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Horse that periodically bolts

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  • 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....

  • #2
    How do you keep this horse? What do you feed? Has your horse enough pasture time with the ability to run? For some horses even this is not enough and they need to run free in an arena or do some free jumping.
    There is a capable trainer out there for every horse - sometimes not easy to find. Also for horses with 'special needs' it sometimes makes sense to look into other disciplines. A former carriage horse may also be familiar with long lining/double lunging.

    Maybe the horse just wants to be a driving horse again?

    Edit: I mixed up bolting and bucking!
    Last edited by Salo; Oct. 27, 2019, 04:37 PM.

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    • #3
      Personally I would find a good trainer who will also sell the horse for me. At this point it seems unlikely that he will ever be what you want and need. A Pro or accomplished Junior may not be phased by his occasional bolt if he has talent for their discipline. You deserve a horse you can enjoy.

      Comment


      • #4
        I wish I were closer to you. (I'm in Aiken, SC). My current mare went through a bolting period and I fixed it. There are questions I'd ask and things I'd do to try and fix it, but all that would take longer to explain than it's worth. It sounds like you and your pros are enough "out of cards" that you should think about selling him. If he scares you so that you'll never quite trust him, don't put in any more money. If you don't want to learn to fix this vice, don't keep going.

        But I do think that the bolting and fast canter says he's overwhelmed and physically weak. To me, lunging to get him tired is digging a hole for yourself. He is getting tired without either getting stronger in his body so that he can hold himself in that slower, more civilized canter, or tired but not more educated.

        MO, this kind of horse needs two things. 1. To learn to have confidence in his rider (and perhaps a work ethic if, it turns out, he's bolting because he thinks you all have asked too much of him). Often, they bolt because they are overwhelmed and can't think of what else to do to "make it stop." 2. He needs to learn that bolting does not actually solve his problem such that he chooses to get his head back in the game and tries his best to please you. That last part is about his accepting training. He might not have learned that yet.

        Either this horse is very, very fit or you need some more tools in your training box because it should not take 45 minutes to "make a point" to a horse about what would earn him a rest. They are not smart enough to stay in that single conversation for 45 minutes.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat

        Comment


        • #5
          (..)EPM mildly positive, same for PSSM. I did put him on PSSM diet a month ago.
          Was your horse treated for EPM?

          PSSM diets are not all created equal - Don’t forget to cut sugar everywhere : carrots, cookies, apples, this time of the year grass - or even grass in general.

          Straight B1 powder supplement (or other calming supplements) could be useful.

          Was your horses teeth thoroughly checked?
          My mare had to have her teeth done 2-3 times a year for a few years before her teeth settled correctly and once a year was only warranted.
          She was a great bolter and bronc!
          [Has PSSM, tooth problems and ulcer prone. Oh the joy! - So my advice only come from my experience]

          I believe your horse might have something pain related that only sparks sporadically.
          Horse don’t just bolt for no reason.
          ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

          Originally posted by LauraKY
          I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
          HORSING mobile training app

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by alibi_18 View Post



            I believe your horse might have something pain related that only sparks sporadically.
            Horse don’t just bolt for no reason.
            I'd mostly agree, but I did have one that had been started badly and never really mentally recovered. There was no pain issue, but his go-to response if he thought he was going to be disciplined was to bolt. There was no physical pain that we were ever able to find.

            OP - I'm assuming that with all the vet work you had done that he was checked for kissing spine? Also did they fully examine and x ray his neck? I've seen some dressage horses get very angry and sometimes violent if they have arthritic necks. I think it is a under-diagnosed issue in dressage horses, especially if you try to ride the ones that suffer from it in frame or lunge in side reins.

            So long as you have fully examined every possible physical issue and there is nothing, plus whoever you have sell the horse fully discloses the issues, I would lean towards selling/retiring. I got badly hurt on the first horse I mentioned, and it destroyed my confidence for many years.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Thanks for the ideas and thoughts. I do think it is time to consider selling. It is a very hard decision due to the many very good rides I have had on him. But he is just not consistent or predictable. Today he was completely explosive for the farrier and purposely kicked him twice. Got him pretty good, so now farrier will only do him under sedation. He has NEVER behaved this way about his feet. He usually goes half to sleep for shoeing. I was flabbergasted. I do think looking into neck issues is a good idea. I have not done that. He has never been the least bit touchy about his back, so I'd be surprised if the problem is kissing spines, but you never know. I have not treated for EPM as the vet thought it unlikely that that is really the problem. I have eliminated as much sugar from his diet as I can, as well as adding oil. He is turned out at least 12 hrs a day with other horses and plays quite a bit with another gelding. Sometimes he is out 24 hrs during nice weather. He is quite fit so he can go for quite awhile when he gets ramped up.

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't think you are missing anything. I think you should consider either euthanasia or personally retire to a pasture situation. True bolting is an incredibly difficult problem to fix. It's a short circuit to a horse's "flight" mechanism. Rushing, and fast cantering, or short bursts forward after which the horse can be managed are different problems, but what I'm reading in the post is that after several years of training with multiple competent trainers, the horse still, for no identifiable reason has episodes where he is totally-out-of-control bolting.

                You cannot ethically resell this horse, even with disclosure. This is just my opinion. As much as I care about horses, I think it is very predictable that this horse is eventually going to really hurt someone. You are lucky that as of this point no one (that you know of) has yet been seriously injured. Some people might say, "sell/give him to a pro who can handle him." But pros are people also, they have families and people who depend on them and care about them the same as you do. And, a pro is unlikely to be a forever home.

                Full disclosure might legally cover you, but ethically I think it is clearly wrong to sell a dangerous horse. No one wants to be the one to "give up hope," so these dangerous horses often end up getting passed around with a trail of injured people behind them. Just because you sell with disclosure doesn't mean that is going to happen on every future transaction.

                For the sake of the horse, resale is also an issue. A problem horse such as a bolter is unlikely to find a fairytale ending. A much more likely scenario is that the horse will change hands again and eventually end up neglected or at auction.

                Comment


                • #9
                  To me, how dangerous a "bolter" is depends greatly upon how they bolt. If the horse is blind panic, run over stuff running, then I consider it highly dangerous. However, if the horse is more of a runaway and "I'll stop when I decide to" who maintains a sense of self-preservation, I think there is hope.

                  When I was a kid I had a horse the was a bit of a runaway. Periodically he would take off and all I could do is steer a bit until he decided to stop or I managed to get him into a confined area. (Didnt have the skills back then to do more!) But he didnt run blind and I felt fairly safe. I did eventually learn to forestall most and somewhat control the other bolts.

                  OTOH, I did know a horse who would run blindly. Seemed more hot than fearful and I saw him run into a stone wall with his cowboyish owner. Both survived with cuts and bruises.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Can you speak to his past as a driving horse? do you know if he bolted then? It might be that he needs to go back to that discipline although I wonder why he would be sold to a different discipline at 6 if he were doing really well.

                    I think if you are completely honest about his past, selling or giving away is an option, and I agree that 24/7 turnout might make a difference.

                    One thing that was recommended to me years ago -- try a course of robaxin and banamine, and see if his behavior changes significantly. If it improves, that may indicate a pain issue.

                    So sorry this happened to you, but I think you have done well by this horse and he needs a new situation with an experience trainer/rider who knows the history.
                    Absurdly improbable things are quite as liable to happen in real life as in weak literature. -- Ada Leverson

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Is your horse insured? I’m surprised none of your vets have asked for a bone scan at this point.

                      I personally do not think any horse acts out like you describe without underlying pain. Some horses when they don’t understand something yes, but it sounds like this horse has been in enough work with enough trainers that he probably understands his job.

                      For sure check the neck but I would be super interested in back and SI as well. Sometimes xrays can’t get a good enough view for kissing spine and or see arthritis that is closer to the spinal cord.

                      If you opt for a bone scan you will see where he lights up and have places to look. Once you know where his pain is coming from you can treat and you may get your horse back. Best of luck.
                      http://www.windsweptfarmllc.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Bolts and kicks the farrier? Sorry, I'd have him euthanized before someone gets badly hurt.

                        He probably is in pain somewhere, but there's only so much you can do before you have to call it quits.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would say retire. It is not worth the money or your life.

                          Find a horse that you can canter on safely now. Not one in the future.
                          It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My guy sounds similar. He had training issues early on (rescue), improved, and then random bouts of issues. I bought him in CA, then moved to Ohio. I had occasional issues in CA, but I think it was green/new stuff. He never got girthy there, but definitely spooky at times, other times sluggish. But in Ohio, got a weird cold (virus) one year, girthy acting other years, abscesses, had a weird inflammatory response to a bug bite on his sheath, etc. I noticed a correlation to autumn. Wondered if it related to going from grass to hay (hay year round in CA). I normally treated as ulcers and he’d improve. But now I think it was a flare, and not ulcers.

                            Finally got hyperesthetic, trying to bite when touched. Bloodwork showed acute Lyme and low vitamin E. I did antibiotics; no more Lyme in tests. Vitamin E up with liquid, too. I did Chinese medicine, chiro, laser, massage, various supplements... I wouldn’t ride if he acted girthy tacking up. Then one day, he seemed fine. I thought we’d gotten it, and was riding along in our return to fitness journey. Out of the blue, huge bolt, then 90 degree turn toward the barn. He was really round after his year+ off work, and the saddle slipped. I came off against a wall, taking the full force of landing on my knee, as I instinctively tried to roll. Hip subluxation was the worst fall I’ve ever had, and I still have lingering issues almost 2 years later. Since he seemed fine, I retired him. Not safe to ride at that point, and since I know it’s pain related, not fair to him, either.

                            I’m convinced my guy has some weird autoimmune disease. Those are challenging to treat in humans, who are often plagued by flares of pain/problems. My guy is retired, and gets vitamin E and a senior joint supplement. If he gets worse, or becomes dangerous, he’ll be humanely euthanized. He’s 18 now, and an easy keeper and gets along with my other horses. He’s a sweet boy. Not safe to sell, and a good companion horse unless/until he’s suffering or scary.

                            Good luck making the right choice

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by horsephotolady View Post
                              Thanks for the ideas and thoughts. I do think it is time to consider selling. It is a very hard decision due to the many very good rides I have had on him. But he is just not consistent or predictable.
                              Considering the fact that even a trainer had to go through 2 laps of frantic canter - won't ride it anymore and you had to find another one... How realistic is it to consider selling?

                              There might be some very good rides, but this horse is impredictable and, dangerous.

                              Today he was completely explosive for the farrier and purposely kicked him twice. Got him pretty good, so now farrier will only do him under sedation. He has NEVER behaved this way about his feet. He usually goes half to sleep for shoeing. I was flabbergasted.
                              The situation might be aggravating. Sudden change in behavior is never good.

                              There goes your selling idea too, who will want this horse?

                              he can go for quite awhile when he gets ramped up.
                              This, to me, is not normal either. Horses don't just run endlessly in their pasture for no reason.
                              I also would never let a horse get "ramped up" for any lenght of time.
                              This demonstrate an excessive level of anxiety and stress, maybe, again, related to pain.

                              Your horse is not doing well at all.
                              It's time for a chat with your vet.
                              ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                              Originally posted by LauraKY
                              I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                              HORSING mobile training app

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I’ve posted before about a horse I had who did this. He was a lovely, black Quarter Horse who would bolt randomly as you describe It got bad enough that I had the vet out and we determined that he had some kind of neurological issue which caused him to mentally shut down and bolt. I elected to have him euthanized to avoid any future injury to him or any human. Necropsy showed vertebral malformation causing his spinal cord to get pinched which caused him to bolt in a panic. It was sad to euthanize such a young, good tempered horse, but I didn’t feel he was safe for anyone who had to handle him let alone ride him.
                                Good luck.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I'm sorry you're dealing with this, and I'm sorry you didn't go back to the seller for giving you a totally false sales spiel on the horse. How anyone could do that, knowing you could get seriously hurt is beyond me!! Makes me so angry that there are people who would do this without caring at all what happens to the horse or the buyer. But now that two years and a lot of money have gone by, there's nothing you can do about that. I say retire the horse (whether to a field or "permanently." Sounds cruel, but how happy can this horse be and how much more money can you put into it?) Life is WAY too short not to enjoy riding and risk injury, and there are truly so many wonderful horses out there who would be a joy to own. Cut your losses and move on.
                                  "Dreams are the touchstone of our characters." Henry David Thoreau
                                  Touchstone Farm
                                  www.bytouchstonefarm.com

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    It’s perfectly okay to sell him with a comprehensive disclosure. I had one like this - didn’t bolt - but DID rear. Not with me and never got anyone off but did it with a trainer or two and it was random. Everything checked out. I stuck with it for a few years, rarely riding myself. And he did get (somewhat) better. But I never felt safe on him, so I sold him at a considerable loss and now he’s happy jumping with a junior. It was hard - I liked him a lot and spent a ton but at the end of the day, I needed a horse I was happy and comfortable riding daily without having to pay a trainer. I did find one (he’s the best!) but I had to let go of the other one for that happen.

                                    I am so sorry you’re going through this. It’s very, very hard.

                                    It’s okay to let go.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by MsM View Post
                                      To me, how dangerous a "bolter" is depends greatly upon how they bolt. If the horse is blind panic, run over stuff running, then I consider it highly dangerous. However, if the horse is more of a runaway and "I'll stop when I decide to" who maintains a sense of self-preservation, I think there is hope.

                                      When I was a kid I had a horse the was a bit of a runaway. Periodically he would take off and all I could do is steer a bit until he decided to stop or I managed to get him into a confined area. (Didnt have the skills back then to do more!) But he didnt run blind and I felt fairly safe. I did eventually learn to forestall most and somewhat control the other bolts.

                                      OTOH, I did know a horse who would run blindly. Seemed more hot than fearful and I saw him run into a stone wall with his cowboyish owner. Both survived with cuts and bruises.
                                      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"!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        alibi_18 I agree with you completely that selling is not realistic in this scenario. OP, if your trainers have struggled to ride this horse, how would you even handle sales appointments? There would be huge liability to allow shoppers to come try this horse. Certainly no reputable trainer would agree to be involved representing a horse that is known to bolt (never mind kicking people). Honestly, they probably wouldn't even want you showing it to people at their farm.

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