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Horse that periodically bolts

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    I wonder does he ever do it when he's at liberty, ie either free lunging or in pasture?

    My second horse had a rearing thing... never with me on him, but random, no clear predictable trigger, never the same situation twice, and when he was good, he was a peach, just the best horse that I would let anyone handle.
    When he died we learned he had EHV-Neuro. It is my theory now that he may have had it all along and it was the cause of these 'brain farts' that led to the rearing.
    I will likely never know.
    Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014


      I've heard enough stories over the years of driving horses who had a horrible crash and was never the same in the head.
      My money is betting that something frightening happened under harness and it's still there when his panic sets in.

      Obviously the original owners 'knew' he was not a combined driving horse for whatever reason. Maybe the horse did receive some body injuries that have subsequently cause arthritis or lingering pain. Head, neck, back skeletal issues
      would be my guess if he was involved in a crash.

      I'm so sorry you're facing this.
      "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


        OP - I'm sorry to hear this. What a tough go you've had with this guy and you have tried so much with him. That alone is a huge kudos to you!

        I've heard of many driving horses who have had accidents driving but make totally fine riding horses. They don't tend to put the same 2 deciplines together (I've owned a few driving ponies who did not want to drive - they would bolt etc, but were amazing under saddle).

        A horse that bolts undersaddle is not a good choice to drive!! No way! If you think its scary on their back when they are running away, imagine it when they are attached to a carrige. Not a good scene. I've seen it a few times with not great endings, and I've never really had it happen to me (though we had a mare we were training and she kicked the other pony over the pole and then bolted a few few steps. We ran her into a fence to stop her and luckily no damage to carriage or other pony). We stopped driving her and I rode her and sold her as a kids pony 16 years ago. She is still toting little kids around happily.

        Perhaps he did take off in harness and thats why he sold as a riding horse. Who knows? Its terrible that the seller never told you this though.

        Its odd that he's been good for you for a bit and then reverted again. It almost sounds like a pain issue but I know you looked into a lot of pain related options.

        I don't have a lot of advice, but please don't have anyone try to drive him or sell him as a driving horse.


          What is this horse's breed? He is about 8 right?

          There is no shame in deciding that a horse is too much for you and move it along. But when a horse is proving too much for professionals as well, and you have done as much diagnostic work as you have without identifying a physical problem, retirement or euthanasia need to be considered.


            This sounds like a pain problem. And unfortunately, sometimes you can find it. Sometimes you can't until necropsy. Sometimes you can find it but there isn't an effective treatment.

            A normally well-mannered horse now kicking the farrier? Something physical is definitely going on. Perhaps it's EPM perhaps something skeletal.

            Personally I would not sell or give away this horse. I would feel better knowing his ending even if it's a sad one.


              I had a horse like this that I put loads and loads of money into for training with a cowboy (who my dressage trainer suggested for difficult horses) and in the end, I gave him away as a pasture buddy (and then the people who received him evidently secretly sold him later as a riding horse and I really regret not euthanizing him when I had the chance). I was really young at the time, but if I knew then what I do now and had been honest with myself and spent more time trying to assess health reasons for the behavior, I'm pretty sure I would have put him down before he could go through more pain or endanger more people. His bolts were combined with intense, crazy bucking too. A dangerous horse is likely going to get hurt, one way or another.

              It was likely a neurological issue and made him very dangerous in certain situations. It was frustrating because he would be perfectly fine most of the time, and then suddenly it took a turn - but actually that's the way that type of injury/disease presents and it's way more scary because it IS so unpredictable. Like with this horse, it started to get more frequent and though he never kicked or was dangerous for handling, it may have gotten to that stage.

              Good luck and I'm really sorry you're going through this. It can be so heartbreaking.
              Mr. Sandman
              sand me a man
              make him so sandy
              the sandiest man


                I would not sell this horse. I would not even give him away. He clearly has something significant going on - physically or mentally. I would not risk him going into a situation where he could hurt someone or himself. It is unethical to sell a horse with this significant of a problem, regardless of the disclosure. I would PTS and console myself with the knowledge that he wasn't going to be able to hurt anyone and that he would not end up abused or in the slaughter pipeline.


                  Has anyone tried the TRT focus method with him? Lunging a horse with these issues is not always the answer. My horse needed focus work and a very short line when on the lunge or he would go nutty on it. I used some of the Tristan Tucker methods and he is much better now. I saw my trainer transform a horse that was difficult to lead without a lip chain...and he was 16 when she addressed the issue. Now anyone can take him in and out of turnout.
                  Humans dont mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. Sebastian Junger


                    It terrifies me that your pregnant trainer got carried around the arena like that.

                    Agree with those who have said whoever sold you this horse did something deceptive and dangerous. It's got to be either pain, neuro, or trauma, possibly all three. A caring vet will happily euthanize this horse to prevent its further suffering and endangering of riders, or the sell-along phenomenon that can end very badly for the horse.

                    It sounds like you have invested a great deal in this horse, both emotionally and in other ways. I'm really sorry you are in this fix. But do not feel guilty about ending his ordeal and yours, if that is your decision..


                      Originally posted by horsephotolady View Post

                      Well...he has never attempted to go through, over or into a fence, so in that sense there is some self preservation, however he has leaped and run through cavaletti. So, not sure if he is a completely blind runaway, but certainly won't hesitate to run through obstacles that look "run throughable"!
                      Running through cavaletti would not make me label a horse "unself-preserving."
                      The armchair saddler
                      Politically Pro-Cat


                        As many other people have said so much better than I "he isn't safe to sell or give away". If you can't afford to retire him then make an appointment for euthanasia. I too would want to know why he was sold as a riding horse after 'failing' at being a combined driving horse.


                          My schoolmaster does the mini, much safer version of this. He has done PSG with his former owner, a trainer/S judge. She brought him up through the levels. The back story is that he was sold to her because he bolted as a young horse with his AA owner. He is fancy, sweet and wonderful 99% of the time.

                          Having owned him a few years, I know him now and am fairly confident on him. He will bolt if the work gets a bit harder than he would prefer or due to noise.

                          It is an easy bolt - straight, no bucking and eventually he stops. Lunging is irrelevant for this horse, it’s not about being tired. He is happiest wearing a soundproof ear bonnet.

                          He isn’t stupid about it. It isn’t a blind panic. Scary as it is, I can ride it and he is overall a wonderful horse.

                          In my experience horses have one primary default behavior.

                          When I bought him, the former owner told me “look, you‘ll be fine on him and you are never going to come off, but don’t ever ride him completely on the buckle. Because he will be really good for a long, long time, and you will completely forget he does this and then out of the blue he’s going to bolt. So just don’t ever ride him completely on the buckle.”

                          My point is, it can get better but that innate behavior is unlikely to ever be completely, reliably gone. I personally would not willing to ride a horse that blindly bolts. I would have a trainer (like a 3 day person, not a dressage trainer) try to sell with full disclosure. I would give him away if that’s what it takes.


                            I would be willing to make a very large vet this horse has some serious hidden pain issues. There was recently a post travelling around FB of a horse similar to this, and the owner had the horse euthanized and then a necropsy done on the body. The horse had kissing spine, fused spine, a hole in his skull, his pelvis had a crack in it since birth, and some other things. Basically the total horse was a complete mess inside. It is very telling.

                            Horses do not act this way for no reason, there is pain somewhere it is just a matter of finding it or deciding how much money you want to invest.

                            I euthanzied a horse a few years who would win every event, always win the dressaGe, but he was completely unpredictable at times and dangerous. I ended up breaking my leg in 4 places and decided the money, time, and risk going in was not worth it anymore. He was never really happy, I never regretted it.
                            Last edited by Jealoushe; Nov. 5, 2019, 10:48 AM.
                            Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                              Well this horse sounds like there's a few things - a lot of things - going on. He's not just bolting, but he was bucking and being unmanagable before the bolting. Now he's kicking and having difficulty with the farrier. He has PSSM and EPM? Occam's razor - just because these have been diagnosed and treated, does not mean they do not continue to present difficulties for the horse affected.

                              Lots of people can forget past issues can still cause problems after treated; it's sometimes surprising when I hear someone rattle off these issues they're dealing with, and then they mention casually something like "oh he had lyme in the past" or "he had a major stifle injury here, but that's okay now!".

                              Going back to that -- PSSM horses require a very specific management protocol. In addition to above, they also sometimes just cannot be working horses. EPM too, if not treated early, can sometimes end a career.

                              I would go back to these issues - and detail how they are being managed now. That is likely your answer.

                              That being said I have a horse that bolted on me occasionally. It wasn't a sassy bolt, but the kind of bolt that he checked out mentally, would not stop, and afterwards would be so distressed I would not feel it was in good conscience to work him. To me it seemed a genuine fear response as he could not "settle" and there was no reaching him until he came back from wherever he went. I ride OTTBs almost exclusively, so I have a good sense of humor about the horses that take me for a ride.. but this one seemed a bit different. It was so rare, I could not duplicate it - so I had the vet out and the vet ran a battery of tests and we didn't find anything right away. After talking to someone who went through someone similar I opted to x-ray his neck and to my vet's surprise, he had several bone spurs on his neck with significant remodeling. It made sense too, because these bolts would have no rhyme or reason, and he never was "up" prior to the bolting. My vet thinks that it is likely these bolts were events where he turned or had his neck "just so" and it would elicit a massive pain response. I injected the neck and five years later there's not been a single bolt.
                              AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


                                Your sig says you're in Michigan have you talked to Dr. vanWessum? He specializes in lameness and back problems and often posts interesting case histories on FB. He recently treated a horse that ended up have a dislocated sacrum. (It was dangerously unpredictable and did have to be euthanized.)


                                  I've been run away with just once - when a bear apparently was just a breath away from her in the bush. Most terrifying experience of my life and I am a further, faster, higher type of person.
                                  Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                                    Original Poster

                                    Thanks for all the input. I think my next step will be bone scan. That actually was something I was going to do last year, but the bone scan machine was not operational at the time. Then he had several good months. But now that things are escalating, I will go that route. He is being treated for PSSM but has not been on the diet long enough to see if it helps. Not being treated for EPM at this time as vet thought it likely that the mildly positive test probably just means he was exposed in the past. His symptoms don't really correlate with EPM.

                                    As an interesting sidenote, I tried contacting the original seller twice over the past year to see if I could get further background on him...seller does not respond at all. Pretty much tells me something!


                                      Yeah the seller putting up a brick wall, they probably have something to hide. Or just can't be bothered. The bone scan sounds like the next best step to get some answers. Good luck OP and keep us updated.


                                        I had a big Dutch mare that was given to me because of a bolting problem. The original owner and her (BNT) trainer had tried everything from a vetting standpoint and could not find a single issue that could cause it. When I got her I found it was nearly always in the canter. I had her teeth fixed (she had a rotten, broken molar) and also learned that she had hemorrhagic follicles when she was in heat (very painful). That meant there was about a week out of every month that she could not be ridden. I did put her on Regumate and that helped. But, none of those fixes helped with the bolting. I got her to the point that I was showing her a bit. I remember one test, I started out in the trot work and all was well. As soon as I asked for the canter she bolted. Head completely vertical (staring at the sky) and not watching where she was going. I managed to eventually get her head down enough to regain some control and she got back with the program and I finished the test with a surprisingly not horrid score. I eventually sold her, with full disclosure. All of that was more than 20 years ago. When I think about it now, I am sure there was some pain issue that we missed. Veterinary medicine has advanced substantially in the intervening years, and I think she probably had neck and/or back issues that went undiagnosed. My advice to you is if the bone scan reveals nothing and the PSSM treatment doesn't help, you had best opt for euthanasia. Good Luck!


                                          Dear OP,

                                          You have gotten some GREAT responses here. Can you please tell me what you do when your horse bolts on the longe line? How was he corrected when he kicked the farrier? I ask because we have a great NH trainer at the barn, who specializes in "problem horses". Sometimes, he gets horses who bolt because they can get away with it and it gets them out of work. He has now and had a draft cross that did this because they knew they could intimidate the rider with their size. Many of his horses come from other trainers.

                                          He had one ex-Amish horse that injured and scared the rider (whom I've gotten to know). The horse was just scared of things, probably blew up in his ex-job and the riders weren't confident enough or knowledgeable enough to teach the horse how to learn. This trainer spent much time on the ground with the horse basically teaching him that he has to pay attention to and listen to people - which the horse never understood before - he didn't have confidence in people. He was just reacting. And teach him that humans would be fair if the horse was also fair. I thought the owner was going to die the first time I watched her ride him but she stuck with the plan that the trainer made and now they are 100% different.

                                          I don't know how much of your horse's responses are behavioral, but if things check out medically, consider finding a really good trainer who is good with the horse's mental state and not just how they go under saddle. If that's not in the cards, it's really not fair to the horse to sell him "down the road" and consider euthanasia.

                                          In my experience with this trainer who trains out of the barn, very few horses are euthanasia material, but they sure do exist. He had one that came from a dressage trainer (the owner) and this horse just was unpredictable and dangerous. Could be very workable for days on end...until he freaked out for no clear reason. He suggested euthanasia. The owner decided she just didn't want to risk life and limb, and sold him for $1 to the young trainer who managed his import. Last I heard it wasn't going particularly well.

                                          Good luck!
                                          Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation