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Please help! I feel like my horse will one day kill me because of his habit

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  • #21
    One more thing. Make that two more things. If you keep riding this horse, wear a helmet every time you get on, even if just walking around or sitting in a new saddle. Every. Time. You. Get. On. Also, if what I said earlier about a pulley rein and half halt are new terms to you, run, not walk to a new trainer. Ask here for recommendations for trainers in your area.


    • #22
      I think ultimately you need to switch trainers and sell Winchester. If you are afraid of him and don't like him, he feels it. It will never gel with you two under those circumstances. I also think a helmet and one of those safety vests should be mandatory for you any time you think of getting on this horse.

      Getting a health workup on Winchester is a fantastic idea. I agree with others, this should have been a first step in finding a solution, is possibly finding a cause. It's highly doubtful anyone would train a horse to bolt.

      If this is not a health/pain issue, I have heard people on COTH retrain bolters with the treatment of once they bolt to keeping them running until they are exhausted. It sounds dangerous (and probably is) but it might be a technique for a trainer to use the next time he bolts. If he comes to believe every time he bolts he's going to be run into the ground, he might think twice about it. However, this is probably too much for you to do yourself, I would recommend giving him to a trainer to try that technique.

      I would not jump him at all until he was calm and dependable on the flat. A horse that is not responsive is dangerous. Dangerous horses may be fun for some people, but for most of us, they are not.


      • #23
        I don’t think anybody is saying that anybody intentionally and pursposefully taught the horse to bolt, per se. But he may have had previous experiences where this kind of running-at-the-jumps behavior was misinterpreted (as it so often is) as “he just LOVES to jump” and rewarded (or at least never corrected), or conversely he learned that if he bolted badly enough his rider would get scared and get off, “Woohoo, done for the day!!” Same general thing as horses that are badly barn sour and bolt home. At first the person who doesn’t know better might think it’s grand fun that they are so energetic on the way home, who doesn’t like a gallop, and gosh, Ol’ Buck is hard to get out of a jog otherwise, yayyy!!!! Before you know it, they’ve got a freight train on their hands because, yes, they have, inadvertently, trained that horse to bolt.


        • #24
          I agree with all the other posters. You're right, riding him is a safety issue and you will get seriously injured and lose your confidence entirely with the horse.

          Sell the horse. Find a new trainer that's suitable to your level and that you trust. Have the new trainer help you find a better suited mount.
          Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
          My equine soulmate
          Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding


          • Original Poster

            Hello, OP here.
            Thank you to everyone who has commented. There are quite a few replies but most of them are quite similar so I’ll answer them all in the following points:
            -Winchester has had all kinds if vets check him out, from dentists to dermatologists (in mexico we kind of have an obsession with horses so we have so many specialists) and he’s extremely healthy for his age, he has enough energy and incredible health that he could probably beat any younger horse. So he’s fine medically
            -He’s had everything fitted to his size so that nothing will pinch or bother him (we thought it might have been that but we were wrong). Even all the bits we’ve tried were fitted to his size
            -Winchester competed in 1.30-1.40m and won plenty which is why we think he might have been taught to bolt or be strong in the bit because he was taught to pull towards a jump and just want to go constantly
            -I’m currently 18 years old, 19 this year, and I rode charro (mexican style western) before turning to show jumping after a short break from riding in general. I took about 4 years break before going back into saddle for show jumping.
            -My english sucks so I don’t really know the right terminology in english for certain things so I know a lot but I can only explain it in Spanish, sorry for my weird vocabulary
            -Whenever my trainer rides winchester he always obeys after he works a bit of flat with him, they’ve even done courses up to 1.20 and Winchester is just fine and my trainer enjoys him at times, it’s just that he is very hard mouthed and likes to pull a bit and a more experienced rider would barely feel anything, like my trainer, but I feel a lot because I’m only 3 years in and new (according to my trainer)
            -MY TRAINER DID NOT RECOMMEND HIM OR SELL HIM TO ME. I bought winchester from my old barn after I had an issue with the barn owner. Basically the barn owner said ‘Buy him, he’s the best you can get’ after not being able to find a horse for me during horse shopping about a year ago and, me being new, I trusted my barn owner/trainer even though I didn’t quite feel right with Winchester. Soon enough we left that barn thanks to my current trainers scouting and he basically saved us (my old barn starved Winchester to make him manageable for me which in turn just made Winchester depressed and unmotivated) and though we are a bit better together than before, me and Winchester still clash a lot.
            -My trainer has tried everything to help me and me and my trainer click perfectly, the problem is that I usually leave a lesson frustrated because, even though I’m applying the right aids, Winchester could care less and just wants to go faster/stronger. My trainer applies the aids and he obeys. It’s completely mind boggling. Even over jumps, with my trainer he keeps a steady pace but with me he just goes faster/bolts, even though i do the same thing my trainer does.
            -My trainer has told me to get rid of Winchester, he’s said he’s worried I might get hurt again or that I’ll want to stop riding because of my frustration but budget is tight and I feel like it would be like giving up. I don’t want it to seem like I’ve just given up when presented a challenge.
            -Many people have gone on him and many people can ride him perfectly, though most newbies or young riders (like me or smaller) have a hard time and need to get off, but most bigger riders can. People say Winchesters a ‘mans horse’ because he only really behaves with a male rider on him. It’s kinda weird
            -All my ‘classmates’ (my trainers other students) are all happy and they all always do well in shows, most of them have even less experience than me, but most of them also clicked with their horse the second they got on, while I have yet to have whole week without Winchester acting up (he doesn’t rear but he does lift his head in frustration and to take away my reins). I have ridden all those horses, my classmates, and I’ve never had a single problem. Even with the ‘bucker’ of the group I did pretty well and placed, while with Winchester I do place but I just let him run around the whole course with no control and it’s frustrating
            -We tried retraining it the second my trainer got his hands on the horse but he did so well with my trainer after a month, he even stopped pulling and acting up, that he gave him to me (under supervision) but the second I got on him Winchester started to get hard mouthed again and going faster.
            -I love Winchester, adore him and always spend time with him on the ground and I’ve even trained him in a bit of liberty, the problem is under saddle. He liked people, loves affection and wants to spend time with everyone but I just don’t get why he behaves with me the way he does.

            To sum up, Is there really no way of fixing this? Is selling him and giving up my only option? Is there no solution to this problem?


            • #26
              Good information.

              This is not the right horse for you. You two are not a fit. Sell him and buy (lease, borrow...) a horse that suits your current skill level and that you can have fun with.

              You can look at it as giving up... or you can accept that not all matches are perfect, and that both you and your horse deserve a better fit. He is probably as frustrated as you are and would be a happier guy for a different rider who fits with his strengths and experience in a different way than you..

              And your English is great; you have very clearly described your situation of being paired with a horse that you feel very responsible for, but are understandably scared of and not having fun with other than on the ground. That's not your fault, it just happens and it's OK to try something else.


              • #27
                Bepau You are young & at your level of experience jumping it certainly sounds like Winchester is not the horse you will be able to learn on & improve your skill.

                I am (much ) older, with many years of experience riding - Hunters, Eventing & Dressage.
                I had a lovely Warmblood, former Grand Prix Jumper, who came to me at 15 years old.
                I experienced the same explosive behavior you describe - only when asking for a canter depart.
                My horse's Go-To was up. At 17h+ that was not a safe option for either of us.
                Working with my Dressage trainer, over a period of a year, I had him taking off in canter so quietly it felt like I just thought "Up".
                She only got on once when we first started working with him & told me she could not chance being injured. I understood, and if we had not progressed, I would have looked to sell him.
                I cannot risk an injury that would end my riding.
                Neither should you.

                If, as you say, stronger riders have better success with your horse, sell him to one of those riders.
                Get yourself a horse you can enjoy Every.Ride. and that will help you improve your riding over fences.

                We have a local all-female Charro group that performs at Fair every year & I admire their skill.
                With that sort of basic skills in your background, you should be able to find a horse that will not be such a dangerous challenge as you progress jumping.

                Good Luck, and do come back here to update us
                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                • #28
                  Originally posted by Toblersmom View Post
                  I don’t think anybody is saying that anybody intentionally and pursposefully taught the horse to bolt, per se. But he may have had previous experiences where this kind of running-at-the-jumps behavior was misinterpreted (as it so often is) as “he just LOVES to jump” and rewarded (or at least never corrected), or conversely he learned that if he bolted badly enough his rider would get scared and get off, “Woohoo, done for the day!!” Same general thing as horses that are badly barn sour and bolt home. At first the person who doesn’t know better might think it’s grand fun that they are so energetic on the way home, who doesn’t like a gallop, and gosh, Ol’ Buck is hard to get out of a jog otherwise, yayyy!!!! Before you know it, they’ve got a freight train on their hands because, yes, they have, inadvertently, trained that horse to bolt.
                  This is what OP said in her first post and I quote: He wasn’t trained by my trainer or me, he was trained by someone else, so we suspect he may have been taught to bolt whenever he wanted to, to just be fast but it’s incredibly dangerous because we’ve had accidents before where he bolts, gets a bad distance, and he lands on top of the jump. In that instance I broke my arm and he ended up sore for a whole week.

                  That is what I was commenting on in my post. I understand how horses inadvertently learn bad habits, it's generally accidental with positive consequences for them and negative for riders. I was saying that is probably unlikely that it was taught purposefully. (This is one of the reasons so many of us who get accidentally dumped try to get back on immediately, so the horse doesn't associate dumping us with going back to his nice home to eat and sleep.) I had a horse who had two bad habits that I had to re-train her of that she got from previous owners who were candy a$$es and put her away when she started acting out. One habit was bolting... it was not fun. She was my first horse and quite challenging. I wish I knew about the technique of running her into the ground when she did it. (I had plenty of guts when I was younger, not so much now.) In those days I would just pulley rein her in, make her do donuts and spank her which eventually made it not worth it. Took a long time though. But I NEVER put her away when she pulled crap. Definitely don't do that now either. As much as I hate to admit it, the Tyrus child is imperfect.


                  • Original Poster

                    Miss Motivation 2DogsFarm
                    It just breaks my heart to think of selling him, I adore him and want whatever is best for him but just thinking of never being with him makes me so sad. I have considered selling him, many many times, but I wanted to ask around here if anyone thought there was a solution for him. You know, it was like my last resort... It also took so long to finally find a horse that wasn't too bad while horse shopping, what if i never find one I click with?

                    I went through, from what I remember, 10 different horses before Winchester came around (lucky number 11), what if I never find a horse I'm great with? I would hate to just sell Winchester then find yet another horse who doesn't fit and the same thing happens to that horse that happened with Winchester. How can I find a horse i just click with? How did you guys do it?


                    • #30
                      Did horse behave like this when you tried him? I absolutely agree with those who say "sell the horse". This is just not a suitable match and horse might not be suitable for too many people. What experience does he have the convinced you/ your trainer to overlook this habit of his and buy him? What good is his experience if you can't control him and you're recovering from a broken bone? There are lots of really nice horses out there.


                      • #31
                        I have a student that sounds just like you, with a horse that sounds a lot like Winchester (only less extreme thank goodness). her horse turned out to have broken molars which is likely why her horse learned to grab the bit, so probably a different root cause (pun not intended), but the end result is the same: a horse that requires much more subtlety and better timing than your average amateur can manage.

                        I think you have two options; sell your horse and take time to find something more suitable, or change your goals with your current horse.

                        Best way to find a horse you "click" with is to be realistic with your budget and to look for a horse that is used to being ridden by a similar level of rider.

                        If you want to change your goals, and work to retrain Winchester (maybe for dressage), consider looking up Equitation Science. It works for retraining horses like yours...but only if you have the patience to take whatever time it takes. Even then though, established (bad) habits tend to resurface it times of stress.
                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                        • Original Poster

                          gottagrey I bought him at my old barn, they used to just get horses from friends/business partners and sell them at my barn to make better relationships. To make a long story short, after trying about 10 horses at my old barn I happened upon Winchester. He was honestly the best out of the whole bunch of horses I had tried but he still pulled and tried to bolt, but not as strong as now since he was basically from the 1 to 5 body scale about a 2, like super skinny, so he didn't have as much strength but even from the first time I tried him I didn't really like him and his pulling. My old trainer insisted this was the best horse he could get me, he was an experienced 1.30- 1.40 m jumper with plenty of wins under his belt and he simply said that I should trust him and buy the horse or change barns because he wouldn't be welcoming any other horse I brought to the barn and only a horse he found would be able to come into the barn (It was a complicated situation, I was way too new at this and that barn was just looking to make a profit). In the end I bought him and they kept him really skinny at my old barn to keep him manageable but he still pulled and bolted until my current trainer saved us and took us to our current barn. Winchester still bolts and pulls and with how much weight he's gained he's just gotten stronger (he looks great but I'm suffering for it) so its a struggle and I'm scared to sell him and look for another horse because I'm not sure I'll find the one for me


                          • #33
                            Hi Bepau - this is a tough situation and I admire you for realizing that you're needing to look for help and solutions (and being quite thorough it sounds like, from diagnostics to training approaches and riding ideas with Winchester) to address your problem.

                            Unfortunately, you're in a situation where there is a horse who sounds very capable and very talented with certain riders but is not a good fit with other types of riders.

                            Oftentimes this manifests with upper level horses who have certain buttons or quirks that require upper level riders to ride them safely. Not every horse who has competed or trained to an advanced level is going to make an appropriate schoolmaster for the standard rider. It sounds like he might be one of these types of horses. You may very well be able to find a competitive home with a very good rider who could make the most of his skill and capability (and not have the same issues you do). It is hard to do - accepting that the horse you have is a poor fit and doing the best thing (both for the horse and for yourself).

                            I actually was in this position. Fortunately, we were able to identify what escalated his getting stronger and stronger, but unfortunately the only real solution was that I had to become a much, much better rider than I was. Frankly, he should've been sold as a "pro ride" because of how exacting he was. I stopped jumping this horse for years because it was not safe for me to do so. After three or so years of pure dressage training we actually had resolved our issues, but it was not a weeks-long or months-long sabbatical of "no jumping". Years. I did not jump for years. Really take a second to figure out what that timeline looks like and what that means for you.

                            The main difference between my circumstance and yours is that while my horse had really, really distressing habits (that could have been dangerous for a lot of people) I had a skill set where even when he was getting strong, I could (marginally) control it. I never felt like my physical being was at risk. You start out a post here saying you are feeling like your horse will kill you one day. This is not a situation to stick out.

                            It is so hard to do, but I advise that you take the time to sell your horse on to a home that can work with him, and then really go back to the drawing board with horse shopping. I understand the anxieties ("what if I never find one"/"what if I don't find one I can click with!") but there is a horse out there for you somewhere, and it will be a horse that you can ride without worry for your physical wellbeing.

                            If you feel that riding your horse is putting you at physical risk, stop riding him. Immediately.


                            • #34
                              Bepau I understand how you feel, but be honest with yourself. After less than a year, and with such bad riding experience with him, is it really best to keep Winchester just because you are afraid there won't be another The One?

                              I lost my horse-of-a-lifetime after 20 years.
                              He was my first horse of my own, after a series of school horses and shareboards.
                              And now, after having & losing 3 others in the following 10 years, while I may never have another who checked all the boxes like he did, I do have one I enjoy riding.

                              I really don't see how this horse is going to do more than frustrate and probably hurt you.

                              Could you lease him to a stronger rider at your present barn?
                              Maybe your new trainer could find a more suitable rider.
                              That way you could still spend time with him and have the lease money to put towards a horse better suited to you.
                              Honestly, IIWM, I'd sell him and move on.

                              You may be surprised to find how your affection could transfer to one that is pleasant U/S as well as on the ground.
                              *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                              Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                              Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                              Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                              • #35
                                Sell. The. Horse.
                                Please listen to the advice everyone here is giving you. Your posts terrify me just reading them. I get that you love him, and it's hard to imagine life without him.
                                But there is another horse out there, that you will love just as much, that you'll be able to click with and achieve the things you want to.
                                Selling him does not mean you don't love him. In fact, i'd say the opposite is true. He deserves the right rider just as much as you deserve the right horse X


                                • #36
                         initial reaction to the OPs post is a bit different than everyone. OP sounds like a beginner. Their description of a horse “bolting” may just be a packer getting slight quick....or not even quick. I can remember someone telling me how fast they were galloping...when they were not even doing a working canter. It is all about perception and experience. Calling a 16H horse huge. Saying he pulls reins away....just sound like a dead beginner dealing with a pony. Sounds like a horse ridden by a beginner...with the typical hard mouth from a beginner pulling...who isn’t well ridden so takes some reschooling and a bit of work to go well with a better rider. And he sounds smart enough that even when schooled well...he reverts to taking over when a beginner is on him. There is no easy fix for that other than being a better rider on him (not easy fix).

                                  This could be wrong...but my point is you can never tell with just a description on the internet.

                                  I think it is impossible to give advice on this. a video if you want any sort of informed opinions.

                                  But I would say horses are supposed to be fun and if you are not having fun...time to move on. It doesn’t sound like the right fit for the OP at this time.

                                  OP if he is a nice horse, your trainer will find him a better match. And there absolutely will be another horse out there who is the right match for you now. The only other alternative is to improve your riding....but that can be very hard to do when a horse scares you.
                                  Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; May. 20, 2019, 08:06 AM.
                                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Actually, I may be a beginner when it comes to show jumping but I've been around horses most of my life so I would say I can tell the difference between a galloping horse and a bolting horse. I don't really know how the whole 'hand' system works (we don't have that in Mexico) so I'm sorry if I don't really know how to describe his height English isn't exactly easy or my first language but I do know he's really tall and extremely long for most horses.

                                    When I say he pulls the reins away I mean he pulls the reins away. As in he throws up his head to loosen your grip or he stretches his neck completely down to make you let go or makes you tired. While my trainer can deal with him strength wise, Winchester simply just somehow beats me most of the time.

                                    I can't say I'm the best rider but I've learned thanks to him that having hard hands just makes him even more prone to bolting so I have to keep my hands constantly playing with his mouth (I'm not sure how to describe it in english) so that he can't lean against the bit with more easy and so that I don't just start pulling and constantly yanking on the mouth. I keep my hands on constant movement and calling his attention but not giving him any chance to just lean against the bit. My inside rein is never stiff and I'm always just moving it while my outside rein is a bit firmer but not stiff.

                                    I've actually stopped recording my sessions/lessons because it just lowered my self esteem to see how little control I have and how bad I look riding him and trying to stop him. i'll try to get a video of him and me the second I can, though I might post a nicer one because I don't really think I would love an actual video of me just getting run away with by a horse.

                                    After a lot of people have been commenting I'm really considering that maybe there isn't a solution, as much as I want there to be, and maybe the only way to fix this is selling him. He's getting older and by the time I learn how to ride to the level he might need it'll be too late and he'll be too old to do what he likes to do. I just want the best for him so I'll consider selling him seriously now... Though it might take time and honestly it's really sad and heart breaking. It also makes me feel like someone who is just giving up but I've already been seriously hurt before (my broken arm) and I think if I were to have another injury similar to that I'd be completely traumatized.


                                    • #38
                                      OP, the title of your thread says it all. This horse is not appropriate for you. This sport is too expensive not to enjoy, and frankly your health and well being are not worth sacrificing for riding a dangerous animal. There are many kind animals out there, and yours doesn't sound like one of them if his behavior is in fact as you describe it. Depending on how severe the horse's behaviors actually are and given that you mention he is getting older, I have to be blunt that he may be worth very little to no money if he is a difficult ride even for a pro. I have marketed very well broke horses in the past with extensive show records who vetted cleanly and even those types who don't put a foot wrong when someone comes to try them can take considerable time to sell. Selling the horse you describe is going to be a challenge at the very least. Pros are generally looking for young horses without bad habits and amateurs aren't going to want the type of ride you describe. I have been riding over 30 years and am a decent amateur with pretty extensive show experience, and I wouldn't want to purchase your horse. You speak very highly of your trainer, yet I wonder why you won't take his advice that the horse is not right for you and that you should sell him. I agree with the others that it may be worth taking a hard look at whether your trainer is serving your needs. You really shouldn't even be put in a situation where the horse is behaving like this in your lessons. If he is doing this to you over fences, then it is, IMO, irresponsible for your trainer to have you continue jumping him. The other possibility is that the horse is fine and that you are just far too novice a rider to handle him and are characterizing his behaviors as problematic when really the problem is that you don't have the skills to properly handle him. Either way, no good can come of this partnership. Time to sell with the guidance of a competent professional who can handle his marketing in a way that shows him at his best and can then help you find a horse that is actually suited to your current riding level. There is no shame in needing (or wanting) a well behaved horse. Good luck.


                                      • #39
                                        Bepau Try not to look at it as giving up! Its just not the right match- no different than a relationship. Sometimes two wonderful people don't make a great couple- the same with a horse and rider. All riders aren't right for all horses and vice versa. You learned what you could from Winchester and you'll sell him to a good home where he will be taken care of. You'll take what you learned from him and put it into the next horse you find. Its not giving up, its moving on.


                                        • #40
                                          I agree with everyone’s assessment that this is too much horse for you. However if you continue riding him, bridging the reins might help you with the rooting issue (pulling the reins from your hands).
                                          When I started eventing, way back in 1983, one of the first things my trainer explained was how to bridge my reins. She had me use the bridge when galloping: it gave me more security, gave my horse a constant, steady contact, and kept the reins from slipping through my fingers (or being pulled through by…
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