Bolting: Yes, there are degrees of bolting. If the horse is 100% mindless, it may run into trees, fences, off cliffs, etc. That degree of mindless bolting is rare. If the horse bolts that mindlessly, then you may die.
But most bolts are somewhere below the "100% mindless' level. Most bolting horses stay on a path thru trees or desert. Most. In a bolt like that, the horse is NOT listening to you. So what do you do? Call for mommy?
" I also call it bolting when a horse takes complete control and disregards the rider although the horse is not frightened or out of their mind. It is almost as dangerous, because the horse does not know about footing, the downed tree around the corner, and will fall or crash into things. Some horses will take the bit in their teeth and charge off at full speed...
I agree. The bolts I have been on involved horses who had enough mind left to stay on a trail, but who were NOT interested in their rider. With Mia, as best I could tell, she forgot I was there.
The one bolt I was hurt on was in Jan 2009. It still hurts today. She bolted, tried to get back to her corral, but stopped at a gate. She couldn't get past the gate, and I figured (correctly) that she was about to resume the bolt across a field of 12-18 inch sharp boulders. I figured I wouldn't survive that, so I tried to dismount. With one foot over her rump, she exploded and bolted. I went flying, landing back first on a small rock - and it still hurts about 3 times/week.
She went across the boulders at full speed without injury. I don't know how. Based on tracks, she did 2 full circles, then took off to the east. I was on the ground, cussing her by name. About 200 feet away, she must have heard her name. She turned, galloped back, slid to a stop next to me (as I struggled to get out of the way), then put her head next to my chest and stood there shaking like a leaf. At that point, she knew where I was and she expected me to make her safe. I used her for support and took her back to her corral.
Here is what I've learned, both by listening and by practice:
1 - Keep riding. If you are still on the horse, keep riding. It is a gallop. A wild gallop, a very strong gallop - but a gallop. Keep riding.
What I wrote was true: No one stops a bolting horse. They stop a horse who has stopped bolting. So your next challenge, as you ride your bolting horse, is to turn the horse from a bolting horse into a horse who is merely galloping.
2 - Take a forward seat. Your horse has a forward balance. Match it. He'll be less likely to fall. So will you.
3 - Pry your knees apart. The expert riders on this thread may be totally relaxed in a bolt, but I've always needed to make a conscious effort to pry my knees apart. A death grip with the knees tells your horse to stay scared and run for his life. You cannot expect your horse to calm if you are acting terrified.
4 - Do NOT pull back hard on both reins. Do not hang on with the reins. Constant pressure in the mouth gives the horse incentive to keep bolting, and it gives him something to brace against. You will not stop the horse by pulling back hard and steady. It makes it worse.
5 - Assess the situation. You are the rider. You are the one who is supposed to be thinking. Think. You are riding. You now have options.
Sometimes you can turn the horse in a broad circle. I've only been in that situation once, on a ranch in Idaho. In that case, I pulled the horse's nose to my knee, and he didn't turn. Horses can bolt with their nose at your knee. So I remembered some advice an old cowboy told me, and started kicking the outside shoulder. The horse slowly started to turn - bit it was enough that we missed the barbed wire fence at the far end of the meadow. We kept a gradual turn until he slowed.
On a path thru the desert, that is not an option. In my experience with Mia, the single best thing to do then was call her name softly. Calling it softly calmed me, which was good by itself. And if/when an ear flicked back, she was starting to listen. She was no longer a bolting horse. Just a running one. And then we could stop.
With a curb bit, pumping steadily, about once per second, helped. It was far more effective than a steady pull. That only was needed one time, she she exploded after dragging her leg into a cactus and filling it with spines.
With a snaffle, if she was starting to listen, then a little side to side motion would get her listening more, and soon she would break down to a canter, and then a trot. Usually.
On one occasion, she was starting to listen, but not fully, and the end of the trail was coming up. A pulley rein, applied hard, shocked her into a stop.
But the beauty of the curb was that she could be kept in place when scared. I could stop the bolt before it turned into a full bolt. And once we did that, she learned to stop bolting. Even when she filled her hind leg with cactus spines, she stopped in 30 yards and stood still.
Based both on my experiences, and on what some ex-cowboys have told me, I think MOST bolting horses will stop fairly soon if the rider relaxes and just rides. In the wild, horses cannot afford to run mindlessly for miles. Those that do, die.
Even Mia, who had no real world experience on her own, wouldn't gallop mindlessly for miles. Some horses may. But a great many will not, unless their rider panics with them. Yes, it is scary being on a bolting horse. But panic is not caused by fear. Panic is what happens when fear is combined with not knowing what to do
. As long as you can DO something, the fear has an outlet. When you don't know what to do, the fear turns into panic. And if the rider panics, who can blame the horse?
"In order for a horse to lower its head to graze, what one thing must the horse do?
Mine relax their shoulders and lower their withers, separating the shoulders a little so they can reach the ground. Then they eat. As I said before, a horse can raise or lower its withers by the muscles in the shoulder alone.
The mechanics of "rounding" are shown below, as done by a dressage rider (Racinet):
If you want to know how a horse collects, and what it does, study that drawing. There is no "circle of energy". Horses are not kangaroos. They USE their front legs in collecting, which is why collection raises the peak impact on the front legs.
"As for Bandit becoming collected when he is nervous, that is not collection. The nervousness would mean he had tension and with true collection there is no tension. He is just bunching himself up.
I respect you, foxhunter, but you are wrong. He does NOT bunch himself up. Bunch up is not collection. He raises his front end, while lowering the rear. Impeded power:
"When the horse tries to move at high speed without allowing for the possibility of sudden stopping, the backward resistance is limited to the amount of energy needed to prevent the horse from falling forward and down, i.e., from tripping. But, if the horse, because of the possibility of some unforeseen event, mores fearfully or cautiously (i.e., when he takes into account the need for suddenly stopping or for preventing a fall), then his mind will literally be torn between the two contradictory necessities. Nowhere other than in the High School movement called the "passage" is the phenomenon of "inhibited thrust" more obvious: while the thrust of the hind legs remains powerful, it is counteracted by an equally powerful hesitancy. And it is this combination which makes all the charm of this movement...
...horses in the wilderness will assume a collected posture, characterized by a constant "coiling under" of the pelvis and a high head carriage...
...Collection is, therefor, a posture which, without hampering his forward movement, allows the horse, if necessary, to check it immediately. For this body attitude, the horse has to permanently brace muscles which otherwise would only be braced occasionally, namely only in those movements when a deceleration occurs." - Jean-Claude Racinet, who also did the drawing above.
Horse DO collect on their own, and it DOES involve tension. Collection is hard work, and work, by definition, means muscles are being used. A muscle is used when it contracts. Tension. There is no collection without tension.
The fallacy is that only "dressage riders" on "trained horses" ever experience collection. It is a contradiction: People say that horses collect naturally, then deny that a person can experience that natural collection. One or the other: It is either a natural movement, extended and trained to be performed on cue, or it is not. And since I can watch my horses do it on their own, I conclude it IS a natural movement. They CAN do it on their own. They can collect without a bit.
What a shock! A horse can collect without pressure in its mouth, and still be collected.
But they do NOT "round", and "rounding" is a mental image - purely imaginary - that leads to bad riding.