. Over a couple of years with me and my wife Joe had morphed into becoming what used to be known as ‘lawless’. Once he had discovered a rider’s weakness, he stored it up for a rainy day. Put simply he became unfit for use in a modern environment where close control over the horse is mandatory at all times. Joe and Tough Hombres like him need special handling, understanding and training.
What eventually destroyed him was a torn check ligament, but that is only the last chapter of his story. I can publish his story on a thread but the tale will amount to a few thousand words.
The only thing you can really do is ride out the spook and prevent the bolt. You can't stop him from reacting from a deer jumping out in front of him, but you can keep him from bolting if you stop it in time. Instead of letting him turn around or bringing him back via a complete circle, turn him back the way he tried to turn away. I don't know why this makes such a big difference to a horse, but when I make my horse turn back the way he tried to escape, he settles down. If I let him make a complete circle, and he gets his butt facing the barn, I'd better be holding on.
Next time he finds something to spook at, keep him facing the object using one rein and then the other. You don't need to try to make him approach it, just make him face it. When he tries to spin around, straighten him back out. Just sit there and be patient. Once he decides it's not there to kill him, then ask for him to move on past it. Good luck! Spin and bolt is so much fun, isn't it?
My instructor taught me to keep the hands soft and sit calmly through a spook to let it know everything's OK, then immediately get the focus back on you by changing direction or leg-yielding. Haven't had a big spook or bolt since - the horse will just scoot a step or two, or take a little leap, realise I'm not worried about whatever it is and allow me to regain his/her focus. Just stay calm, balanced and quiet through the spook.
I may keep my hands soft, but they are softly going to insist on the horse stopping. They may not can help getting startled. They can help running off.
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