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Horse that periodically bolts

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  • horsephotolady
    started a topic Horse that periodically bolts

    Horse that periodically bolts

    I'm getting to my wit's end with my horse and am hoping someone out there has some ideas. I've had him for 2 years. He was initially trained as a combined driving horse, then sold as a 6 yr old. At the time he had 3 months training under saddle. I bought him as a dressage prospect because he has nice gaits and was also described as being "safe" on roads, in fields, etc. Turns out he is anything but safe. He had no idea how to lunge when I got him, and I spent 4 months with him bolting and bucking when lunging was attempted. Riding him was out of the question. He could barely be walked from one barn to the other barn without becoming hysterical. Absolutely no way would you put this horse on a road or in a field and expect him to work! So, eventually he was sent to a trainer where he became somewhat manageable but still had many unpredictable moments. Fast forward to now...he is now on his 3rd trainer. Both previous trainers had enough success with him to get him rideable for them, but he still had times when he would just bolt out of the blue. I have been able to ride him at walk and trot and very occasionally canter, but frankly I am afraid to canter him due to his periodic bolting. Even when he is not bolting, he canters very fast and really has no adjustability in canter. Attempting to slow him down will cause him to break gait. Over the summer, I thought I was seeing quite a bit of improvement... I was just beginning to get a little confidence about cantering him. His trot became very nice, and bolting seemed to be a thing of the past. Until we hit cool, windy weather. All of a sudden, one day his trainer was riding...he seemed to be going fine and all of a sudden he bolted and ran twice around the arena before she could stop him. He was COMPLETELY out of control. She does not know what set him off. Since she was pregnant, we decided it would be best for someone else to work with him. Now I have another trainer who is doing very well with him, but still needs to lunge him quite a bit before getting on to be sure he will behave under saddle. He has been going well for this trainer and for me over the past month, until yesterday, I went out to lunge him, and BOOM, out of the blue he starts uncontrollably bolting and doing airs above the ground. I thoroughly checked equipment, nothing was out of place. I ended up lunging for 45 minutes...he settled down in the last 5 minutes and we quit. Now I am thoroughly backed off of the idea of riding this horse at the canter! Over the past 2 years he has been thoroughly vetted by 4 vets, 2 chiropractors. He has been scoped for ulcers--nothing. He has been tested for EPM and PSSM, both tests were equivocal. EPM mildly positive, same for PSSM. I did put him on PSSM diet a month ago. Saddle fits well. In between these bouts of bolting and bad behavior, he is lovely, other than too fast in canter. I sometimes think I should sell him because he is not working out for me, but I don't know if I could ethically sell a horse that does this out of the blue. Of course, if i sell, I would reveal. Can anyone think of anything I am missing? I also hate the idea that he needs to be lunged (sometimes quite long) before he can be safely ridden. I am afraid his joints will break down. I simply don't know where to go with this. I am experienced...been riding 50 years...never ran into a horse like this. Sorry so long....

  • Wanderosa
    replied
    Originally posted by horsephotolady View Post
    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!

    What breed is it? Any idea who trained it to drive? (i.e. - Amish or non-Amish?) Was it driven as a single or as part of a team or 4-in-hand?

    I agree it doesn't sound consistent with EPM. The Shire I had that contracted EPM became withdrawn from human contact and very clingy with other horses. He got very weak from it - could barely walk let alone bolt. Is PSSM what used to be know as EPSM? I suppose it's a possibility. Lyme or Bartonella? I do agree with others that the horse may have been in an accident and have some TBI or nerve damage. Or just mishandled at some point. IME people talk about Amish as being harsh in their training techniques but there's a shameful number of non-Amish driving trainers out there that are frankly flat out abusive in their techniques. Our sweet old Percheron had a dent above his eye from being hit in the head by a piece of lumber or metal pipe by his first owner. That person was the owner of a well-known commercial carriage company in the midwest and no Amishman.

    Leave a comment:


  • Justmyluck
    replied
    So I had this exact horse 10 years ago he's now 15 and safe for advanced riders. He was worked up from one end to the other. The only thing that worked was keeping him busy. We rode 6-7 days a week and spent months not taking more than 3-4 strides in the same direction and never traveling in a straight line. We started with upper level skills when we introduced the canter we focused on lateral work in all gaits. We methodically worked every second of every ride. When ever I got scared we went back to the round pen. I had to be a good active rider. When ever we would revert to previous habits it was all due to me not thinking. He's 15 and we had issues with him bolting into the canter during our last lesson I sat back and put my outside leg on and we worked on canter pirouettes, the work got substantially harder and our next session of canter work he was a dream.

    Leave a comment:


  • BigMama1
    replied
    Originally posted by Donella View Post
    I am not saying that the horse isn't in pain while being ridden or that pain isn't the cause of his bolting ( it may or may not be and no, pain isn't ALWAYS the cause of behavior issues). However, if it is , it's something vets have missed (which is entirely possible, it happens). Ok. What I struggle to understand is how everyone assumes that because he MAY be in pain carrying a rider, he is therefor "suffering" while hanging out and doing nothing?. I mean, sorry, but how would any of you know that? Sure, it's possible that everyone in that horse's life are totally blind and incompetent, but I think that is highly unlikely. I think most of us can tell when a horse is comfortable in the field vs not (at least I would certainly hope so).

    I think I have been pretty clear already that I am not in any way suggesting anyone "retire" a horse that is suffering to the field, to continue suffering. All I have said is that if the horse can be comfortably retired (not sold or given away), that is the right thing to do. Not sure why people here keep turning what I say into "allowing a horse to suffer"?. Give me a break.
    Probably for the same reason you think people here are suggesting “killing him” when everyone has said euthanasia may be the only option IF he is uncomfortable or unsafe to retire. None of us know whether he is - only the OP is in a position to judge that.

    Leave a comment:


  • Dutchmare433
    replied
    Originally posted by Donella View Post
    I am not saying that the horse isn't in pain while being ridden or that pain isn't the cause of his bolting ( it may or may not be and no, pain isn't ALWAYS the cause of behavior issues). However, if it is , it's something vets have missed (which is entirely possible, it happens). Ok. What I struggle to understand is how everyone assumes that because he MAY be in pain carrying a rider, he is therefor "suffering" while hanging out and doing nothing?. I mean, sorry, but how would any of you know that? Sure, it's possible that everyone in that horse's life are totally blind and incompetent, but I think that is highly unlikely. I think most of us can tell when a horse is comfortable in the field vs not (at least I would certainly hope so).

    I think I have been pretty clear already that I am not in any way suggesting anyone "retire" a horse that is suffering to the field, to continue suffering. All I have said is that if the horse can be comfortably retired (not sold or given away), that is the right thing to do. Not sure why people here keep turning what I say into "allowing a horse to suffer"?. Give me a break.
    The OP mentions on the third page that he has the same issues in canter at liberty—unbalanced, fast, bolting episodes etc. So if it started having more bolting episodes in turnout, it might not be safe/comfortable.

    I’d be interested to know the general breeding of the horse. Was it bred to drive and maybe wasn’t bred to have much of a canter to start with?

    Leave a comment:


  • Donella
    replied
    I am not saying that the horse isn't in pain while being ridden or that pain isn't the cause of his bolting ( it may or may not be and no, pain isn't ALWAYS the cause of behavior issues). However, if it is , it's something vets have missed (which is entirely possible, it happens). Ok. What I struggle to understand is how everyone assumes that because he MAY be in pain carrying a rider, he is therefor "suffering" while hanging out and doing nothing?. I mean, sorry, but how would any of you know that? Sure, it's possible that everyone in that horse's life are totally blind and incompetent, but I think that is highly unlikely. I think most of us can tell when a horse is comfortable in the field vs not (at least I would certainly hope so).

    I think I have been pretty clear already that I am not in any way suggesting anyone "retire" a horse that is suffering to the field, to continue suffering. All I have said is that if the horse can be comfortably retired (not sold or given away), that is the right thing to do. Not sure why people here keep turning what I say into "allowing a horse to suffer"?. Give me a break.

    Leave a comment:


  • ToN Farm
    replied
    If you look back at the OP's posts from 2018, this horse was showing issues for the vet. He couldn't canter one direction at all and he was positive on some flexions. She shows a photo of him, and he is very straight behind with a body type that is light behind compared to the front. Often you see this conformation fault in the draft crosses. Whatever this horse's problem is, he doesn't sound like a dressage candidate to me, even at low level. I'm not suggesting euthanasia because I have no idea if he is enough pain to warrant it.

    Leave a comment:


  • BigMama1
    replied
    Originally posted by Donella View Post
    Jealoushe, really? You think I am recommending that someone throw their suffering horse in a field? The OP has explained that numerous vets have been over this horse and none of them have found anything wrong, correct?. The horse sometimes bolts and sometimes kicks at the farrier and you automatically assume the horse is in constant pain and unable to live without suffering in a field? Sorry, I think that is quite the stretch. Obviously, if the horse were found to be suffering to the extent that it was going to be in pain while hanging out in the pasture, then euthanasia is the right choice. I think that kind of goes without saying.

    And fwiw, we have had a number of horses over the years come in with a bolting problem. Of course, it is important to rule out physical issues, which we have always done. But in every case that we have had the horses simply had gotten totally freaked out by their riders/trainers in the past and had developed a habit out of fear. In every case, the horses turned around with competent riding. Obviously that is not always the case but it IS ridiculous to assume that just because a horse has a bad habit that is suffering physically.
    This particular horse has already been through several competent trainers who were unable to correct the problem. This particular horse displays the same issues at liberty, which makes it unlikely it’s just a “bad habit.” This horse seems to display a progressive worsening of symptoms, which points to a physical issue.

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  • RiverBendPol
    replied
    I haven't read all of these posts but wow, your initial post rings some familiar bells for me. I had a big TB who didn't bolt per se, but wowee, he was reactive. He'd launch, out of the blue with no apparent reason. Off the ground, usually forward, sort of like the guy in the cannon in the circus. I, too, turned to the Chronicle Forums for help after my vets had run every test possible. Turns out my horse had EPSM (look for Dr. Beth Valentine-oh, here she is-she saved my life and that of my horse https://www.ruralheritage.com/vet_clinic/virtualvet.htm) and a mild C-6 C-7 malformation (https://thehorsesback.com/c6-c7-malformation/) I have to say, your horse is in pain OR has some very real PTSD from his driving days. When I was communicating on a regular basis, I found almost all erratic or "bad" behavior was pain-induced including an enterolith bigger than a softball. Please don't sell this horse. The kindest, safest thing FOR HIM would be to put him down. You and he have been through three trainers and no one has figured him out yet. Beware the "trainer" who will force the horse to "get over himself"...I imagine a sad and rocky road for him.

    Leave a comment:


  • netg
    replied
    I spent this year insisting my older mare was in pain even when not limping, despite multiple vets blowing it off, and it took the diagnostics at a big clinic to find her problems. I'm lucky in my case that it's all fixable, but there wasn't any kind of naughtiness in her behavior and I still knew there was a big problem - the kind of behavior this horse is demonstrating 100% indicates pain, whether vets see if when the horse is ok or not.

    I would do the relatively inexpensive options - check for hind gut ulcers if not done yet, for example (scoping doesn't find them), give the metabolic diet a chance. But if it doesn't help and this keeps up, it seems pretty safe to say there is some form of pain for such dramatic behavior.

    I *can* keep horses for life, choose to do so, but my promise to them is that I will not allow suffering/pain long term.

    Leave a comment:


  • Donella
    replied
    Jealoushe, really? You think I am recommending that someone throw their suffering horse in a field? The OP has explained that numerous vets have been over this horse and none of them have found anything wrong, correct?. The horse sometimes bolts and sometimes kicks at the farrier and you automatically assume the horse is in constant pain and unable to live without suffering in a field? Sorry, I think that is quite the stretch. Obviously, if the horse were found to be suffering to the extent that it was going to be in pain while hanging out in the pasture, then euthanasia is the right choice. I think that kind of goes without saying.

    And fwiw, we have had a number of horses over the years come in with a bolting problem. Of course, it is important to rule out physical issues, which we have always done. But in every case that we have had the horses simply had gotten totally freaked out by their riders/trainers in the past and had developed a habit out of fear. In every case, the horses turned around with competent riding. Obviously that is not always the case but it IS ridiculous to assume that just because a horse has a bad habit that is suffering physically.

    Leave a comment:


  • Jealoushe
    replied
    Originally posted by Donella View Post
    Also wanted to say I think it's really sad the number of people who advocate for killing him. That isn't the "kind" think to do, it's the convenient thing. If you've exhausted all your efforts, put him the field with other horses and allow him to live his life out. THAT is the kind thing to do.
    Some of these horses, mine included that I PTS, become more dangerous and unhappy being "left" to do nothing. Leaving a horse in pain for 20 years is beyond cruel.

    Leave a comment:


  • the sandiest shoes
    replied
    Originally posted by angelssix View Post

    THIS says a lot. Sometimes as humans we put so much time, energy and emotions into our animals and we really should be more willing to step back and say "enough". I spent a metric ton of money on a mare that was starting that same trend of bolting under saddle and becoming seriously dangerous. She would run blind. I contacted her previous owner and sent her back as agreed. I am still working to overcome fear on a horse. I decided I would never get on another mare. I shouldn't feel that way, because I know they are not all bad, but that one ruined me. I have two gelding now and I am quite happy.
    GoForAGallop and angelssix I have the exact same thing. I used to have so much confidence and I had so many bad falls, and a couple moments where I'm really lucky to not have died, and it's taken years to try to shake that. I don't know if I'll ever be the same. When a 20 year old schoolmaster did a small bolt and threw some huge bucks at a show, even though I could pull him up quickly and it stopped after that (neither of things were applicable with danger horse), I was still shaking throughout my body an hour later. It reminds your lizard brain and then you're totally a mess. I mean, I'm super grateful that nothing physically happened to me permanently, but it's been a decade and the mental damage is still there.

    Leave a comment:


  • slp2
    replied
    OP---so I know you in "real life" and have seen your FB posts on this horse. I'm so sorry that you are going through this. I don't know that I have any good answers for you. It does sound like this horse is not comfortable in the canter---and hasn't improved after working with 3 trainers. My hubby's horse is a KWPN / draft cross and when we first got him---the canter was a struggle. He was unbalanced, and would just canter very fast ---and with him being 18H and YUGE--we joked that it looked like he was auditioning for the jousting role at Medieval Times! Luckily, my husband took lessons from a really good trainer who helped him (horse and hubby) in the canter. Now, the canter is quite lovely and no more Medieval Times moments! That being said---he never bolted. Just went fast and unbalanced. So I'm not sure my example is helpful. Also--as a side note---this same horse got pretty bad for the farrier when he had an injury to his SI (that we hadn't figured out yet). He had always been pretty good for the shoer and then started getting worse and worse. Turns out it was uncomfortable for him when he had to stand on one hind leg for a long time.

    Your gelding---he looks pretty beefy---is he a draft cross? Regardless---he was bred to drive---which means the canter was probably not a focus when they were breeding him. Was he any better at the canter when you initially looked at him to buy?

    If you want to pursue different trainers in the area---I can suggest two that could probably give you a realistic assessment on this horse. Carrie Wilson would be my first recommendation. She is in demand though ---especially in the winter. Holly Russell is new-ish to the area and super talented with difficult horses. I can give you her contact info. if you PM me.

    However, if you decide that you want to continue to explore through more diagnostics----a bone scan at MSU would be a good place to start---but do they have a radiologist that can really evaluate the results anymore? I heard they are still looking to replace the one they lost. But still might be worth trying.

    Beyond that, I know that Dr. Van Wessom has burned some bridges with MSU vet staff---but he *does* know his stuff when it comes to back and neck issues with horses. Horse owners usually end up coming to him after everything in the lower limb has already been xrayed / ultrasounded and injected without success. He has seen SO many horses with back and neck issues---it would be interesting to get his perspective on this horse.

    Mostly I am sad that you are not able to enjoy your horse. Good luck making some decisions on this guy. I know you will do best by him.

    Leave a comment:


  • 2tempe
    replied
    OP - I bought a 6 yr old horse that turned out to be a bolter and who had other fear type issues as well. You could not lunge him unless he was in a round pen - otherwise, he'd be gone by 3rd or 4th circle. He could do a 180 turn faster than any reining horse I ever saw - sometimes for no apparent reason. Nasty buck. Put me in the dirt a number of times. Could not go near him with clippers. Could not hang a blanket up on hook outside his stall. He broke cross ties. I tried for a year - when he was calm under saddle he was lovely. Good PPE, sound, no indications of pain, more of a head case...After a year and with a broken foot thanks to him, I called the seller; she was kind enough to take him back - I paid board but no training until he was sold to two of her working students. No idea after that but in my mind I do not think he had a good end.
    He was a good bred hanoverian, and a few years later I met the owner of his sire at a show. She knew of the horse I had, told me he had been started as a jumper (which I knew) and also said that he was supposedly overfaced to the point of abuse, (which I did not know) before they gave up and sold him as a dressage prospect.
    Had seller not bailed me out, I would have given serious consideration to euthanizing- he hurt me and he was going to hurt others.



    Leave a comment:


  • Donella
    replied
    Originally posted by Biscotti View Post

    1. If he's in so much pain that he can't stand for the farrier, sedating him through that process is cruel, IMO.

    2. Too often people have this idea that they need to go into debt to keep their animals alive, or they give the animal away in order to let it keep living its life. Both of these are non-options, IMO. The horse will almost certainly end up somewhere much worse, with someone much less accepting of his behavior. Better to euthanize than have him end up in a slaughterhouse.
    I mean I am assuming the horse isn't in "so much pain" ...is there any legit evidence for that? A horse kicking at the farrier can just be a horse kicking at the farrier. There are a lot of people making assumptions where the OP has never indicated that any vet thought there was anything significantly wrong with the horse. I would think if the vet came out and saw a horse that was seriously physically compromised the OP would be aware of that... Or am I missing something here?

    Secondly, I have never suggested that someone go into debt to keep their horse, though I think people who can afford a horse when they are riding it can afford that horse when they are not. That is just a logical assumption. And never have I ever suggested giving it away, nor would I ever make that suggestion or do that with one of my own horses, let alone a "problem" horse, for obvious reasons.

    Herecomeszach, yeah, fair enough and I don't really disagree. I was making the assumption that the horse is not suffering because he has been seen by numerous vets. But if it were determined that he was, and was suffering enough to be uncomfortable doing nothing in a field/ basic handling then, of course, he should be put to sleep.

    Leave a comment:


  • angelssix
    replied
    Originally posted by GoForAGallop View Post

    (As an aside, the mare above completely shot my confidence to an extent I didn't even realize in the moment, as I kept getting on her over and over again. Years later, I am STILL fixing the defensive habits and subconscious fear caused by her behavior, which is doing no favor to my current patient equines.)
    THIS says a lot. Sometimes as humans we put so much time, energy and emotions into our animals and we really should be more willing to step back and say "enough". I spent a metric ton of money on a mare that was starting that same trend of bolting under saddle and becoming seriously dangerous. She would run blind. I contacted her previous owner and sent her back as agreed. I am still working to overcome fear on a horse. I decided I would never get on another mare. I shouldn't feel that way, because I know they are not all bad, but that one ruined me. I have two gelding now and I am quite happy.

    Leave a comment:


  • horsephotolady
    replied
    GoForAGallopp...I'm crying for you too. I'm so sorry about your horrible experience.

    Leave a comment:


  • HereComesZach
    replied
    Originally posted by Donella View Post
    To clarify, I am not suggesting that she give him away to a pasture home. I am suggesting she find a cheaper pasture board option and board him out herself. I think most people that own horses CAN afford that if they truly wanted to. After all, we all afford it when we are riding them and things are going wonderfully....

    Herecomeszack, well, I am a trainer/breeder and I make it happen with a number of horses of mine. I don't have the room at my farm so board them out. I can assure you that paying a vet to put them down would be A LOT easier than having to pay for them to live out their days. Putting an animal that is suffering down, yes, of course, that is our duty. Putting an animal down because I no longer want to pay for its expenses?

    As for his bad behaviour with farrier...sedate him. Not that difficult now with oral dorm gel etc.

    If the OP truly cannot afford to retire or do further diagnostics, then yes, euthanasia is kinder than giving him away or selling him into the unknown. Fair enough.
    Ah, well, yes, I mean, I also keep all of my horses through their retirement. It sounds to me like you are objecting to this as a 'convenient' way of dealing with retirement, which I think is fair.

    It's just that this particular scenario wouldn't be a retirement, at least not the way I'm reading it? The horse is uncomfortable, to the point that it is aggressive with it's pasture-mate, and is now acting dangerously for the farrier.

    If you look at the horse objectively, just on a micro-level, then sure, throwing him out in a pasture and not euthanizing him is a kindness.

    I was trying to point out that if you pull back a bit further, and look at all the pieces, there are other things to consider. Is he in pain? Does he have a brain tumor causing him to be miserable? Will he hurt his pasture-mate? Will he hurt the farrier, or other professionals that need to work with him for his remaining days? A farrier who is too injured to work loses a lot of income, not to mention the other horse's he's responsible for.

    I think that to be truly kind, OP needs to consider factors for the horse; and also factors around the horse as well. Kindness isn't always easy, sometimes it's heartbreaking. I wouldn't think that putting this particular horse down would be a convenience, at least the way I'm reading it.

    Leave a comment:


  • Biscotti
    replied
    Originally posted by Donella View Post
    I can assure you that paying a vet to put them down would be A LOT easier than having to pay for them to live out their days. Putting an animal that is suffering down, yes, of course, that is our duty. Putting an animal down because I no longer want to pay for its expenses?

    As for his bad behaviour with farrier...sedate him. Not that difficult now with oral dorm gel etc.
    1. If he's in so much pain that he can't stand for the farrier, sedating him through that process is cruel, IMO.

    2. Too often people have this idea that they need to go into debt to keep their animals alive, or they give the animal away in order to let it keep living its life. Both of these are non-options, IMO. The horse will almost certainly end up somewhere much worse, with someone much less accepting of his behavior. Better to euthanize than have him end up in a slaughterhouse.

    Leave a comment:

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