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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan. 22, 2008
    Location
    The eastern edge of the eventing wasteland
    Posts
    519

    Default Bolting Advice to fix....long

    I am looking for some input...
    I am working with a horse for a client who bolts.
    But first a short history.
    He is a 8 yr old 1/2 Draft/QH/paint cross. A PMU horse. Very cute and nice mover. 16h. He was purchased about 2 months ago from a event barn in MD. He was described as a very beginner friendly horse and so he is. Comfy, easy, generally uncomplicated. Passed the Pre purchase with no outstanding issues other than a dot of arthritis in one hock that did not even show on flexion but came up on xrays.
    He went from a grass field with light work to 12 hours in a paddock with the option of going into his stall and 12 hours in his stall. His work load is now 6 days with one or two with me riding him and the other his owner who does light riding due to her schedule but would like to event him. He did do some BN events but dressage is not his strong suit.
    He is most of the time a very sweet, laid back soul. He tries hard to please and is in great shape. He is very easy going and steady. Light to the aids and responsive but most of the time relaxed and happy with life. He is learning to move in a training level dressage frame instead of just going along. He jumps easily despite not being in the best balance. However, the past 4 times I rode him he bolted. With a pulley rein into a small circle he comes right back in 1/2 circle and stops and goes back to walking slow and relaxed.
    The first time he did it was over a small fence. He landed and I tried to slow him and rebalance as he was on wrong lead and I wanted him to trot before turning. I realized he grabbed the bit in front of the fence if I tried to rate him. Anything more than a squeeze of the fingers and he locked his neck and rushed the fence. Same on landing. I thought, he was so used to packing people around that he knew his job and did not want me tell him when to take off. So we worked on halting from all gaits. Got the "HO" installed in a day.
    The next time I rode him I was in the indoor. He spooked at a folded table umbrella outside one of the doors. Pulley rein and circle and he stopped. We walked up to door and he looked but he was tense. I worked him at walk and trot around the door and to it and away from it. He tried to be good but he was tense. Tried to canter right and another explosion. Another circle. Back to trot and calm. Moved to a different section of indoor to try to finish on a good note. Canter right and no problem. Done for day. Client goes outside and shows him umbrella and flaps it in his face. He stands there with his head low and his eyes relaxed. Lets him touch it and sniff it. He is more interested in the grass. No problem.
    Next day outside in jump ring. All goes well. Really trying to come through back at canter and balance. No bolting. Start over a SMALL crossrail and the tension returns. We stop and try again. Over the course of 15 minutes we have perfect fences and rushing fences. I finally just focused on trying to settle his nerves and again finish on a good note. It took 10 minutes of trotting and walking and direction changes/circle to get him to relax to try the right lead. Success and we quit.
    Today back in the indoor. My client rides him first and he is good. I get on after 1/2 hour to canter right. All goes well, but I don't go by the scary door. My feeling is just to get a session in without bolting to gain confidence and trust.
    SO....
    I am really unsure of why he is bolting. The barn I am at is pretty busy but the horse traffic does not seem to bother him one bit. Horses running and playing in paddocks next to just rate a raised ear. There is some construction going on near the rings but he has been walked by it every day and worked with it no problem. He is not sore anywhere in his body. Up to date on everything.
    I know of some horses who have a time limit, usually school horses, who will use bad behavior, including bolting, bucking, jigging to indicate they are done and now so are you. Once he is done being tense he goes right back to Mr. Relaxed walk on a long rein with head on floor. He is so loose and relaxed everywhere when he is like this. When he is being good, 99% of the time, he is almost too loose. His work evasions are all the rubbery escape kind. No pulling on reins, unless he starts to get way off balance.
    Yesterday, I got a little mad and spanked him behind the saddle with my had after he bolted. I yelled at him. Then went back to work. When I asked for the canter again, he just sped up, like he was afraid to canter becasue I would be mad. I got a really good trot before asking again and with a touch of the whip he went into right lead. Good boy and back to trot.
    So what do you do with a horse who bolts? He just doesn't seem the type who is doing it to be bad. He seems truly frightened for that split second. But I don't like that he does it!
    Anyway.... your advice would be great!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov. 9, 2006
    Location
    Finger Lakes Region of NY
    Posts
    975

    Default

    I had a TB that would bolt while jumping the exact same way you described. He was a bit green in my eyes (6 years old - it was the spring and the year before he had gone BN and Novice, won his last Novice) and more schooling jumping sessions did the trick. He just needed to get out over more jumps and become more comfortable with them. It was scary as he** for me to jump him when he was acting that way and I just had to get over it and jump him more and try my best to keep him paying attention to me in that little period before he mellowed out again. He would bolt over any size jump - be it 12" or 3'6" - and it wasn't pretty! But jumping him more times per week solved it. I'm not one to over jump but in this situation I was under jumping him.

    Years before this, when I had just got him off the track, he was randomly bolting on the flat like he was scared to death. One trip to the chiropractor and he never did it again - his pelvis was out of alignment and we assume it was pinching a nerve. Poor guy would take off like a bee stung him.



  3. #3

    Default

    I think I might have the vet out again. Maybe whatever is in his hock is now bothering him.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct. 25, 2007
    Posts
    3,580

    Default

    I have the exact same horse you describe, pmu, 8, etc and he is also a bolter. Sweetest, do what you ask horse, but if something real or imaginary scares him, he is at a full gallop for 200' or so/
    I am interested in hearing suggestions too.
    Won't it be funny if they were from the same farm/sire, etc.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul. 15, 2009
    Location
    Northeastern PA
    Posts
    566

    Default

    There ain't no cure like wet saddle blanket time, but perhaps broken down into smaller bites.

    Have you stepped up what you are asking from him in terms of quality of work? That can cause a little stress which fills the world with more monsters. My Appendix mare is always a little more inclined towards drama and melt downs when she is being asked to learn new things or do what she knows a bit better. This is part of a beginner packer's issues when the stakes go up. Suddenly, they are being pushed out of their comfort zone and some really have a hard time handling that. Because they are basically quiet minded, it is easy to over face them without really realizing it.

    I know he has less turnout, and some horses have a hard time with that. Can he have access to the paddock 24/7? Has he had feeding changes that might jazz him a bit? More hay, less concentrates might be in order. Even if the food is basically the same, the change in turnout might have changed his optimal feeding program.

    I guess one thing I can suggest is something that worked on an ex-hunter mare who became a catapult for humans whenever she was taken into a ring full of jumps. I gave her a "calm down" exercise--if she got bolting and leapy, we went onto a 20 meter circle and stayed there until she was bored and relaxed. We did transitions, we went around and around, and eventually I just had to begin a 20 meter circle and she would exhale and relax. At the beginning it took up to half an hour to get true relaxation. So, I didn't really pull her right up when she bolted, instead I directed her into a circle and then worked her there until she was bored and relaxed. That meant that the bolting didn't get her out of working, and she learned that the circle was a place and time to chill out.

    Just a thought.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan. 10, 2007
    Location
    too far from the barn
    Posts
    5,864

    Default

    I did the same thing with my OTTB as EIRide. He was a fairly high strung boy, but not hot, rather mostly laid back and a bit lazy, but with a high tendency to bolt. Spent almost 2 months doing almost nothing but walking and trotting on a 15 meter circle, until it was his safe easy place, then when we got into new situations, would spend time on that circle and whenever he bolted, would put him on the circle. Different than with your guy, as this one was almost guaranteed to have a moment in almost every ride early on. It may also be a sort of evasion, not out of naughtiness per se, but if he is out of his comfort zone, beginner riders in his past would probably go back to doing easier things when he did it. Lots of repetition could help. Also, be sure you don't somehow have spurs that are too big or something else like that that could be making him nervous. He will need to get used to it eventually, but you might have to work up to it.
    OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 22, 2008
    Location
    The eastern edge of the eventing wasteland
    Posts
    519

    Default Thanks!

    Thank you all for the help!



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov. 26, 1999
    Posts
    1,682

    Default

    I don't know where you are, but have you considered Lyme? Often a change in behavior--being spookier, bolting, etc, can be a symptom of Lyme disease. Just something to consider.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb. 23, 2008
    Posts
    4,266

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by EiRide View Post
    There ain't no cure like wet saddle blanket time, but perhaps broken down into smaller bites.

    Have you stepped up what you are asking from him in terms of quality of work? That can cause a little stress which fills the world with more monsters. My Appendix mare is always a little more inclined towards drama and melt downs when she is being asked to learn new things or do what she knows a bit better. This is part of a beginner packer's issues when the stakes go up. Suddenly, they are being pushed out of their comfort zone and some really have a hard time handling that. Because they are basically quiet minded, it is easy to over face them without really realizing it.

    I know he has less turnout, and some horses have a hard time with that. Can he have access to the paddock 24/7? Has he had feeding changes that might jazz him a bit? More hay, less concentrates might be in order. Even if the food is basically the same, the change in turnout might have changed his optimal feeding program.

    I guess one thing I can suggest is something that worked on an ex-hunter mare who became a catapult for humans whenever she was taken into a ring full of jumps. I gave her a "calm down" exercise--if she got bolting and leapy, we went onto a 20 meter circle and stayed there until she was bored and relaxed. We did transitions, we went around and around, and eventually I just had to begin a 20 meter circle and she would exhale and relax. At the beginning it took up to half an hour to get true relaxation. So, I didn't really pull her right up when she bolted, instead I directed her into a circle and then worked her there until she was bored and relaxed. That meant that the bolting didn't get her out of working, and she learned that the circle was a place and time to chill out.

    Just a thought.
    Excellent post, imho. Some types of horses are less dramatic about stress, they sort of bottle it up, and then they finally hit the wall and blow up. Easy to go too fast, because you don't get the feedback along the way that a TB or Arabian might offer.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan. 18, 2007
    Location
    Heaven on Earth--Sonoma County, CA
    Posts
    1,853

    Default

    EIRide covered some excellent practical solutions in her post so I won't re-hash, but rather wanted to highlight something mentioned by another poster.

    Having worked with a couple of adult PMU horses now (ranging in age from 7 and actively competing, to a two year old we started this spring) I will say that all the ones I've dealt with do have a semi-feral, exit-stage-left, reaction in them. It is much as you described, fairly short in duration, and does seem to be a rooted in genuine fear/uncertainty, and it's not necessarily evil or feels like they are trying to get you off. It's more like "AAAAHHHHH! Oh, I'm fine now." Like they're going to make sure it's not a cougar first, and ask questions later.

    I can't say exactly why it is, but I'd hazard it has something to do with the relatively free-range manner in which they're reared, and the fact that their first encounters with humans are not necessarily designed to engender trust and working relationship. (Not that they're abused per se, but for instance the owner of the 2-year-old told me point blank the first time this guy ever felt a human hand, he was wrestled to the ground, had a halter and rope chucked on him, given his shots, and herded up a ramp on to a trailer for his trip down to the states. It was also the day he was weaned.)

    But while I do think it can be mitigated to some degree, and tends to get better with age and time, I don't know that I'd ever say that it disappears. The PMU horses just seem to always have that little feral wariness in them. Makes them lovely and safe mounts in a lot of ways as they are always careful and smart about themselves, but for a timid rider it may be a bit overwhelming when they head for the hills.

    I would certainly continue to work with this guy on the behavior, but I would also have a good conversation with the owner as to her willingness to learn to deal with it. If she's game and you think she's capable, start teaching her strategies as to how to sit the bolt, how to get the horse's attention back, pulley and/or one-rein stopping techniques, etc. Because I suspect this guy may always have this move in him, so you as trainer and she as rider will have to decide whether it's something you can live with.
    Phoenix Farm ~ Breeding-Training-Sales
    Eventing, Dressage, Young Horses
    www.phoenixsporthorses.com
    Check out my new blog: http://califcountrymom.blogspot.com



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep. 5, 2005
    Posts
    255

    Default

    The only effective method i've ever tried to cure a bolter was to let him bolt and then keep him galloping when he wanted to stop until he got really tired and then let him stop. My horse bolted after jumps when I first got him and after 3 times of galloping after the bolt, he never bolted again. One of my daughters had a pony years ago that ran away and after using the galloping method, the pony never ran away again. It is grat if you can get the bolt in a big field but the pony was cured in a ring. You just need time and patience and a rider not afraid to really gallop.



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