I ran Rusty into a tree - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 07:49 AM Thread Starter
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I ran Rusty into a tree

Rusty is a cool dude. He loves trails. But sometimes, he decides he wants to run and it's not always in a place where I can allow it. So yesterday, DD and I decided to explore a new trail that runs behind the neighbors' properties (with their permission of course). As soon as we left our usual trail to go on this new one, he started to trot, then canter. Well, there are very low branches on this stretch, any one of which can take me right off the saddle. We get through there by laying on our horses' backs.

So as he took off, I did the usual fruitless attempts to stop him. One rein stop, etc. But as always, nothing worked. So I turned him in towards the trees on the side of the trail. It didn't deter him. He ran headfirst into a tree. Literally, he stuck his face right into the trunk of an old fir. Ended up with a bunch of twigs attached to his bridle. I was able to lean over and pick them off.

Thoughts on whether this is a bad idea? After I did this, anytime he would suddenly decide to speed up (he also does it on a downhill stretch), I would do a half-halt and he would immediately slow down again. I think he figured out that this crazy lady on his back was just nuts enough to run him into a tree so he'd better listen, lol. He's a quirky fellow, but you can get through to him if you're just as quirky. You just need some creativity.

What else would you do to slow down an over-enthusiastic horse? I can't practice the one-rein stop in the arena because he never gets very excited in there. Turning him only results in him cantering sideways. He's remarkably flexible that way.
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post #2 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 08:19 AM
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My first question is what are you riding him in in his mouth?

If you have a headstrong horse who you know is going to do certain actions no matter what amount of training you put on him then you need to just occasionally up the ante and make it unpleasant a experience for "Rusty" in this case.
Flay me if you want...
Running into trees is very risky for the horse and for the rider as a means of stopping your horse.
Impaling a branch into the horses face or yours is not unheard of, nor is breaking a neck.
For someone like you who rides with I bet a loose rein or soft contact and think you are into bitless with riding on trails...yes, my upping the ante is that horse would have a short curved shank solid mouth bit in his mouth next trail-ride out.
Yes, intentional he will get poll pressure and jaw pressure to change his train of thought and have him take notice of you and your directions.
I'm not going to play games with a broken mouth, direct rein snaffle bit...I want some heft to my gently given direction of slow down, turn, halt and stand-still when needed, as needed.
If I need to apply force and muscle the animal I surely can!
You have said Rusty is bull-headed about some things I believe in the past...if this is one of those things no amount of your training response systems can work through, then do what you must to keep you both safer.
And yes, a bit is only as strong as the person holding the reins makes it, the horse dictates with a good rider how much of a hold you take to their mouth and body.
Your horse, with what you describe is downright bolting which is darn scary to ride and impossible to control = dangerous for both your safety.
Yes, you can only work your issue on the trail...doesn't happen elsewhere and elsewhere he is a gem to ride..
It is very common that what a horse works in/as in one environment doesn't work everyplace...
Mental stimulation of your lazy nature horse on the trail brings out a different mindset, one you now need to make clearly understood he is not going to like the response he brings to himself when he stops listening to you.
He gets what he deserves...
Bit him up, but only use that bit with the capabilities of what it can do if you really take a hold as needed...
Don't be afraid to use that bit either to save your bacon!!

Rusty is smart...he figured out he can do as he pleases running on the trail.
Rusty will very quickly learn he can no longer be a bull and ignore you or he pays the penalty.
Rusty has your number and is taking advantage...time to even the score and gain back some respect.
...
That is my opinion...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #3 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 08:40 AM
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It sounds like he has some leeway right now to choose the speed/gait without your direction. That can be nice, but can also be a slippery slope if the horse doesn't easily come back to you. Might want to remove that privilege for now until he's more responsive to you saying it's time to transition down a gait. You could do lots of planned transitions where you are clearing deciding "now we speed up" and expect him to stay in that gait until you say "now we slow down." If you have steep hills, sometimes that can work to your advantage if you are asking for a faster gait up the hill knowing the horse may appreciate taking a deep breath and slowing down at the top. It certainly doesn't sound fun to have to run the horse into a tree, and dangerous as HLG outlined. I'd think of a different strategy.


Edited to add: I do think it's important that a horse that's really enthusiastic to go gets the chance to move out during the ride. My own horse, if I ride with my riding buddy who has a much slower walk, I find that if I'm spending a lot of time holding her back, she gets more and more resentful and then if I do ask her to trot or canter, it's a bit of an explosion. One thing that has worked for us is mounting up and trotting right off right at the very beginning of the ride. When she starts off having the chance to really move her feet and go forward, she seems much less irritated later in the ride when there are reasons I'm asking her to stay at a walk.
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post #4 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 08:41 AM
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You said you can make him turn, right? 1've never ridden a horse like that personally, but this is advice my brother has been given on a horse similar to yours (except on cross country). As soon as he gets even the tiniest bit excited, make him do circles, spiraling in, leg yielding, bending, etc, until he's as calm as you want. Then you continue, and if he gets excited again, rinse and repeat. Make sure he's moving his feet though, if you just wheel him around on the spot he will just get more excited. It is also important to do this before he takes off. The idea is to get his mind back on you, and not running off.

Second hand advice, I know, but maybe it will help? I've also heard of people teaching a halt queue from canter in the round yard/arena, so if their horse takes off they just say the queue and usually, it's enough to gain back enough control. Dunno if that would work, just an idea.
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post #5 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 08:46 AM
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My oldest horse used to do that to me. I can't tell you how many times we had a perfect trail ride and then suddenly he would go... and go... and the speed would intensify. I would have his nose touching my knee while he ran straight ahead. I would jerk and pull and get mad. My remedy probably won't work for you and it wasn't exactly safe. I would swing my leg out of the saddle as if I were dismounting. He thought he won because I was getting off so he would slow or stop and then I would plant my seat back in the saddle but this time I'd be ready and spin circles without allowing him to stop. I sometimes would spend thirty minutes spinning circles as I went down a trail. I didn't have a trainer back then. I was a know it all teen and there was no horseforum so I figured things out as I went. They may not have been the smartest options but they worked.

I wasn't typing this to give any kind of advice, I just remember going through what you described and I wanted to respond so that you know you aren't the only one this has happened to.

I was never brave enough to run him into an object because I didn't think he would stop.

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post #6 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 08:59 AM
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This is one of the few situations where I think going to a bit with more "oomph" might be the right call.
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post #7 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 09:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteadyOn View Post
This is one of the few situations where I think going to a bit with more "oomph" might be the right call.
Maybe even trying a hackamore? The different pressure points may make the difference. I'd try it first in a ring though.

"Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse I love you
Go to work, do your best, don't outsmart your common sense
Never let your prayin knees get lazy
And love like crazy"
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post #8 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 09:09 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks all. So, to answer your question HLG, I ride him in a single-joined snaffle. I have ridden him bitless (even tackless) in the arena, but would not try that on a trail just yet. And I ride with full contact at all times, very short reins, and making sure he knows I am there every step of the way. Not pulling, just keeping elastic contact. No riding on the buckle with him just yet, except at the end of a ride in the arena when he's tired out.

And to be clear, he's not your super-energetic type. He just gets excited once in a while, then settles right back down. I'm sure he would take a few canter strides, then come back down. He's got more whoa than go. Problem is that I can't let him decide when he wants to take those few canter strides, and this was not a good place to do it. I am keeping him at a walk on trails for now, until he can show me that he's responsive. So no, he doesn't get to choose the gait. He can walk fast, but he has to stay at the walk.

And we weren't running full speed into the tree. He slowed down. I thought for sure he would stop before he got there... there was plenty of time, and I was reining him back the whole time thinking surely he will stop before we get to the tree. But nope.

Transitions may help, and I did a bunch of those afterwards. Circles don't do much. I'm hesitant to put a harsher bit in his mouth, but also very aware that he is not listening -- or only listening when he chooses to do so, which is about 95% of the time. After the tree event, he was perfect, even going downhill and even exploring new areas which normally gets him excited. We even went out into an open field where he would normally want to run, but nope. He was fine after that. But I agree, it's not the best way to cope with this situation.

I think he just needs lots and lots of trail practice, and I've been busy with DD on the show circuit. He is definitely very stubborn at times though, and this is something we will have to figure out.

Thanks for your suggestions everyone - I'll try some out to see if it helps.
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post #9 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 09:21 AM
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I was taught a concept of "woah-cement", named so because the walls of the arena were cement for about 3ft up. The idea was you can use the walls to stop if the horse isn't otherwise respecting your aids. It's not for using at full speeds, usually for a horse who takes off after a fence. That way you are not pulling on them like crazy and they get the message of stopping.

I might not have gone for a tree, too small of a target, too easy to dodge around at the last minute and get unseated.

Do more arena work on the trails. Leg yields, shoulder in, transitions, ect.
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post #10 of 73 Old 08-06-2019, 09:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acadianartist View Post
Thanks all. So, to answer your question HLG, I ride him in a single-joined snaffle. I have ridden him bitless (even tackless) in the arena, but would not try that on a trail just yet. And I ride with full contact at all times, very short reins, and making sure he knows I am there every step of the way. Not pulling, just keeping elastic contact.

I'm hesitant to put a harsher bit in his mouth.

Good to know about the bit...
However, the bit change is a mind change to stimulation actually as a solid bar works on different parts of the mouth and poll, jaw pressure is a "wake-up" to him.
It is said that a solid bar, just a mullen mouth bit with shank is kinder in the mouth than a broken mouth snaffle in actuality.
Where it changes is you adding leverage points...

That change may be just enough to smarten up Rusty's brain to listen to you, excited or not.
Rusty did the same thing to himself by hitting that tree...wake-up but that type of action, tree-hitting, is not one I would want to do again ever.
...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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