A spook is one thing - horse genuinely startles at something, jumps or shies away. All horses are capable of that. The bolting is another thing and a behavior I would not deal with. It's also a behavior that tends to really injure the rider.
Sell, give away and move on to a better, safer ride for you.
I agree. I'm kind of the same as you (middle aged re-rider, somewhat timid), and while my horse has a wicked leap-and-spin spook, she doesn't bolt, and I usually have a second or two warning before she spooks.
Bolting terrifies me, to be quite honest. The last time I saw a bolt was in an indoor; there was a big gust of wind and rain that spooked my horse, but she landed quickly with all four feet on the ground and me still in the saddle. The other horse in the arena bolted and galloped circles around us until her rider came off. My good girl stood still -- albeit rather alertly! -- until it was over.
I say send him down the road. Riding is supposed to be fun, something you look forward to. He may be just fine for another rider, but after having been hurt myself in the past, I understand that feeling of doom that lurks just under the surface. I hate a horse that bolts.
You described my riding situation, I'm experienced but timid (these days). I want safe and reliable.
It would not be the horse for me. Especially given that it's unexpected. It's one thing to have a known predictable issue (happy buck at the canter, pulls,etc) but spooking is the one thing that can really rattle me.
My horse is an in-place spooker, if he would ever spook. He just kind of does the omg! And stands there. Even that sometimes rattles me.
Today I watched him be silly about our dog in his path, he wanted to play and chase and he did a leap and his rider came off, easily and safely, but I was thankful it wasn't me!
Like the OP I also busted my back five years ago when my horse threw me. Six months after the accident I got back on him. I rode him occasionally over the next few years. I have been riding well over 40 years. Even though I rode him I didn't realize that this accident caused me to have confidence issues. Yes, I was on a mule a few years back that I rode on a some what regular basis. We were in a waterway that had not been cut or baled yet before I knew it we were on top four turkeys. She spooked and as soon as I realized I was past the point of no return I let go and tucked/rolled. I ended up loosing the horse that threw me a year ago. I would suggest that you find something more suitable.
Thanks for all of your opinions, I needed a little objectivity. I'm leaning towards selling him now, I think.
Just to clarify, he doesn't TRY to unseat me, both times I've come off he stopped and stood there looking at me like "why are you on the ground?" I swear he forgets I'm on his back when it happens. Hubby was watching me ride the other night and he didn't see any warning signs that it was coming either. He only bolts for a few strides but with the sideways jump/spin/drop the shoulder thing the length of the bolt doesn't make a difference!
Also, the pro rides him once a week for me not because he's a handful or anything like that, he was really stiff and unbalanced when I got him, and I can't usually ride on weekdays during the winter. So basically she rides him to help keep him in shape and to get him more responsive and moving better (again, we do lower level dressage). She also hacks him out some which I will not do because I'm not comfortable being outside the ring.
He is already on SmartCalm, I added it after the last big spooking incident because I figured it wouldn't hurt. I don't see where it has helped.
Sell. He might be just perfect for someone else but you need something different.
I agree. I inherited one similar to this. I never really enjoyed riding him so he didn't get worked as hard as he needed. Finally he pulled one of his spooks at the end of a ride and I broke my collarbone and a rib. I sent him for 3 months training and sold him in the early spring to somebody that enjoys riding him 6 or 7 days a week. His sale price was essentially what I paid for the training and the trainer set up the contact between the buyer and me.
I now have an OTTB that is a much better fit for me in size and mentality and riding is FUN again. BTW, I got her almost straight off the track with no retraining and she is just more sensible at 5 than the homebred 9 yr old gelding that was sold.
I have a horse with a big spook but i could always stay on him thankfully. With him it seemed the spook would come when he was bored. I could take him to shows and you'd watch and think you could out a monkey on him to ride but at home he could be a handful at times. It wasn't always but just sometimes when he got tired of the work. We trail rode a lot and never had a problem there either. He is retired now here with me at home but I will say it took me a year to find another horse. Reason was I can't afford to take extra risk myself and i wanted something dead calm. I found the best horse in the world IMO. He's a paint and we do dressage but the best thing is he was never trained badly. He was broke at a guest ranch where the trail bosses rode him for a year. They were about to turn him into a guest horse because he was so great when I begged for them to leg me buy him because he wasn't for sale. He never had anyone try to train him a certain way all he knew was to go down a trail. So he is forward even though he is calm and lazy. He knows the difference in work time and just relax riding time and he gives what I'm asking. He is so easy to work and is so smart. The best thing is his spook is ears forward and look. Never stops, no issues just looks and keeps going and listening to me. I truly found a diamond in the rough and just an amazing horse all around. They are out there and I'd sell him if your not attached and find that horse that wants to take care of you.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole
If I were you, I would sell the horse. He sounds like a nice horse, but he spooks hard enough that you come off regularly and you already have a pre-existing condition. Horses that spook like you describe don't usually get over it - it is just who they are. I've known several, and I actually liked all of them.
Note that I said SELL, not GIVE AWAY. There are plenty of people out there (myself included) who would not find this kind of spook offputting. I think you should disclose it, and perhaps price him accordingly, but don't assume it lowers his value much, really. Some people, especially those with long legs , don't have as much trouble as others sitting the kind of spook you describe. If he is otherwise nice enough, I think there is a great chance you will find him a nice home with someone who won't mind the spooking.
I am older now and I am in chronic pain. I dont mind saying I am rather paticular as to what I sling a leg over these days, and I dont have any hang ups or hitches about it. I am in the life is too short crowd, and I dont want to come off anymore. It just hurts to dang much and takes alot longer to recover. Sell him. There is someone out there thats his perfect match, and your perfect match is waiting for you. Good luck.
I had a horse that did that. He would go past the scariest pieces of farm equipment you can imagine, but then suddenly drop, spin, bolt for no reason at all --- and every time I came off. I had a few trainers work with him because I really liked the horse, but they couldn't get him through the problem. I didn't want to ride anymore because of getting dumped so often. I sold him, with a full disclosure as to why I was selling. My vets checked the horse over several times in case there was a vision problem or some health reason that caused the spooking, but finally came to the conclusion that the horse just had a screw loose. Sell the horse before you get hurt and/or you lose your confidence.
OP - I had a horse similar to this - weird spook out of nowhere. Add in the fact that he would bolt on lunge line (trot two or three circles, then boom, gone); he broke cross ties on several occasions for no obvious reason (ie watched one day 5 bales of hay dropped into stall next to wash rack, bolted on #6...) Was scared of ANYTHING hung on his stall door - we were in the north, so many blankets hung that way to dry...Etc Etc. After he broke my foot, I began "window shopping" for a horse and decided to unload this one. Best move I ever made...He would have hurt me more eventually.
Met the owner of his sire several years later - she said she heard this horse was pushed beyond his comfort zone,as a youngster, perhaps to point of abuse. It was then that all his "quirks" began to make sense.............
We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........