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horse bolts during dismount

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  • horse bolts during dismount

    I've recently started riding a 6 year welsh-connemara cross. He hadn't been ridden in over 6 months because he's too strong and spooky for the pony club kids who rule to roost at this barn. I doubt we'll be eventing by the summer, but he's coming along quite nicely.

    The big problem is that he bolts whenever I dismount. Apparently someone hit his rump with a Western spur at some point while dismounting. At the end of the ride, as soon as I halt, he starts to jig and spook. As soon as I take my feet out of the stirrups, his hind end bunches up. I've managed to get off unscathed every time so far, but that's due to luck more than skill I've been reluctant to dismount in a corner because I don't trust him to not spook into me if he can't move forward.

    I usually ride alone (although I am taking a lesson on him this week), so a helper isn't an option. Anyone have any tips or ideas?

  • #2
    Never dealt with that but maybe halt, walk off again, halt, kick your feet out, walk off again, do that a bunch of times to desensitize him to that stuff. Then kick your feet out while walking before you get off. Could you dismount from a walk so he doesn't have time to anticipate to help him figure out it's no big deal, so he relaxes and then start introducing it from the halt again. Good luck because that sounds dangerous!


    • #3
      What does he do when you first get on? If he's pretty relaxed and chill, I'd do a lot of get on/get off right when you start. And have a bucket of grain handy. Give him a nibble each time you get on and off. I don't always like to use food, but sometimes it helps give them something else to think about instead of OMG FEAR! Maybe when you've finished riding, walk up to a bucket of grain, let him stick his head in it, and dismount while he's distracted by food. Being a pony, I bet food is his favoritest thing in the whole wide world.

      Ideally, you'd have someone to help hold him while you work through this...but if you're by yourself, this may make it a lot safer for you.

      Like kkindley said, try dismounting from the walk after dropping your stirrups and picking them up a few times. Then, still walking, drop your stirrups and swing off at the walk (PC emergency dismount!). It sounds like he needs a lot of calm, patient repetition to learn that dismounting is not scary or painful. Whatever you do, try to be light and soft on his mouth, not locking your elbows and tensing up (that's what he probably expects).
      “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
      ? Albert Einstein



      • #4
        Have you tried getting off on the right? He might not associate that side with fear of being hit in the rump and if he's good with that, progress to the left. However, if he is good with the right side dismount, there is no rule saying you have to get on and off on the left. I keep getting on and off from both sides in my toolkit and all of them are fine with either side.
        Yogurt - If you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera? Steven Colbert


        • #5
          Are you certain he was hit with a spur, or is it just an assumption? I've known lots of horses with this vice, for various reasons, and know for a fact that most of them were never hit with a spur.

          First of all, is there a safe stall you can use? If so, I'd mount and dismount in the stall. A lot. Over and over. Drag your leg across his rump. He needs to learn it won't hurt him. This isn't really something you can solve by yourself in an arena. Either use a stall if you feel that's safe (I know people feel strongly about stall use on both sides of the matter), or do a session or three with a helper.

          Is he fine when you mount? Are you certain that by the end of the ride, something isn't painful to him? How do you dismount? Do you kick both feet out and swing down, or do you get down while leaving the left foot in the stirrup? I'd definitely try dismounting to the right just to see what happens, but honestly a horse bolting during the mount or the dismount is a scary and dangerous situation.
          COTH's official mini-donk enabler

          "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


          • #6
            Along with other ideas, I would spend a lot of time during every ride, especially while mounting and dismounting, rubbing him all over, ESPECIALLY his sides and rump. While walking around during breaks, kick your feet loose, and rub him all over. Halt while your feet our out and rub him all over (with LOTS of praise if he stands quietly, even for a few seconds).

            DO practice halting and dropping your stirrups and asking him to stand quietly. Don't push his limit too much at first. Count to three and then as for him to walk on. When he does that consistently, count to five, then ten, etc, etc, etc. Try to beat him to jigging/spooking/bolting by asking him to walk off before he gets to that point. Do that multiple times a ride.

            When it comes time to get off, I would do one of two (or both things). The one I USUALLY go to on a horse that won't stand to be dismounted is to put them to work if they start to jig or act goofy. Nothing terrible, but maybe trot a figure eight once or twice, then ask them to stand quietly and try again. Rinse and repeat until he (hopefully) realizes that being silly equals more work while being good means he's done. The second thing, which I think may be more of a band aid than a solution, would be to shorten one rein up quite a bit so that if he goes to go off, you can turn him and stop him. I have done this while mounting difficult horses (doesn't work on all of them). Some figure out that it is easier to stand than to be silly, as silly turns them into a pretzel.

            Good luck!


            • #7
              If he likes treats (say peppermints), I would try to counter-condition him. Make dismounting pleasant. At each step give him a mint. I like the mints because for many horses, just the sound of the wrapper can elicit a pavlovian response. They are so eager to get the mint, they forget to be afraid. After a while, you fade out the mint. I have used this on my horse for leaving the stall. For whatever reason, he goes through phases, where he bolts out, but as soon as I bring out the mints, it is unreal. He forgets whatever is scaring him, causing him to bolt, and is all over me to try to get the mint.

              This approach is used in dogs, and I have found it works in horses as well.


              • #8
                I used mints on a horse who had 'too stupid to think before acting' issues. He was also too stupid to remember what scared him before he heard the mints come out, fortunately.

                Third Charm Event Team


                • #9
                  although I am taking a lesson on him this week
                  this is definitely something to work through in your lesson

                  Though, I must admit, if I owned this horse, your first rides would be with the trainer in lessons & then always with the trainer in the arena & eventually with any other person in the arena, & much, later, on your own - this horse obviously has some dangerous habits & no "ride" is worth getting injured over.
                  (as the horse owner, I would share in any liability, so safety comes 1st ... can you tell what sort of horse I own )


                  • #10
                    I didn't read through the thread so sorry if this is repeated. I've had to deal with this issue a couple of times. It just takes time and work. If you can have a ground person put a hand on them, that is the easiest thing. Basically you are restarting him with mounting and dismounting just like a green horse. So I ususally spend some time after each ride getting on and off....a lot.

                    If you don't have a ground person, and I rarely did. I would face him toward a wall or corner but not trap him against it...I just do not want wide open space calling to him. (once you can get on and off with the help of the wall and he is calmer, then you increase the space until you are in the middle of the ring and/or out side the ring). I make sure I'm not tight on the reins when I get off. Often, they are better if you slide off more slowly but more toward the front. If just leaning forward sets him off...I would just do that a bunch of times until it doesn't. I do not make big corrections if they move off but go with them a bit and pat them...treats are also not a bad idea. You want to stay calm. When them move less...make a big fuss over them. It can take a few weeks to really get them over it and you always need to be careful getting off. If you get off to quick...that often sets them off. Also...do not go for standing still right away. With one that bolts...I first aim to get them just walking...THEN when that is all they are doing, I start working more on standing. If you try to force standing right away, if often doesn't work.

                    ETA: Everything should be done is slow progressive steps...do not progress to the next step until he is calm and consistent in current steps.
                    Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Jan. 10, 2013, 03:31 PM.
                    ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                    • #11
                      Has this animal really been trained? I think I would go back
                      to ground training and confirm whoa and stand until the
                      horse will stay in place when told for at least a minute or so.
                      Then I would be sure the same commands work when under
                      saddle. Then I would check if that will keep him still when
                      you want to dismount.
                      Robin from Dancing Horse Hill
                      Elmwood, Wisconsin


                      • #12
                        Agree with yellow and robin...In the beginning you NEED a ground person. Get part way on and off first, even just start with leaning over him. Feed grain, etc. At the end have a handler, but stand, lift your body, change you mind. Do this all with feed as well. HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES (5-10 min to a hour) to lift up, sit down, lift up, etc take feet out, put the back, get part way off, etc. WAIT til the horse is calm.
                        I.D.E.A. yoda


                        • #13
                          First teach him some stupid trick using clicker training so he learns to "look for the click." On a horse I am working with with this same issue he learned to pick a towel up off the ground.

                          Then halt him in the middle of the arena, turn his head to one side, click and treat. Repeat to both sides.
                          Continue to reward lower and lower head carriage.
                          Then reward duration (ie, not just swinging down and lifting quickly, but lowering and staying low).

                          Then start to move in a "dismounting manner" and click and treat.
                          Reward the head staying low as you move more and more in a dismounting manner.
                          Eventually get into further and further stages of dismounting such that you are hanging off the side, clicking and treating. Coordination is involved but it works.

                          I was riding my training horse that has had this issue alone the other morning and when there was no ground person to "make sure," I turned him into the wall, patted him lots, and got off from there.
                          That is the trick version.

                          Solving the behavior so that you can dismount safely in open country is the top version.
                          The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                          Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                          The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ideayoda View Post
                            Agree with yellow and robin...In the beginning you NEED a ground person. Get part way on and off first, even just start with leaning over him. Feed grain, etc. At the end have a handler, but stand, lift your body, change you mind. Do this all with feed as well. HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES (5-10 min to a hour) to lift up, sit down, lift up, etc take feet out, put the back, get part way off, etc. WAIT til the horse is calm.
                            I like this, do all the steps of dismounting without actually swinging your leg over. Way he is now, the second you stop and take your weight off the seat a little, he is getting coiled and ready for his stinker of a bad habit.

                            It's not from a single incident like a spur hitting his butt, it's learned behavior that started from being uncomfortable with the weight shift, leg coming over and rider dropping off the side. Then he probably upset the rider by moving forward from the discomfort and got hit in the mouth, had the saddle lurch to the side. Vicious circle...and one that puts the rider at risk. The smarter ones are harder to break of this as they like it when the rider is afraid of them and they can call their own shots-and it is part PONY.

                            Bottom line is he is really not broke, probably got rushed initially and never learned a proper "whoa" or to tolerate the shifts of weight from a rider getting on and off...and somebody might have hopped off and smacked him a few times to try to stop this...which scared him more.

                            You NEED a ground person for awhile to hold and soothe him and feed him crinkly wrapped peppermints while you move around without actually getting off-ask yout trainer to play that role AFTER your lesson (don't ask for trouble by doing it when he is fresh). Every ride you can ask somebody for 5 or 10 minutes of their time to do the same outside of your lessons. You should be able to switch to carrying the peppermints yourself and no ground help fairly quick.

                            In the meantime, you are going to spend every second you are with him teaching the proper response to the word "whoa". Never say it unless you mean freeze and stay that way and demand just that from him every time you say it. Do this leading, in the groom area, tacking up, mounting, do quite a few "halt and stand awhiles" from each gait and at all sorts of different places in the ring. And, again, start this drill when he is NOT fresh, set him up to want to halt and therefore succeed.

                            Between the ground and under saddle work on "whoa", having ground help at first and the noisy bribes, he should stop dreading and reacting to your dismount and lose this nasty habit he learned somehow in a reasonable amount of time.

                            I've had 3 or 4 that came with this habit. Oddly, they were fine getting on it was just the off...and one was a former Roper that washed out (too slow out of the box) so it was pretty understandable why he picked that up-although he went backwards and not forward, hurt just as much ending up on your butt.
                            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                            • #15
                              Just take him to a cowboy and let him teach him to work in a harness.

                              Then drag tires, logs, rattly old things like a piece of tin roof, mattress, rugs, etc.

                              Hang all kinds of junk on his sides and drag it off.

                              What does he do when you pull off a heavy winter blanket?


                              • #16
                                It CAN be from being kicked once in the dismount, and it is because after the first month or so, the rider SHOULD be 'accidentally' touching (mounting/dismounting). TRAIN the horse COMPLETELY from the beginning to allow for 'errors' (this comes from first handling....whip touching all over....etc.)
                                I.D.E.A. yoda


                                • Original Poster

                                  wow! thanks so much for all your ideas. his owner bred him and was there when he was spurred on the dismount. he was started on site by a professional and is very well-cared for, but he was hot and spooky from day one. He's also had kids on him (rather unsuccessfully), so i imagine he's been yanked and kicked on the dismount a few times too.

                                  i WISH there was someone around each time I ride, but the reality is that I'm usually alone. I'm going to really work on the dismount during the lesson, and start working with many of your ideas (mints, touching while riding, the "whao" thing, groundwork). I've been hesitant to take my feet out of my stirrups and touch his rump, because it does really set him off. He's calmer and more trusting with each ride though, so we'll see where we are in a month. Thanks again!


                                  • #18
                                    We used to use a bag of tortilla chips for the then 3 year old who would bolt while being mounted, if he was away from home. I would open the bag and feed him the chips while my daughter mounted. The crunching sound seemed to overwhelm any scary noises. All he could think about was eating more chips.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by ThirdCharm View Post
                                      I used mints on a horse who had 'too stupid to think before acting' issues. He was also too stupid to remember what scared him before he heard the mints come out, fortunately.

                                      When did you meet my Gus?
                                      Flip a coin. It's not what side lands that matters, but what side you were hoping for when the coin was still in the air.

                                      You call it boxed wine. I call it carboardeaux.


                                      • #20
                                        As someone who is a terrible mounter and dismounter I advise to train this horse for someone like me...thoroughly. Assume the horse will kill someone like me...and you don't want that to happen. So, enough about me. Make him the best mounting and dismounting horse you ever had. De-sensitize him to thumping and poking and out of balance riders. Teach him to love his most anxious time and tolerate all rudeness associated with mounting and dismounting. This is one of the most dangerous faults to have and is most likely to cause serious injury...I have even known a horses to injure itself when it fled. If not dealt with thoroughly it is very likely to get worse...even if he stops doing this with you it is very likely to reappear with anxious situations when you think it is gone. Address it to the best of your ability. This is the kind of fault that can make him end up in a kill yard. I use food and my own version of clicker training...plastic wrapper training or slapping the pocket training...those dinner mints work so well but they sneak into pocket crevasses. If poking bothers him them poke for treats. The advantage is...this is a training fundamental...someone skipped an important basic...the halt and stand and whoa...He will never be truly trained if this is left as is. And he sill be SO much better a horse for you to train on if this is learned. People may successfully "work around" his deficit for his whole working life or perhaps it will keep coming up...maybe he will hurt himself or someone. Take very great care. PatO