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Runaway problem...any suggestions?

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  • Runaway problem...any suggestions?

    I have a team of mares. They had about 6 drives apiece with a breaking mare. I then put them together. Together, they had about 4 drives together. They were doing absolutely fantastic. Geed, and hawed, whoad, backed a bit, were calm. Took them on bush trails, up and down hills, cleaned the barn with them...Very responsive (huge mares though, about 17.2hh). I was using them to feed square bales on a stoneboat. Went to the hay stack, whoaed them. Someone who has a whooooooole lot more experience with driving than I, and who I respect very much, was going to hold the lines while I loaded the bales on. This person didn't stand on the stoneboat, rather they stood beside it. Because of the respect I have for this person, and their knowledge, I would never presume to suggest that they do something different. The mares started walking away, and the person, not having good footing (snow), couldn't really brace themselves, tried stopping them, the mares started going faster, the person yelled that they couldn't hold the lines, I tried diving for the lines, managed to get one, was ineffective, especially on my belly, wet gloves, lines slipped through my fingers, at this point mares trotting, then moving to a run. They took out a fence, and were stopped by a tree between them.

    Since this point, I have separated them, drove them again with the breaking mare, put them back together...and they run. I'm quite strong, however I couldn't hold them, which kinda freaked me out, as I've always figured my strength could hold a team if neccessary. Even from a walk, if they decide they are going, I can't hold them back from picking up speed. I don't drive with loose lines, my arms always flexed, ready to hold back if neccessary; won't hold these mares. I broke off part of my kneecap in a wreck with them recently. I've tried ground driving them in a small area. They dragged me part of the way, until I had to let go. I've tried stronger bits. Doesn't do anything. If they're going, they're going. i'm scared to drive them now.

    Are they a lost cause? Any suggestions? I'm thinking of selling them separately. I don't believe these mares can be driven together safely. What are your thoughts? They are nice to harness, great temperament, but put them together, and they become wired.
    "Riding: the art of keeping a horse between yourself and the ground."

    ~Horsebiters Clique Founder~Drafties~The A Team~Anti-Kohlrahbi Proliferation Group~Elite Closet Canterer...by proxy~

  • #2
    LostFarmer, heres one for you.... think the tire of education would help with these ladies?

    I am nowhere near a horse trainer but I am going to offer my opinion. A runaway is no good to anyone. From what you say the mares have learned they can runaway and they are doing it regularly.

    You admit you are afraid to drive them now. If you force yourself to drive you are making the situation worse because the mares can tell you are afraid. The whole situation sounds to me like a visit to the emergency room waiting to happen.

    If you have a strong, knowledgable, experienced trainer available you could ask his/her advice. If you live near an Amish community, spring is coming, maybe you could have them used as a farm animal. I have heard that there are Amish who will solve your problem for use of the animal.

    If you are honest about the problem (with potential buyers) I think your chances of selling the mares as driving horses are practically nil. I don't have the answer to that but I know a runaway is a very scary and dangerous thing.

    I also have a very large horse and I know how strong they are. I completely sympathize with you. The instant I recognize a problem with mine I go running for help. I'm not a hero.

    Personally, I would be rid of them. As was told to me a number of times.... there are to many good horses available to risk injury with a bad one.

    Good luck and be very careful.

    *Charter Member-Blue Tarp State Driving Clique*
    "You can't always get what you want, but if you try, you just might find you get what you need" Mick Jagger


    • Original Poster

      Hi horseyfolks, thanks for the response. Unfortunately the most knowledgeable, experienced trainer I know (I work for them), is very ill. I do believe that he thinks that they're not safe. I could drive them separately for as long as I want, but as soon as they're together is when I'll have my next runaway.

      I would actually love to keep them for broodmares, having such a nice temperament on the ground and all, but I'm not at that point in my "life's plan" yet. It's a couple of years early for that. I can't really keep them around for no reason, and just pay for the feed.

      I would never sell them as a team. I don't know about liability issues and all that, but even that notwithstanding, I couldn't in good conscience sell the pair as a team, knowing what I know about them. I wouldn't want to be responsible for them hurting someone else. I do think that individually they can be worked, however when hooked together, they feed of each other, one being worse than the other.

      Unfortunately, I'm not anywhere near Amish country. Had they successfully been trained, I would have used them for farm work. It's the best kind of training. Unfortunately, I can't even pick up the lines now without them taking off.
      Ironically, I have successfully helped train a number of teams for people. This was my first very own team of unbroke mares. And these are the ones that didn't work out.
      "Riding: the art of keeping a horse between yourself and the ground."

      ~Horsebiters Clique Founder~Drafties~The A Team~Anti-Kohlrahbi Proliferation Group~Elite Closet Canterer...by proxy~


      • #4
        Ideally, I wouldn't drive these mares together at all right now until they are much more broke. Hook them back up with the breaking horse for awhile with perhaps a snub rope (so that if she takes off, they end up pulling the weight of the whole load themselves ... they won't get far). If you have to drive them together, try to find an enclosed area, use the stone boat vs line driving and put a good curb on them, and adjust it so that they are not walking right through with you. If you don't have an enclosed area, then a large open field in which you can circle them until they stop may help. But ideally, I would hook them with the good broke horse for a long time and then put them back together next winter in a field where there are big drifts that you can use as a safety if they do run. Try not to get in the habit of holding their mouths all the time as it will make them less responsive to the brakes when you need them. If you decide to sell, I agree that selling them as a team would be next to impossible. Separately, maybe. If they are purebreds and they are nice, perhaps breeding them and selling them in foal would make the job of selling them much easier. A team that you don't trust, and that you're not sure you're equipped to deal with doesn't sound like much fun at all. One word of caution, if you do find a mennonite etc to work them, visit the farm first and view the horses ... some of them aren't the best at feeding them enough and they get pretty skinny pretty fast in hard work... however it is a good way to get a horse broke without paying much (around here it's free to about $3.00 a drive).


        • #5
          Maybe I didn't read the posts correctly, but SIX drives w/ a seasoned horse before being put together??? That doesn't sit well w/ me.

          They should have had a solid 30 days driving (or however long it takes) w/ the seasoned horse before being put together, especially now that they've run away and are aware they can get away w/ it, and have twice now.

          They need to be worked and worked hard consistently until WHOA, stand until told otherwise, is re-established and w/ the seasoned horse, not together. Changing bits isn't going to help at this point. You need to change what's between their ears, not in their mouth. It worked before and it's not too late for it to work again. And I agree w/ the poster that said to lay off their mouth. Being up on the bit is one thing, but they know you're afraid and hanging on their mouth lets them know and they anticipate what you're going to do and they bull right through it. You don't want them to have hard mouths at this stage in training.

          I'd work them (w/ the seasoned horse and in a enclosed area if possible at first), make them stand, work, stand, and so forth until it's instilled that running off is NOT an option (hopefully the seasoned horse is able to hold them back.) Baby steps, start back slow to regain their confidence and yours. In order to work as a team, the driver has to be on board, too... through trust. If you can't trust them, they're never going to trust you. Consistency and praise. It really isn't their fault they ran away at all w/ that little of driving. Now an experienced horse that knows better, yes, but it can and does happen. But when it happens w/ drafts it's darn scary. I've been there. More reason to nip it in the bud now. Don't give up on them.

          Another suggestion, have their teeth checked. Make sure all is well in there before bitting them again. Mares get wolf teeth, too, and also check bit fit.
          A Merrick N Dream Farm
          Proud Member of "Someone Special to me serves in the Military" Clique


          • #6

            Don't give up. Just back down to the baby steps. I can't think of a thing to add to the responses you already have gotten except this:

            These two had a bad experience together. Put yourself in their brain. It would be like "Wow when I'm with her (the other mare) I get my mouth yanked on. I get hollered at and then that stoneboat attacks me from the rear. Being beside her is NOT a good thing but I can still run."

            I'm sure it will take much more time to fix than it would have taken had that first runaway never happened.

            Runaways happen for a thousand different reasons and it may (will?) happen again with these two. At least you've already been there, done that, with them.

            I had my first runaway behind a pair of drafts. Mares, 18 years old and dead broke. One slipped her bridle off and we were off like a shot.

            Slow down, step back, breath deep, study the situation and then start MAXIMIZING the chances for success while MINIMIZING all chances of failure and injury to you or the horses.



            • #7
              I don't know that it's a lost cause. I was afraid my big guy would run on me after a big wreck with a cart, and he did. But I had him hooked to a big tractor tire with seating arrangements for me to enjoy the ride this time. Yep, got that one from Lost Farmer. He didn't run too far with a good load dragging along. I then made him pull it till his legs went rubber. He got the message. A horse that won't stop and stand is a horse that needs a regular hard job of pulling. They'll stop and stand. You might check out some discussions on the proper usage of the running W. It is considered radical by some, but is apparently very effective.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks everyone for the advice. I am planning on selling the mares. Gothedistance, you're right. The trust is gone. I'm just waiting for them to hurt me again, which means that I don't act around them the way I should, and the way they deserve. It was driver error that caused the first runaway, and it just snowballed from there.

                Jerry, I do like the tractor tire idea, but I know that as soon as that tire comes off, I'm going to be terrified that they'll be going again.

                Amdfarm, yup, 6 drives. That's the way they do it here. I work here, so I do what i'm told. Alot of very well broke teams have been sold here. I may not agree with everything, but I have seen the methods be quite successful.
                "Riding: the art of keeping a horse between yourself and the ground."

                ~Horsebiters Clique Founder~Drafties~The A Team~Anti-Kohlrahbi Proliferation Group~Elite Closet Canterer...by proxy~


                • #9
                  lost trust

                  N4S-- Once that trust has been replaced by your fear, it will telegraph down those lines. Your personal safety is way more important than a team with a questionable ability to drive.

                  Been where you and and still coming back from it. Not driving, but riding. Same issues though.


                  • #10
                    I was going to suggest waiting for a very deep snow to hook them and put them in a wide open area and let them go..they'll tire..Once they have drive them for another half hour to an hour. Do this a couple of times and you'll normally change their minds.

                    Since you can't do that from lack of snow. Do you have access to horse drawn farm equipment? If you do put them on a plow or something similar..probably easier to use something you can sit on. Set it down as deep as possible and let them pull. It's the same theory as the snow...it tires them out and they realize that it's way too hard to run.Once they get tired and start walking them make sure you keep them working longer so they realize that works continues even if they run. Make sure there is lots of people around just in case..and if you don't feel that you can hold them at all then get someone else to drive. Good luck..they can be broke of this it's just gonna take time.


                    • #11
                      We're very new to driving but our trainer is extremely experienced. He cautioned us at the beginning to go slowly and warned that once a horse has a bad experience with a cart it is usually almost impossible to overcome to the point that the horse is 100% reliable. So we gave him all the time he wanted to have our horse at a point where he felt Phoenix was safe for us to drive - given that WE were beginner drivers.

                      It took 3 months with our trainer driving the horse 6 days a week. Initially he drove him with another horse who was solid and quiet and steady. After 2 months he felt that Phoenix was going well enough for me to take the reins... but with him sitting beside me. All of the training has paid off as we now have a lovely horse who, although still green and young, is responsive and safe.

                      I just don't think you can value safety enough. There are too many good horses out there to take a chance with ones who are unsafe. N4S I think you've made a very wise decision. Sounds like you've been very lucky with this pair so far in not having a serious wreck or injury. No sense in tempting Fate!
                      Pat Belskie - ASHEMONT Farm

                      PnP Distributors - KUTZMANN Carriages


                      • #12
                        If that's how it's done there, wow. Sure, there are exceptions, but I'll glady pay my Amish guy for 30 days and do the rest myself.

                        I guess I look at it this way. If a horse bucks you off, do you sell it right away or get back on? Any horse that has your number, and knows it, is going to try again, especially the green ones. Is it the horse's fault?

                        If your confidence is shot w/ this team, how do you carry onto the next, knowing it can potentially happen again?

                        Jerry is right about the running W. In capable hands, it's a great tool, just as a bit.

                        Good luck.
                        A Merrick N Dream Farm
                        Proud Member of "Someone Special to me serves in the Military" Clique


                        • #13
                          Sell 'em There are more available

                          N4S: Sell 'em single as very green horses and your conscience should be clear. I'm glad Jerry, who seems very level headed, and Amd put in the running W. Perhaps not for you, but just to keep it on the table. As Amd said it is another tool and like some bits can be cruel, but in gentle and careful hands it can be very effective. It is not necessary to throw running horses. It works quite well to show them at a walk that they CANNOT continue to move after you say whoa.

                          However if I had a running W on and my horse or horses started running away you better believe I'd pull it.

                          Again, I mention this just to keep it on the table. Seems you have other horses available and are not head over heels in love with the current pair so sell 'em.


                          • #14
                            Somewhere I have a link to a website where the guy uses something called a foot rope. The idea is that a rope is tied around the horse's left front fetlock, run up over the shaft and either tied to the carriage or carried loosely in the driver's hand. If the horse starts to run, the driver reaches down and pulls the rope which lifts the horse's foot and, bingo, the horse is (supposedly) immobilized. There are pictures of this method in action, but, guys, I'm telling you, if I had to resort to that kind of thing to keep a horse from being a runaway, well, no thanks. Life is short and precious and there are too many horses who make good driving horses to waste your life and limb on those that don't want to be driven. How could you ever relax and enjoy driving a horse like that?



                            • #15
                              I doubt that your lack of confidence will come back just because you change horses. I know that 1 1/2 years have gone by, and I'm not yet at 100% confident. Regardless of which animal I use, I worry some. RidesAHaflinger, your legrope is the premise of the running W. (BTW, love your breed choice.) The leg rope should not be a permanent thing, once the horse gets it in his head that running is not a pleasant outcome, he'll dismiss the idea entirely. This is what I'm TOLD by older teamsters who've used it. I never had to to rehabilitate mine, the tractor tire was enough.


                              • #16
                                Also wanted to add that what works for one horse may or MAY NOT work for another animal. I have seen that one legged rope trick in action, sure didn't slow that horse down any!! The running W takes both front legs out, and even then some keep going on their knees, which is why you do the rigging in a deep sand or soft surface arena.

                                We start horses dragging with smaller tires moving up in size to an implement tire, from a front-end loader for working horse up to in tire dragging loads. It does eventually tire them out, but our Sporthorse types don't get tired real quick when they are fit. Drafts are not as good at running far in our experience, built for slower speeds. Scared horses will do unexpected things though.
                                One of our geldings dragged that implement tire in the large sandy round pen, cantering or hand galloping for half an hour on the long lines. Then he turned around and did the same in the other direction. He was unwilling to slow or stop when requested, not pushed into the work, either way. That tire was totally full of sand part of the time, but would bounce behind him when he really wanted to speed up. That hour's time would cover a pretty far distance since he has huge strides. Even with that pretty heavy load if he had been out on a road we would have been 'far, far way'. I sure wouldn't be able to stay on that bouncing tire to keep up with him!
                                I know it takes two of us to lift tire to roll out of the way, probably over 300# empty. 500# plus friction with the sand filling it up. Don't count on load to stop the horse in a situation.
                                That boy didn't really want to be a driving horse though he handled the load well. Some don't and we have to accept that. He was an awful nice riding horse though.

                                I don't know of ANY successful, rehabilitated runaways. Some who were not ever given another driving chance. Others, special breeds, colors, Teams, who went thru extensive retraining, lots of tricks, methods used in the hands of BNT experts. They ran again. People finally gave up. Some of the matched sets were broken up, then put with other horses, still ran getting the other new horse to be a runaway too. You don't want details of damage that followed, pretty expensive. It is kind of like their brain just disconnects while the throttle is left wide open so they run until they can't. Hit something, fall down, tangled in the trees, whatever, then the brain clicks back in because they aren't "driving" anymore now.

                                If I had no room to keep and breed them, I would sell them as broodmares, apart, not any kind of driving horse. Be honest so no one gets hurt, take the loss. You won't have to deal with them any more. You learn from this, take more time with new horses from now on. Look harder at situations you plan to get into. Make a plan to work with for progress, don't just copy what you see. Maybe they can read their horses better than you, do things you miss seeing. You learn more as you go along. Steady hands on the reins with a firmly placed driver at all times for a long time with green horses. 30 drives is NOT MUCH time, certainly not a lot of experience for the horses. We aren't even out of the ring with 30 drives, even with the Steady horse in a Pair beside Greeny. A farm pair must be completely reliable, lives depend on it.


                                • #17
                                  Pretty well said, Goodhors. But durn it, where is your sense of ADVENTURE?


                                  • #18
                                    every day is an adventure!!

                                    Jerry, isn;t it an adventure every time we climb up in a cart or carriage or in your case--a chariot?? LOL!


                                    • #19
                                      A running W can break a horse's neck if it gets up enough steam before you pull the ripcord and falls "wrong". Is this fair? If you know they're runaways, don't drive them.


                                      • #20
                                        Life is often unfair. I'd take a small chance of him breaking his neck to cure a fatal problem. I play the hand I'm dealt, if he's a runner, I'll do whatever it takes. The running W is a last resort, but it's still an option. Better his neck than yours.