Horse Bolted - advice? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 02:25 PM Thread Starter
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Horse Bolted - advice?

To preface this story- horse is fine, nothing broke, and my worst damage is some bruising.

I was out on a trail ride with my trainer, and some mountain bikers came up behind us (crested over a hill). My horse had about a second of dancing around as they approached and then NOPED out of there. Jigging to full gallop downhill. I stuck with him for what felt like forever but was probably no more than a minute. He slowed to a canter for a couple of strides, then sped back up again (still going down a pretty big slope). Did a tight turn at full speed to start going uphill and I lost my seat. I could've recovered it, but decided to bail instead. He didn't end up too terribly far away up that hill and was just grazing. No problem catching him, found my trainer, got back on and rode home with no problems.

At the point I decided to bail I'd used up all of my bravery. What scared me the most was that we'd been going full tilt downhill and I was terrified that the horse would fall. Although it was steep, it was a well-maintained gravel fire road, wide and smooth. I've been reading advice here and elsewhere about dealing with bolting and it seems to generally be to try to ride it out. I feel frustrated with myself that I didn't stick with him the whole way, but I also think that with how scared I was, I was probably making his fear worse. The horse is pretty green himself (5yo, a year under saddle), but is normally a very brave and not spooky good boy. He IS pretty forward though.

I'd love some advice about how I should have handled this. Thanks for listening (reading?) :)
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post #2 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 02:33 PM
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Honestly, when you're in that moment, you have to be so quick to decide on what to do. Especially if it's an unexpected bolt. We lose our balance, & get caught off-guard. It's not easy, sometimes it's better to just bail.

I would try to get the horse's brain busy before they even THINK about bolting though. Of course, when it happens unexpectedly, that's obviously hard to do, but using that 'spooky' energy in another way can be helpful. Changes of directions, lots of turns, etc. Get them focused on something else, especially when they are doing that 'hoppy' walk.

Since your horse couldn't see the bikers (as they were behind), that probably made it 10x worse. Usually bikers announce when they are going by, but in this case it sounds like they just came up out of nowhere. I don't blame you for bailing - especially since you would've been downhill. I agree that he could sense how nervous/scared you were, which didn't help either, but then again, it's hard to stay calm in those situations. Plus he's a green, younger horse, it's understandable that he would react that way.

You got back on, & rode him all the way back, I'd say that's pretty darn good.

Glad you are okay though. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Maybe back home, get him exposed to some new things (safely) & do some fun desensitizing exercises.
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Ride more, worry less.

Last edited by PoptartShop; 01-13-2020 at 02:39 PM.
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post #3 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 02:33 PM
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Practice turning and doing figure 8s, and get your horse busy and focused on you when something like that is coming. A horse that is lined out straight and focused on the thing that is spooking them is a predictable result.
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post #4 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 02:35 PM
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That's a tough choice. Theoretically you are always safer on TOP of the horse but if he had cartwheeled on you it could have been disastrous. Do you know how to execute a one-rein stop? That has saved my bacon any number of times. Also look up "pulley rein." Anything you can do to circle the horse, even a huge circle, gives you more control than running away on a STRAIGHT line.



You did good to stay on as long as you did!
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post #5 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 02:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeverDullRanch View Post
That's a tough choice. Theoretically you are always safer on TOP of the horse but if he had cartwheeled on you it could have been disastrous. Do you know how to execute a one-rein stop? That has saved my bacon any number of times. Also look up "pulley rein." Anything you can do to circle the horse, even a huge circle, gives you more control than running away on a STRAIGHT line.



You did good to stay on as long as you did!
Agreed with this. I was on a trail this weekend with a very spooky bolty draft. I couldn't do a circle (if you can it helps refocus the horse) otherwise keep the horses nose in and if your horse is staring at something turn the nose and neck away from the object of interest. It lessens the distractions. If you're in an arena and a spook occurs it also helps to not stop which would make your horse tense and distracted.

Your situation is different so instead of nose in (-not good going downhill) the other things can apply


so in case of spooks:
- circle
- can't circle? Nose in and away from the spooky object
-do not halt
-regain your horse's focus
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cantering on, into the familiar and unknown

Last edited by Finalcanter; 01-13-2020 at 02:57 PM.
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post #6 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 02:57 PM
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So much depends on he terrain and the situation. My feeling is that if your horse is really afraid, it is better to turn and face the thing that is approaching from behind and scaring it. This is where the one rein use helps. You allow him to move back and forth along the road keeping a bend in his body and his head facing the scary object. If he speeds up, you pull his head toward the scary thing, which will disengage his hind, he will turn, face it fully, and then move the other direction (zig zaggin). If you allow him to turn facing away from the scary thing, he may line up his whole body behind his head, and that's when he can bolt off. If he is kept with his head bent, it will be easier for you to disengage his hind if he begins to tank off.



Once the horse line ups straight, and starts to run, you really can't disengage him safely. then, try to stay on. or bail. do what you can. What else can you do?
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post #7 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 03:07 PM Thread Starter
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The area we were in has kind of scrubby brush and hills... like this , and there are lots of very steep slopes. No proper trees around. Lots of brush hiding the ground when off the trail.
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post #8 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 03:25 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PoptartShop View Post
You got back on, & rode him all the way back, I'd say that's pretty darn good.

Glad you are okay though. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Maybe back home, get him exposed to some new things (safely) & do some fun desensitizing exercises.
Thank you for saying that. I am hoping it's easier to think about "solutions" (eg what I did wrong and can change) than dwelling on how scary it was.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jgnmoose View Post
Practice turning and doing figure 8s, and get your horse busy and focused on you when something like that is coming. A horse that is lined out straight and focused on the thing that is spooking them is a predictable result.
Yeah, I need to be more pro-active in tense situations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeverDullRanch View Post
That's a tough choice. Theoretically you are always safer on TOP of the horse but if he had cartwheeled on you it could have been disastrous. Do you know how to execute a one-rein stop? That has saved my bacon any number of times. Also look up "pulley rein." Anything you can do to circle the horse, even a huge circle, gives you more control than running away on a STRAIGHT line.

You did good to stay on as long as you did!
I don't know if he's been trained to understand a one rein stop. I will have to ask.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Finalcanter View Post
Your situation is different so instead of nose in (-not good going downhill) the other things can apply


so in case of spooks:
- circle
- can't circle? Nose in and away from the spooky object
-do not halt
-regain your horse's focus
Interesting with the "do not halt" advice. Could you explain a little bit more?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
If you allow him to turn facing away from the scary thing, he may line up his whole body behind his head, and that's when he can bolt off.
Yeah that's pretty much how it happened :(

Quote from the bikers according to my trainer "wow that horse can sure go fast"
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post #9 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 03:30 PM
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Oh dear, sounds like it was quite the Snowy River ride!!!

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post #10 of 25 Old 01-13-2020, 05:10 PM
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Horse Bolted - advice?

I had a very similar scenario recently. My horse is also 5-years old. We were walking up a familiar trail, at an area just before a cross-trail intersection.

Suddenly, a guy pops out of the woods and shoots across the intersection on mountain bike- full speed. My horse had never seen a bike, never-mind blasting out of the woods at full speed directly in front of us.

He turned to bolt, and I tried to very quickly spin him back around to face the biker. This resulted in several VERY FAST turns while edging into the woods. After the first couple turns I thought I might come off... but I knew if we straightened out he would bolt. Luckily for me, I didn’t come off.

Once he stopped turning (I made sure we ended still facing the bike on the trail), he tried backing away from the bike instead. He got about 15 or 20 steps backwards down the trail before he finally gave up, and stood staring at the bike from afar.

The biker had stopped immediately and was patiently waiting us out. After I managed looking at the bike without turning or backing, we slowly advanced towards the rider.

My guy was very brave, and I was able to get him up behind the bike to sniff and investigate. He greeted the rider as well. Then, I had the biker leave us... and we followed him up the trail a few paces before he left us.

The next weekend, my husband brought his mountain bike and we rode together. We followed the bike for the first few miles, and then we left it and came back, passed it, allowed it past us, etc. Hopefully next time we encounter a bike in the “wild” we will be slightly more prepared.


Last edited by ChasingDreams; 01-13-2020 at 05:16 PM.
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