View Full Version : Bolting horse under lead line

May. 11, 2011, 11:07 PM
Hi I am new here. I posted here because the majority of what I do is trail ride. I was hoping someone could help me find breaks for my horse.

I have a 10 y/o "some kind of draft mix" gelding. Overall a sweet big ol guy. I've had him for about 1.5 years. Problem is he has learned about how strong his neck is. He's taken to bolting away under lead. Now, this isn't out of fear. If he spooks he actually stays with me. And when we're walking he is respectful of my space and isn't allowed to get his head past me. This is purely a " I want to go in a different direction" behavior. I've done alot of Parelli and alot of softening (he flexes very nicely) and even disengaging... but alas when something temping arises off he goes and I land in the dirt.

I actually did try the "Be Nice Halter", double knotted halter, thin rope halter lower on the nose and now use a stud chain.. it doesn't matter he still goes.. any suggestions to help me stop him in his tracks before he pulls my arms off?

May. 11, 2011, 11:16 PM
Sadly we 've got one of these.. or had, I should say.
It's a pain when they figure it out. the only way I ever managed to curtail it over the years was to always ensure while leading that he never got a chance to get the rope laid over his inside shoulder in order to pull away and fly off merrily.

Makes leading look a bit ugly, but it beats chasing a loose horse, you need to lead him short (meaning hand up by the lead clip) and force him to keep his nose leaned to the inside (where you are leading him from) Eventually.. they get that they aren't getting away anymore, because they can't get the power into the pull since you are able to swing them around you more quickly when they start to get the 'im going' thing on.

May. 11, 2011, 11:39 PM
Oh.. this is second time I've heard this. I actually had a very well known trainer say this was a hard habit to break once a horse learns it. My tri-ceps will get a work out.. my arms will be up.

May. 12, 2011, 12:19 AM
I know somebody who had success with a chiffley bit (stallion ring).

He's got his timing down perfectly and once the train is underway you are done for. Be quicker than he is and before the idea gets from his head to his legs, yank him as hard as you have to. Once you have mastered him, he will give in, but it will take time and they never forget the trick...and can pull it any time you are not wary. We had a pony that tried running off with every new rider - until that kid got the upper hand, then it waited for the next, the little brat.

Another horse looked to the right when being loaded. A split second later it was gone...until the owner pre-empted the move.

May. 12, 2011, 07:45 AM

This is a great halter for this type of horse.

Good luck

May. 12, 2011, 08:56 AM
I had a young stallion who learned to bolt and run when I was turning him out in pasture. I cured him with a leather lunging cavesson. The lead was attached to the front of the nose and I had the leverage to stop him in his tracks.

May. 12, 2011, 04:33 PM
I totally second the chain over the nose. He has your number.... Not a safe behavior at all. Not sure of your experience using a chain. If you haven't used one before, you might want to find someone who has to help you out. Make sure your chain is long enough, I prefer a 30 in. chain with a rope attached that is at least 8 feet long. The short leads with a 20 in. chain and short rope are dangerous. You need enough length so if he does take exception you have enough rope to stay in control, but not right under his nose. I have been known to lead a horse, especially a young one with a chain over it's nose and a regular lead rope so I only have to use the chain if necessary. It's like my little insurance policy....

I don't like to have to use a chain on a horse forever, but he must respect you!! I found this article and it's pretty helpful if you are new to this. Good luck!! http://www.raraequus.com/articles/horse_stud_chain.htm

May. 12, 2011, 04:34 PM
Oh yeah, and wear gloves. Always, no matter what!!!

May. 12, 2011, 06:04 PM
Good pointers!


stud chain
lead rope at least standard length, if not longer.

I would add, don't let the lead get too long, keep his shoulder at your shoulder (NONE of that parelli long lead, horse trailing behind you stuff!!).

If he starts to turn his head away from you and drag...you need to INSTANTLY react!

I would use my voice, loudly to get his attention as I:

Grabbed FIRMLY on the lead, dug my heels into the dirt, and YANKED his head around. No nicey nice here, this is LISTEN TO ME NOOOOOOOW stuff.

Things that might help turning the big ol' guy as he takes off.. Digging an elbow into his shoulder / neck attachment along with the yank and growl to help get his head turned. (also, on the same note, there is a pressure point where the lower neck muscle meets the chest. You can grab this point, and it will immobilize or slow down most horses, and cause them to flex their neck, and turn their face towards you.)

If the above (yell, yank, elbow / neck pinch) does not work, I would probably whorl the slack of my lead rope and give the hind quarters a good whack on the right side (along with yell and yank :) ) to disengage the hind quarters, hopefully spinning the horse around to face me.

When you get him under control, I would ask for a bit more (ie backing, or otherwise submitting) and then praise. Use your voice while training through this. If you are consistent (voice, yank/ shank, backing), he will start to anticipate the punishment when he hears you reprimand him (use the same thing each time, like a loud “HEY!). I have one or two like this that have been reformed. Now and then they will turn like they are going to take me for a drag, and all I have to do is yell HEY! While raising my hand (to yank on the lead), and they stop in their tracks.

I am usually not a yell, scream, growl, yank and shank kind of trainer, but there are some things you need to get their attention, “running off” biting and kicking get this sort of reaction from me. They are all REALLY dangerous things for horse and handler.

wylde sage
May. 12, 2011, 07:32 PM
A very timely post for me. I have been recruited to ground train a Belgian PMU gelding. 4 years old and spooky. He uses this exact same behavior to get his own way. Why is it these very large horses know their size so well?

I have gotten his trust but have not broken him of this habit. I will be using a chain next as well. I usually run him until he is sweaty in the pen when he pulls away...he seems to like to breathe and when he can't he's not as obnoxious.

Good luck, thanks for posting this and let us know how it works out.:)

May. 12, 2011, 07:50 PM
Thanks all for the great tips. I will try these. My timing may not be down but he is running through the stud chain as well. It doesn't even phase him. I will try yelling too and see how that works...So frustrating. He's really good other than this.

May. 12, 2011, 08:52 PM
Thanks all for the great tips. I will try these. My timing may not be down but he is running through the stud chain as well. It doesn't even phase him. I will try yelling too and see how that works...So frustrating. He's really good other than this.

If you still have trouble with this you might try rewarding him for staying with you rather than punishing him for trying to leave. When he gets away he is rewarding himself so that is why he keeps doing it.

Alexandra Kurland has some great clicker training exercises for this that teaches the horse to walk next to you on a loose lead.

Carolyn Resnick's liberty training also teaches the horse to stay with even if you try to run away from the horse. It is quite fun and one of my horses has gotten pretty good at it!:yes:

Good luck!

May. 12, 2011, 09:31 PM
Why is it these very large horses know their size so well?

Sadly, it's not just the big ones. My standard donk (12-13 hh) has taken me skiing a time or two. That devil is STRONG! and with that short neck, I'm not much opposition.

Luckily, he hasn't done it in years.

May. 12, 2011, 10:16 PM
Ditto on the elbow in the neck and the neck pinch. They're what worked for my last horse, a warmblood/draft cross who had a nasty habit of charging out of his stall. He would run right through a chain over the nose. The elbow in the neck would usually throw him off balance enough to make him stop, and if I missed my timing on that, the neck pinch always got his attention. It takes a little practice to find the right spot. And by "pinch," I'm talking about "grab a big hunk of skin and twist as hard as you can." :) As soon as he turned, I let go, so he learned really quickly that stopping was the way to make me let go...

May. 13, 2011, 02:25 PM
My mule used to do this. A chain is your best friend and quick reaction time is a must when he starts to turn. I didn't have to use a chain, but used a full cheek snaffle and lead him with that. When he started to turn his head to drag me to places unknown I went with him and MADE him keep turning, turning, turning until we were both dizzy. He didn't find it so fun anymore. Now he leads fine in just a halter.

May. 13, 2011, 02:33 PM
Thanks all for the great tips. I will try these. My timing may not be down but he is running through the stud chain as well. It doesn't even phase him. I will try yelling too and see how that works...So frustrating. He's really good other than this.

Is he spooking or just suddenly turning his head AWAY from you and dragging you along?? I also used a long rope with my mule and when he started to go I would bring the rope around behind him( right above the hocks)around to the other side of his body ( the way his head was turning to) and just pull. He ended up falling a couple of times because he was in fact pulling against himself. I raised this guy so I knew he wasn't afraid of ropes and knew he wouldn't kick. I think you need to jerk on that chain if he isn't listening, just once and make it a good one.

May. 13, 2011, 09:25 PM
First and foremost I want to thank you for such great tips!!!
I've got a few messages and seen that other people are having some problems. So let me tell you so far what I've learned.
1. This is a very common problem with Drafts and Draft mixes.
Their necks are so strong they learn early on they can use
them, and this is after all the great disengaging, becoming the herd leader, becoming soft.
2. I have a friend with a Haflinger. She has someone on the Yahoo site going through a similiar problem. She explained that there was someone who advised to bit the horse up, making them slightly flex to the inside while leading them. They can't get their heads away to bolt. I actually tried this today, it worked very well! And better yet, he learned that if he kept his head in to me, he got release.
3. Gotta love the draft breeds. gentle giants, maybe. But I'd say, gentle giants that can move pretty quick when they know what muscle they have.
4. I am also going to try the pinching if he does bolt. It might distract him, if I can move fast enough.
5. So, a bit has replaced the stud chain and I will certainly keep you all posted of our progress.


wylde sage
May. 13, 2011, 10:27 PM
3. Gotta love the draft breeds. gentle giants, maybe. But I'd say, gentle giants that can move pretty quick when they know what muscle they have.

Boy Howdy is that ever true!! One learns perseverance with these critters. Well, them and mustangs!:lol:

Oct. 23, 2013, 11:46 AM
How interesting. I came here a few months ago because a student of mine (on my recomendation! ACK!) purchased a horse that had this nasty habit! He was kept in a back yard and his working domain was about 100 X 100 ft so we never saw the habit until we got him home! They didn't disclose until AFTER when the teenage seller and teenage buyer communicated and the selling party said "yeah... someone took him and returned him before you bought him". WELL HELLS BELLS, I wonder why?!?

Anyhow... I was JUST going to login here to BRAG how far he had come... http://youtu.be/yXul5Ok1dY4 LOOK, doing in hand work with OUT a halter! Until he bolted with me 3 TIMES LAST NIGHT going from stall to pasture. THEN he bolted with my SO (and me once I got involved) twice this morning.

I think it is a VERY VERY hard habit to break. And this drafty guy is like yours, calm, isn't bomb proof but you never catch him running about the field when the others are bouncing around with their tails flipped over their backs. He isn't exactly hot, hyper or quick to spook. I also do not believe he is afraid of us. I never have a problem catching him in his stall or when he is turned out to pasture.

I'm going to read all the replies in this thread but I've really searched the net and found two courses of action beyond what most people would easily try TO COPE with the issue (chains on the nose, something in the mouth, something over the gums, rope halters, two people, ground handling education, making sure it isn't fear based/desensitizing training);

1. Tying the horse off to something high and solid (tree / tele pole) and hazing it until they figure out it is unpleasant to hit the end of the line and

2. Treat based training (clicker training).

I will admit I don't think I'd have the time (and I live here at the farm) to pursue BREAKING this habit (not just COPING with it to get him turned out and brought in). :-\ We take this horse in and out daily - and we use it as ground training. He is asked to stop, stop and back, stop and side pass, stop and turn on the forehand every X many strides. He is also asked to walk over obstacles etc. This horse has def had a boot camp of ground training in the past 5 months. We even work on ground tying him.

The chain OVER the nose was NOTHING to him. Chain UNDER the chin, thru the rings of a stiff rope halter with nose knots made more of an impression. He graduated to a rope hater with a chin strap (think the chain configuration but with softer rope halter rope). Until his little 'fall off the wagon' last night and this morning.

I'M SO FREAKIN' BUMMED that he had this utter outburst last night and this morning!!! It's like one of those OSHA "X number of days accident free" signs. His counter has just been reset. BOOO HISS!

I'm starting to wonder if this behavior is like being an alcoholic. You can rehab them but it will ALWAYS be there ready to manifest if the temptation is great enough and the support system (a valid leader) is too weak.

Oct. 23, 2013, 11:58 AM
AHHHH the side reins! YES!

I actually suggested this for the Haflinger (above post) we have here when his owners wanted to take him on a field trip to a low key schooling show. I had them haul him with his surcingle on, unload him with a LONG rope attached to the trailer so he couldn't bolt upon unloading. Then quickly bridle him and side rein him and put him thru his ground work 'turn on your brain and focus on me' routine.

They said it DID work! That he didn't get away... until they removed it for his first in-hand class. :-\

I wonder how many times of NOT bolting it takes to over write all the times they DID bolt? It sure makes it hard on boarding facility routines to surcingle up a horse, bridle him and side rein him to turn out / bring in. Makes it really hard to expect 'the help' to do / manage the same. :(

I also wonder, sans bit & bridle, if you could simply hook the side rein to the halter and around to the side. I'm also a BIG advocate of doing everything equally from left to right, so maybe taking them OUT on the left, bringing them IN on the right so you don't develop a one sideded horse or give them the chance to learn to modify their "I'm busting loose, see my middle finger?" routine????

Because honestly, you think you are making gains... and while I have NOT dropped my guard or expectations (still asking for halts, half halts, stops etc) I've dropped the hardware a little. Maybe you just can't with these guys?

Oct. 23, 2013, 11:59 AM
The link is just taking me to their home page... I want to see the halter!!! :)

Oct. 23, 2013, 04:42 PM
Starting Point - I believe its "the Blocker" - click on tack and accessories

Oct. 23, 2013, 08:50 PM
Some good advice already given...

Imo, once a horse had learned he can bolt while led, I don't think they could ever be led like a regular horse , or at least not for years till they are firmly over the habit.

To add to what has been posted, I like walking with my body in line with their ears , or in line with their head/muzzle . A handler being back at the shoulder, the horse is too far in front of you and can easily bolt, on the other hand the handler in front of the horse, the horse can easily pull back and bolt.

A short lead about a foot in the near hand, the rest in the far hand. I like a chain over nose and over poll and clipped to other side. Wear gloves . Carry a dressage whip. The whip elongates your body and gives something to tap them with to move over etc. March with your knees up and purposeful. Don't amble along. This is body language the horse will respond too. Keep their nose slightly flexed to you as other posters had said.

Linda Telling ton Jones has a guidance for leading horses in bridles through mazes and over poles. Obstacle courses will help him focus on you and pay attention.

Make him halt in hand on the lead, back up, go sideways etc, all on a short lead and use the dressage whip if needed the blunt end as a cue. This way you become n charge and he learns to listen.

Best of luck try the different suggetions on the board and see which works the best and you see progress with.

Oct. 24, 2013, 12:32 AM
My barn buddy has a large(17h Fresian cross) Generally pretty sweet, but she learned if she didn't want to do something she could lift her head up and set her neck and she was going exactly where she wanted. We mostly had problems with this when loading her into my trailer to go places. Part of the problem is that her owner(an older lady) really doesn't demand good ground manners. The horse is usually like a big dog wanting attention so the owner just kind of lets her do what she wants(like wandering around grazing kind of pulling the owner). After some experimentation another friend and I found that the way to get her loaded is head bumper on halter, chain over nose with long lead, and a dressage whip. I don't let my barn buddy friend load her. She gets all her gear on and then I take her and walk her around for a couple of minutes demanding good ground manners: walk, whoa, back, over. If she doesn't respond immediately to my request, she gets a reprimand: tap with dressage whip and small pop with the chain. This has changed her from a horse that would bolt sideways and lift you off the ground/barge thru you to a horse that self loads. We never vary the routine as we can tell that she would test you if you didn't have the chain and whip.

Oct. 24, 2013, 08:30 AM
Yup, post above echoes why I said carry a dressage whip when you lead this horse. Always.

This post also brings up another good point, and relates to why I said when you lead this horse, adopt a certain body posture and march purposely, with your knees high , your head up and looking straight ahead, like a soldier marching. ( I had to train ground manners on two horses who spent most of their lives in fields and were semi wild so I picked up a few hard learned tricks lol)

Re, this horse might be taking advantage in lots of other little ways, and the bolting under lead line is just the big one.

A horse like this, who is clever and has learned how to exploit human weakness , has to be handled very firmly in all activities, even in little things. You can pet and enjoy him, but be very consistent and ask for manners every day, every moment you handle him.

For example, if he leans into you while brushing, don't let him. If he shifts around at the mounting block, don't let him. Make him stand rock still. He turns to rush into his stall, back him up, make him stand, you enter first at his head, he walks behind you. Same thing under saddle.

He needs to rethink in his mind a "new" mental picture of you, the new you who is a leader, and a leader insists on manners and obedience, all the time, not just when being led. THAT is the only way to be safe around horses like this, the rest, halters and equipment are helpful but they are tools... the real safety comes in this horse recasting you in his mind as the leader, and you have to earn that.

If that does not happen, the one time a tool fails or you get sloppy, he will bolt again. The shift in perception of who is a leader, though, is what will ultimately change his behavior. We have seen Shetland ponies boss a huge draft when turned out, so it is mental , not physical. The tools and leading techniques are the means to and end, used in order to change the dynamic and get re cast in the leader role.

That said, I always handle horses a proactive way on the ground (aka, not sloppy). That came from once having owned a stallion, who you have to be more careful with, and training the other two horses plus rehabbing a horrible biter with a friend....(it was her horse, I couldn't stand him )

I never lead on a long loopy line. If I hand graze, I stay near their head, not off in space where they can get away from me. Certain horses when leading I would always carry a whip with. I always lead into a stall , make him turn around, make him face me, and then I go out, and , with certain horses I walk backwards out of the stall so I am facing them all the time , I don't turn around and turn my back to them.

So even when the relationships changes and he sees you as leader, practice safe handling .