I had a bolter once. what I did? Left him alone for 6 months...just turned him out, led him in occasionally and groomed him, fed him, hung out with him a bit.
When I put him back in work, the 'issue' was gone.
I think he just had to decide that he could trust me.
EqTrainer - Yup, that was the first thing I went to when he regressed. He's been ground driven, though not extensively, and he has gotten a bit better in the lines, though not to the point where I would say he's relaxed. I've not used a second person, but I like the idea. I'll ask an experienced friend of mine if she can give me a hand for a while.
Well, now you know why ground driving first is always a good idea (said gently). I really don't like to get on an unbroke horse that has not been driven. There are things about that experience that are almost unduplicable - the big one being that the horse has to go first.
Given what has happened, you need someone leading the horse who is capable of stopping it - so you must outfit it with a halter and chain over your driving equipment. In the beginning, they are in control. You will slowly take over. One of the things that will save you is to turn the horses head and be sure he sees you behind him. When you get on him eventually, the person needs to be there and have him outfitted just as if you were going to ride him but with a lead shank attached to the bit (or a halter if you think he might rear). Have a pocketfull of treats and make him turn around and look at you to take them. You might have to repeat this very boring incident 30 times before you are sure he "gets it". Then he will have to walk off w/the helper a lot of times before you ever turn him loose w/you on him again.
Bolting from fear is behaviour you need to erase. IMO if you run a horse like this, you will teach him to run. He is not being defiant and blowing thru the whoa, he is scared and therefore he runs. ANY sort of work that stops him from running when he is scared will be to your benefit. ANY time he runs away when he is scared, you take a step backwards. I would go so far as to only pasture him w/a horse who doesn't freak out and run around out of fear or excitement - I'd put him with an absolute dead head so I knew I had a chance of getting ahead of his fear reaction. You have to overwrite it many, many times to erase it.
Good luck and BE CAREFUL.
"Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
--- The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.
I like Partlycloudy's idea. Take all the pressure off and be his friend, you can spend lots of time going in and out of his blind spot in a non threatening way with out all the other work. Time to do something completely different. Give him 3 months to chill in the pasture and just groom him and take him for walks.
To what Redhorse5 said, the old man that taught me what I know always said to do that and it has worked evertime I had to. They bolt, start kicking them to go faster and then they decide it's not so fun anymore. Of course he said try and turn them first as sharp as you can with both hands on one rein.
Good luck with him OP, but know when to give up and move on, plenty of uncomplicated horses out there, and life is short.
You might also try hanging a jolly ball in his stall. Smack dab in the middle and about as high as your chest/shoulder when mounted. Playthings like this in the stall sometimes teach good things to a horse---like if you smack it and it hides in your blind spot it will always reappear and won't hurt you and this hiding (ball) can even be fun!!
I haven't read any of the other responses, so you could be on a completely different topic by now but, I'll throw my 2¢ into the mix.
Originally Posted by FullCircleTraining
He still wasn't 100% okay with me being on his back, but when he did get worried, he trusted my voice and calmed back down quickly.
Then he freaked out. I was walking him around the ring talking to a friend who was on the ground, and all I did was move my left hand to point at something... He bolted. I managed to get him pulled up fairly quickly, but he was shaking like crazy and I could feel his heart pounding. I stayed on, calmed him down, and finished the ride, walking and trotting like normal. He really seemed to recover quickly and be fine by the time I got off.
But he wasn't. I've not been able to ride him since. I can get on, but if I move in the saddle or ask him to move...well, it's dangerous.
you're right he wasn't.
ok, imho this isn't actually as bad as you might think. And actually, the problem isn't bolting, or that you have a bolter on your hands (imho). The horse is simply being unsure, and in the panicked moment, you are being unsure too.
You're attempting to soothe him with words and softness, and it seems to work, but really it doesn't, so ultimately you both remain a bit unsure about one another. What you need to do is give the horse something constructive to do when he becomes unsure. Many people disengage the hq's, its an easy tool to master, has a calming effect, puts a momentary pause in a frantic horse's mind, and its non threatening... NOT yanking and pulling into a circle, NOT a big dramatic ORS... dis'ing the hq's is first taught on the ground, then from the saddle. It is the kill switch for the engine, or the ripcord that you pull when the manure hits the fan, but NOT in an emergency-brake kind of manner... its more of a "oh, are you unsure? here do this instead..." Its a constructive tool, not a punishment, not a hail mary. I hope that made sense?
What his problem boils down to is that he is absolutely terrified when you go in and out of his blind spot.
much more common than many people realize
20. Ground drove him, changing direction while moving so that I had to cross behind him (Freaked him out.)
step in teh right direction...
21. Ground drove him, walking directly behind him so that he couldn't see me, only hear my voice
step in the wrong direction.
#20 you moved back and forth in and out of his blind spot, if done with tact and timing, that is good. But #21 where you plant yourself gives the horse no relief from teh mental pressure you're putting on him.
mental pressure is the same as physical pressure, the laws of pressure and release apply mentally as well as physically.... the horse learns fastest when you are quick to reward.
He did get a lot better with the ground driving, occasionally relaxing a bit while I was in his blind spot; but for the most part, if I get in his blind spot, he swings his body left or right and travels crooked so that he can still see me. Obviously he can't do that while I'm on his back.
you're getting ahead of yourself, working on groundwork but thinking about riding work... work in teh moment with what you have. solve the problem on the ground.
I'm at a complete loss now. He really has come so far, getting over his fear of people in general, his fear of whips, his fear of being corrected... I hate to give up on him, but I believe that a panicked horse is the most dangerous horse you can be on.
don't dispair, things (imho) are not nearly as far gone as they appear. You're dealing with a very simple case of the horse protecting himself, and neither of you sure of what should happen next. You need to learn to be the supportive guiding hand when things get western, and the best way to do this is by having a plan.
there are lots of really good books to help you understand as well, both dorrance brothers and buck branaman have lots to offer you.
Good luck, and please stay safe, and really you're just at a roadblock, all is not lost. You're going to get past this and look back and laugh Just get some training, do some studying, get some help, etc. Its nice to be the horse's buddy, and neat to try to sack him out to things above him, etc, but what he really needs is a leader when he's unsure. You need to have a plan, put his feet to work in a supportive manner and calm and sooth him by being in control.... in a gentle friendly manner, not tyrannical.
And in my opinion, I really think that putting pressure on an already terrified horse, either by reprimanding the bolting or by driving him forward on a circle until he settles down (however you see it), leads nowhere good.
ahh, just read this, my point exactly... he DOES need to be put to work, but not in the punishing frame of mind that you're thinking of. not a punishment, a tool. Think "oh ok, if you're scared, here do this easy task you know how to do to take your mind off of being scared."
Have you ever been terrified and startled, etc, like a terrible car accident or something, and a stranger comes from nowhere and says "here ma'am, step out of the car and sit on this curb" etc, gives you direction? instructs you to do something while you are in near state of shock/panic? not in a coddling way, but not in a rude manner either, just matter o' fact. It is incredibly calming and soothing to have someone gently take the reins while your head is discombobulated. Thats what you need to do for your horse... not 'oooh smoochie snoochie' but not 'argh whats the matter with you.." either... just, "scared? ok, do this instead."
Story and photos by Leslie Desmond Published in the August 1995 issue of The Trail Less Traveled
If you attend colt-starting and horsemanship clinics you're bound to hear people talking about the importance of a horse being able to "change eyes" comfortably before you throw your leg over one for the first time. With no lack of conviction, Buck Brannaman says at his clinics that "understanding why and how a horse changes eyes can save a person's life." At these clinics you can see colts and older, troubled horses who will run from flight or what they fear. They demonstrate over and over again how important it is for anyone involved with horses to get a handle on this essential function of the horse's instinct to survive.
If you have an opportunity to watch foals and yearlings long enough (not the stall-raised ones as much) you'll also see how the horse's particular type of vision--combined with the basic survival responses just mentioned--help him develop his strength and agility in the first few days and weeks of life. Don't be surprised if you see perfect sliding stops, side passes and turnarounds, a flawless passage, and the capriole. These are the natural, unblemished movements of the horse and they reflect the way his mind processes the way his eyes view the world.
I found out, and I've seen others learn the same way, that until a person gets hurt in a wreck, this notion of "changing eyes" is easily dismissed as a curious bit of horse trivia. Who can blame the beginning rider for that, when there are perhaps a hundred other details, mixed in with voices of past instructors, swirling around the brain at once? It is burdensome to keep a completely foreign point of view in the forefront of the mind. But, I've come to believe that understanding the horse's actual point of view is the most important thing a person can incorporate into their horse program, however modest or highfalutin it may be and regardless of all else that may concern it.
I had a bolter (Freisian) that would just spook and take off. I had several bad rides and we did everything to try and stop him. Finally my trainer fixed it. I will tell you what she did and also say that I was completely chicken to try this.
We did this in the indoor arena will all the doors shut. In normal schooling when he would take off my trainer would really get after him and just make him keep running. When he was so pooped he wanted to quit she wouldn't let him but kept after him until he was exhausted. Every time he bolted she would just run the shoes off of him. This went on for about three rides. He never did it again. When he would get scared, you could see his little ears pricked forward and could tell he was thinking about it but he knew that if he did he would have to run his butt off.
That fixed him and here he is 12 years later with never a bolt.
This is what I was thinking. Don't stop him make him go.
Before you begin the "sacking out" please read up on how to train a horse to spook in place. I'm just learning about this but the horse should not move his feet at all when faced with something scary. This is not bomb proofing or desensitizing, its teaching a horse to trust you. Its learning how to maintain physical and emotional control of the horse.
My horse sounds a lot like yours only not nearly as bad. But someone did a number on him by sacking him out before I got him. It didn't work and just made him terrified of towels, blankets and saddle pads. It took a long time and a lot of work to get him to accept a towel touching his body. Its been over a year and I still let him smell everything that goes on his body first before using it.
sounds like a PMU mare I have here. It just takes time, she is totally fine with everything now. In the beginning she would not come near me if I was wearing a krinkly jacket, was scared to death of the farrier....and so on. I put in the barn area to get totally used to things. She is now a horse I can put anyone on and the farrier can do her feet without us feeding her while he works. She was 4 when she came and did not have a lot of handling.
Personally I don't think you should be throwing all of this at a horse at once. Just relax and let him relax....keep him in an area where you can move around him a lot while you come and go. I have seen it backfire when you start flapping stuff in front of them and running the hell out of them. If you don't have TIME, send him to someone who does.
"When you think you don't need a coach ...then you're in trouble" Don Imus 2012
this is really a key statement, I learned it the hard way. as you posted in the dressage section, I assume you are interested in dressage so its really something you should bear in mind as you cast about for ideas.
imho, when you learn a tool like dis'ing the hq's, or as mentioned the 'spook in place', you'll discover what an easy but effective tool it is, and what a wide range of problems it helps solve. Its really amazing how quickly and effectively these tools can work, you really can bombproof a horse. But its also easy to become reliant on them if you're the least bit timid and it becomes very easy to overuse these tools. Overuse over time however, robs the desire for forward in the long run. And though you can re-install it later, its not quite as fresh and genuine and enthusiastic as it would've been if left intact to begin with. as me how I know
it wasn't until I became interested in dressage that I started to learn the real value of forward, of real forward, forward thinking, forward mind, all the time in every thing, and how much can be solved by forward as well.
redhorse5 - I've heard that the method you've suggested has worked for some horses, but I don't think I have a safe place to try it and I'm kinda ruling out all options that involve running him. I just don't think that's the answer with this particular horse. Thanks for the input, though (and I'm really glad it worked with your guy!!).
goeslikestink - I'm absolutely certain that it's not a feed issue.
Ajierene - I didn't go right to the ground driving after the incident. I finished my ride that day and, actually, I started doing as you suggested - slowly raising my arm into his field of vision, telling him he's doing fine, than then lowering it and repeating. Even though he relaxed again on that particular day, he never relaxed under saddle again. Which is why, after about a week, I went back to ground work. I agree with your assessment of the issues, though.
BEARCAT - How do you tell the difference between "zoning out" and true acceptance?
Hampton Bay - I can still do everything up to asking him to move under saddle. He's even fine with me sitting on him (so long as I'm still), but any movement makes him freak.
partlycloudy - He's been left alone. That's all the other trainer did with him because she didn't want to put any time or effort into him. According to his owner (and what I've personally seen), the less handling this horse gets, the worse he becomes.
EqTrainer - Your advice is sound and I agree completely. Part of the problem is that I don't have a person who can regularly and reliably be there to help me, so I guess that's something I need to discuss with his owner. Working with problem horses is hard sometimes when you're alone. And he is out with a dead head, unflappable horse - my 2 yr old colt, believe it or not. He's one of the most sensible, friendly horses I've ever worked with, so he's setting a good example for this guy when "scary" things happen. Oh, and thank you...I'm trying very hard to be careful.
JMurray - That's why I finally posted here - because I wanted to get a few more ideas before I said "okay, I've spent enough time on this".
DressageFancy - Cool idea! I even have one... haha
buck22 - That's one of the first things I said - that the bolting is not the problem. It's just a symptom of the problem. I've heard of disengaging the hindquarters, but honestly I've never used it. I'll have to do some serious reading on that one, but what little bit I know about it, I can see how it might help diffuse the situation. As for the ground driving, I really hadn't thought about it that way (the mental pressure thing). Very interesting. Now that I'm thinking about it, I can definitely see how moving in and out of his blind spot would be more beneficial than just staying there. Hmmm. Thank you. Reading those articles is on my list of things to do today.
jnel - I will do a Google search tonight and see what I can find.
slc2 - My concern with allowing him to continue going when he bolts - no matter if it's shaped as a reward or a punishment - is that he's bolting to get away from me, so what happens when running doesn't make the monster go away? Does he start bucking? I'm not exactly easy to throw... Then what, if the bucking doesn't work? Does he get creative, running into/over things, slamming himself into fences, buildings, or even down on the ground? If he's really viewing me as a predator on his back and thinks that his survival depends on getting rid of me, I don't know how far he'd take it. And while I really like the horse, he's not worth that to me. I want him to be relaxed and then go forward; not go forward and then decide that he might be able to relax. Does that make sense?
Bogey2 - Great results with your mare! Sounds like your patience really paid off! I've had nervous horses before, too, and have successfully worked with them until they've become solid citizens...I've just never encountered a horse with such deep seated fear that took it to this degree. I'm a calm handler and rider, so most horses (even the anxious ones) learn to trust me relatively quickly. I'm willing to work with him more, though. I've got as much time as his owner will give me.
buck22 - Just to comment on your last statement, yes, I am a Dressage rider and trainer. Forward is always what you aim for, but (and I'm sure you and everyone else on here knows) ideally you want forward and relaxed. I was actually just explaining to a client the other day that she should never punish a forward reaction from her 3 year old, even if it's dramatic. Bring him back quietly? Yes. Help him reestablish a relaxed, even tempo? Yes. But never punish. I'd much, much rather have the first instinct be to go forward than to go back or (god forbid) up. Now a blatant disobedience is another thing... LOL But no, he's happily forward on the lunge (not running from fear, just very responsive and forward thinking), which I'm thankful for, and for the short time that he was letting me ride him, I was more than happy to let him move freely forward under saddle, too. I think he could be a really nice guy if we can move past this road block.
You may not come back to this thread, but if you do, i thought I would just suggest that perhaps he has a bigger "blind spot" than you originally thought - what if he is partially blind, or blind in one eye? I know you folks checked him out physically, but I think it would be worthwhile to check this out again, specifically?
Good luck. Hope something works!!
Looks like we're gonna have to do some digging through the leafy pile of lies to reach the crunchy croutons of truth before we can put some Ranch flavored righteousness on this salad-LexinVa
AnotherRound - Thanks for reminding me! I meant to ask about that in one of my earlier posts and completely forgot.
Does anyone (other than AnotherRound) think that perhaps his vision (or at least his visual acuity) could be impared? He does seem to be a little worse when things pop up on his left, though it's not JUST the left that upsets him. And how much about vision can vets really tell unless there is damage to or growth in the eye? They don't really have eye charts for horses...
And if we hypothetically say that it IS his vision, does that make him less likely to overcome the issue?
Certainly possible. I had a TB mare years ago with a cataract in one eye. If she ducked out at fences, it was always to that side...
Horses learn to cope with only one eye, and some blind horses can learn to trust their handlers enough that they can go on with their careers. (I think there have been blind harness horses and was there not a blind dressage horse who did well recently discussed in a dressage magazine?)
Used to be Beasmom. She's retired. Time for a new name!
My *very* limited experience is that vision impairment can be more difficult to deal with than complete blindness in one eye. I worked briefly with one that had some vision in his one bad eye--basically shadows and light/dark only--and he was much spookier on the bad eye side. He was on medication for his eye issue, so I'm guessing it varied day to day and surprised even him to some extent.
Tho I've also heard that horses with blind spot issues, in general, are much more reactive, and more explosively reactive, than horses that have learned to trust things in their blind spots. It sounds like this horse is an extreme case.
"One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine
I haven't read through everyone's responses, but I read the original post. I'm sure there's some very good advice.
I've found that clicker training can help an immense amount, especially with fear. I do not agree with clicking for everything (unless you really want to. Hey, it's your horse), but I think with issues like this, you can help teach him to do the things that will help retrain his mindset. You can let him take more control over reacting positively, probably enjoy the process more, and accomplish a lot faster. I used to be big into sacking out, but since learning more about CT, I don't feel it's really necessary. With clicker training the introduction of new things with my guy, it's a five-minute process and it sticks. I clicked the first day we used clippers, barely the second day, and never have after that.
My suggestion is to just look into it. You can use it to make the saddle be a positive association, to teach him to lower his head and relax his muscles on cue (use pressing the base of the withers with your hand and it works well from the saddle too). I agree with nipping the bolting, but CT, if used well, can help make that other alternative clear for the horses who get clouded with fear. I like to think that CT helps pinpoint for the horse exactly what is wanted and gives them more of a reason to cooperate when they might feel they have better reasons to be doing other stuff...like bolting or rearing.
_____________________ www.stableways.com Allison Wolff Photography
Standing the Fell Pony Littletree Born Supremacy
I have known of two, Wertherson was blind in one eye and was quite successful until his retirement, don't know where you are located but you might want to contact Fred Weber and ask his opinion of how he worked with him or if it was even an issue?
The other was a younger horse who had surgery to remove his eye (as I recall it was pressure behind the eye that made it necessary). He trusted his rider enough to get to the FEI levels and was then sold as a schoolmaster, don't remember that he had any bolting issues, ever.
There certainly are tests that can be done to evaluate their ability to see without the use of an eye chart. A friend of mine had a mare in training that was somewhat spooky because she had deep set eyes.
This same friend is a young horse trainer and had a horse in training that would FREAK if she moved when on him, breathing was even an issue. I remember one day she went to just brush a fly and he LOST his cookies, she sensed what was coming and just rolled off of him but he took off like lightening, she never got on him again and swore that he would ruin her for training young horses if he didn't leave the farm-he was gone in 3 days. 6 years later, I just heard that he was put down. His owner had given him to someone and disclosed all of the details of what his history was so she was well aware that he would just suddenly lose it. The new owner managed to get him to third level but not without many broken bones...he would be fine and then suddenly just launch her for no reason. She stuck it out much longer than she should have IMHO but for whatever reason we (humans) can be pretty stubborn when it comes to being rational about horses.