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Bolting fear

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  • Bolting fear

    I bought a nine year old TB mare this past April. I'm very happy w/ her. She is more sensitive to my leg than my last horse (who was an OTTB who was dead to my leg). I got use to having a bit more go w/ this mare and I feel at ease w/ her. Either I've gotten more relaxed w/ her and she feels it (I'm not an aggressive rider) or she has gotten more relaxed and isn't as energetic, though still willing to move forward when requested.

    She's a nice mover, which my last horse wasn't and is athletic (which my last horse also wasn't). She's sensible and has a rhythmic canter which has helped me to canter small jumps, something that I've never found easy to do as I prefer trotting jumps. Hopefully I will continue to progress.

    One fear I have is of riding her outside of the arena. I have a fear, probably irrational of her taking off. I would like to do some small shows w/ her and this would require that I be outside of an arena however short a time. I took her out for a minute today after my lesson but got off of her b/c I wasn't feeling too comfortable. She didn't seem as quiet as she had in the arena.

    This mare has never taken off w/ me in the arena and my trainer feels she's a very confident horse. I myself feel she is quieter than my previous gelding. How do I get over the notion (probably irrational) that she might take off or move do quickly as to unseat me? My trainer believes I'm a better rider than I feel I am and that I am capable of handling things.

    Sorry for the wordiness and thanks for reading. I could just ride inside an arena always but I do feel that I might like to show her. I would be happy to hear advice on this.

  • #2
    I have been riding for like 13 years (about 10 of those I owned one or more horse so was riding 5-6 days a week one to two horses a day, plus riding friends horses now and again) and I can't remember a single time a horse has ACTUALLY bolted on me. Bolting isn't really something I worry about bc I find that it's not the option horses tend to choose.

    If you are worried about your horse being spooky I would give the horse a good ride. Then dismount and walk the horse around the area you want to ride so you can see its reaction then Recruit a friend on an old been there done that horse and have them accompany you on your ride about.
    Once you are confident you can start walking further away from your friends horse until you no longer need a buddy.


    • #3
      Originally posted by ElisLove View Post
      I have been riding for like 13 years (about 10 of those I owned one or more horse so was riding 5-6 days a week one to two horses a day, plus riding friends horses now and again) and I can't remember a single time a horse has ACTUALLY bolted on me. Bolting isn't really something I worry about bc I find that it's not the option horses tend to choose.

      If you are worried about your horse being spooky I would give the horse a good ride. Then dismount and walk the horse around the area you want to ride so you can see its reaction then Recruit a friend on an old been there done that horse and have them accompany you on your ride about.
      Once you are confident you can start walking further away from your friends horse until you no longer need a buddy.
      Agree with ElisLove, makes a good point, bolting is not a horses common option. ElisLove also provides some sound options for starting out as well.

      I am a firm believer if there is going to be a "fight" make sure you control when, how, where, etc.. This helps eliminate the risk factor's.

      Have your tools available. If a horse bolts there really is only one thing you do to control it, and that is to turn, turn, turn until they get over it. A horse cannot run very fast with their head touching your foot, nor are they going to have a whole lot of interest in it.

      Probably the biggest thing is to let go of your fears, easier said then done, but if you are focused and afraid of the possibility it may well be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you get nervous, tighten your grip, squeeze more with your legs to secure your seat, etc. you are essentially asking for the very thing you do not want.

      Understand your horse is probably going to perk up due to the new environment, just relax and let her feel you are relaxed and not concerned and she will be reassured by it, and will follow suit.

      Outside of grazing, I do not think a horse enjoys anything more than a little outdoor adventure with their best buddy.


      • #4
        First, if you are nervous, your horse will be nervous. So the first step would be to have a confident rider ride her outside the arena. Let that person ride her a few times (trainer or other person) outside and watch and see how she is and how they handle any issues that might come up. Then I would say to have someone ride with you outside the arena. Having another horse along will help your horse to be more relaxed about it and you will be as well. Once you do it a few times you will become much more comfortable and likely not transmit your nervousness to your horse. I like to ride my horse in the arena, and then do a little "hack" around the farm afterwards. The horses enjoy it and they become used to being out some as well, but since they have already worked they aren't too fresh. You could also have your instructor give you a lesson outside, like in a field/pasture.


        • #5
          If you are outside in an arena vs the open, it may be hard to do, but try to relax. Even if your horse bolts, where is it going to go?
          You are contained in an arena.

          If I am ever in this situation I will keep the horse on the rail or turning and keep the horse moving when she gets tired and wants to slow down. You stop when YOU want to this way, reinforcing that you are in control.

          If you are out of the arena circle circle circle the bigger the better if you are able to be on a long straight away where you know the terrain I let them go, as they will tire fairly quickly and once again make them keep going until you want to stop.

          But I agree, bolting really isn't that common. I fear a rear a million times more than a spook or bolt!


          • #6
            I ride an older OTTB who actually does have a bit of a bolting issue. He very rarely does one of those "brain totally checked out" bolts, but his first response to stress/anxiety/confusion...and especially being out of balance, is to run. We've made a ton of progress...on Thanksgiving we were able to go for a walking trail ride with another, calmer/braver, horse without having any big drama, I can't say he was relaxed, but we held it together. We're inside now, as he can be pretty hot in the winter and the ground is frozen, but when the weather was nicer, I'd ride him in the outdoor ring first and then walk around the property, each time getting a little farther from the barn, ring and other horses. Before the weather turned bad, we'd managed to have some nice, calm, canters in the field in back of the indoor ring.

            The keys are 1) staying calm myself and 2) keeping him on the aids and busy doing something, even if we're just walking. If he's paying attention to me, he's a lot less likely to start thinking about what scary thing might be behind that tree or how he'd really rather just be back near the safety of the barn. I've never actually had him bolt outside of the ring (probably because I'm paying a lot more attention myself and don't let things get to that point), in the ring I can make the mistake of getting a little distracted myself. Outside, I have felt him start to get tense at the base of his neck like he's going to bolt (first clue he's thinking of running)...if I have him well on the aids, I can nip it in the bud and put him straight into some more engaging work to change his mind.

            Do you have someone who can help you? My instructor came out with me, on foot, the first couple of times I rode the horse out in the field...he not only could give me some tips on how to handle him, but leant me some much needed confidence, to help ME stay calm. When leaving the area altogether, to walk down a trail and around a back field, I went with a couple of much calmer horses and one rider and her horse who'd already worked through this successfully themselves. If having moral support would keep you calmer, see if you can line someone up. Helped me a lot.


            • #7
              I definitely agree with what others have posted.

              Have another rider get on first and watch. I shareboarded my horse out for awhile, and the woman started to become very nervous about cantering after she took a tumble. I came out on one of her nights to help her, and she had me get on to canter. Her fear was that he would canter too fast, so when I hopped on I made a point of cantering with a long loopy rein so she could see. It helped her to see that he was perfectly fine to canter on a long rein with someone. It might help you to watch someone ride the horse a time or two out of the arena. If your horse does spook or start to get playful you can also watch and see how the rider handles it.

              When you do feel ready to ride out of the arena, take it slow. Ride in the ring first and make sure your horse is quiet and listening. Then do 5 minutes outside the ring - even if it's just walking in a circle. Keep doing that routine for as long as it takes to be comfortable with it. Gradually extend your "outside" time. If you have a buddy on a quiet horse to ride with, even better.

              One thing to remember, if you are tense your horse probably will be too.

              And keeping their brains occupied works wonders also. My horse is good to hack out of a ring, but he is not typically a dead quiet trail horse. Sometimes he'll walk on the buckle out there, but usually he needs to be doing something. I trot a lot when I ride out. Keeps his little brain busy and then he's perfectly fine.

              I greatly prefer riding outside of a ring. I boarded for a couple months at a little private barn, and the best part was the HUGE flat field to ride in. You either had to ride down the street (little gravel road) or through the little woods to get there. It was awesome. Two sides were bordered by corn fields, one side was the woods, the other side was the gravel road. I ended up leaving that barn very quickly due to horse care issues, but I really miss that giant field! My current barn has lots of room to ride on the property, but no big flat open fields like that.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks everyone for your help. . I will take all of your advice. It will help me w/ my goals. I just have to remember as someone posted that she will perk up and it's not an unusual thing.


                • #9
                  Agree with everyone who said: ride out in COMPANY with another horse, who's brave and calm. She'll love it. And so will you. You're going to need to do it more than once though. Do it at least weekly for a while so you both get used to it. Find someone to have a regular hack out date with. It's awesome for the horses' mental health, and conditioning, too.


                  • #10
                    How big of an area are you talking?

                    Here is the way I see it when working my TBs out of the ring (I will qualify that I am an eventer). At home, one place I work my horses is a flat 1/2 mile by 1/4 mile area. Even if the horse bolts, there is nothing to run into. So, I can make as big a circle as I want and then spiral in over time. They can run as fast as they want and I know they won't slide out from under me. I just let them go.

                    Also, if you are worried about falling off and having the horse run away, there are training methods to fix that as well. Here is a recent crash I had over Christmas in another wide open space near the barn:


                    Additionally, SHORTEN your stirrups (2-4 holes shorter than a typical hunter). This will give you more freedom to move and greater security in case the horse does bolt. A shorter leg is much more secure (if you keep a flexible leg rather than getting stiff) in the open.



                    • #11
                      A lot of good advice has been posted so I won't add anything. I just wanted to say this is the first time I have ever heard someone say they prefer trotting jumps over cantering them! Once you have jumped more I bet you will start thinking trotting jumps is more difficult.


                      • #12
                        I would say be careful shortening your reins. You want them short enough you feel you have good control but if you end up choking up on the reins you could make the horse more nervous.


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks again for all of the great advice.

                          At home the area would be much more limited (1/2 a mile at the most) and it wouldn't be very open. There's a lot of enclosed paddocks, the driveway, round pen, wash racks, etc. at one of the show grounds the area is much bigger (at least more than a couple of miles of land).

                          LOL I know that most people say trotting is easier than cantering but it feels so much better and safer to me. There are no distances to see, you just go right over the jumps. My new mare has a smooth canter and an easy way of going over them that she makes it feel easy to canter them (knock on wood b/c I hope she continues to be so easy and that I don't "ruin her").


                          • #14
                            Just wanted to add to the conversation; what helps me with my horses is - "time". As you spend more time you will bond and begin to do more and more. Don't worry about pushing yourself, be safe... relax and enjoy.. so will she.

                            And she sounds like a really nice horse!!! Congrats....
                            Live in the sunshine.
                            Swim in the sea.
                            Drink the wild air.


                            • #15
                              for the OP - did you have a bad experience that lead to this fear ? or is it more that it is out of your comfort zone and different than what you have done thusfar ?

                              people on this thread have given you great advice - if you take small steps, I bet you will be fine! most horses love hacking out and it will definitely build your sense of being a team (for both you and you horse). and hacking around the show grounds will be a great way to warm-up and get your horse acclimated to all the sites and sounds.

                              you are lucky to have a mare I have one, and I love her to pieces. I dont know if its true of all mares, but she is super independent and doesnt mind leaving the other horses, so we can hack out alone. not that you want to do this right away, but I found that getting my mare to trust my judgment and that I would keep her out of harms way out hacking has helped our sense of teamwork over fences.


                              • #16
                                Truthfully, I should be terrified to ride out in an open space. In 5th grade my horse bolted and I came off in a field. I landed in the hospital for a while. BUT I was not at all prepared to go out on a 3 year old arab that had never been on the trail before and I didn't have a good seat what so ever.

                                Moral of the story: Be prepared for the ride beforehand and pay attention. I have never been bolted with since (about 10 years since) and I ride out quite often with different horses. I just simply wasn't prepared and/or in a good situation when mine bolted. If you are calm, they will be. If they try to be silly, out think them
                                Who say's your best friend has to be human?


                                • #17
                                  I understand your fear completely! I had an OTTB as well and although he never bolted with me I was always scared he would. I can't explain this irrational fear but it was there. At the barn I was at you had to ride about 3/4 a mile down to the arena so the ride down to the arena helped some however there were still some days I would just get off and walk back. One thing I found helped was riding with someone else around (just for my on security that if something happened Someone could help me) and also I would ride in the empty pastures. That way I had a big open area but if I got thrown off my horse couldn't go far. I do feel much better about riding out of an arena but I think for the most part it just takes experience doing it and you will get to feeling more confident the more you do it and don't get thrown. Maybe even ask your trainer to do some lessons out in one of the pastures so that she can be there for support. I know having my trainer there to tell me "your horse looks calm" helped me calm down. Good Luck!
                                  The Love for a Horse is just as Complicated as the Love for another Human being, If you have never Loved a Horse you will Never Understand!!!


                                  • #18
                                    Some good advice here I won't repeat (ie, having a confident rider ride her outside for you in front of you so you can grow comfortable with the notion of your mare working outside, riding out in company, walking her around outside on foot first, etc). I did not read all the posts however - what about being longed outside? You can have a friend just simply hold the end of the longe line as a sort of safety net while you circle your mare at w/t/c and grow accustomed to riding her outside.

                                    Horses' first response often is flight - which means a spook and might even mean their taking off, but to flat out bolt and lose their mind is rare, especially when you've done your homework to make your horse a quieter, calmer, more confident horse. As others noted, your mare definitely will perk up when she's outside - you have to trust her so she can trust you.

                                    Can you two do shoulder-in yet? I find it to be a GREAT exercise to supple, relax, and focus a horse (especially a spooky one) - your mare might not be actually spooky but the exercise will still benefit in that you will feel her supple and relax as she focuses on the task, which will in turn also aid yourself in relaxing. The primary objective should be to just keep the two of you focused in the outdoor - do specific patterns and exercises (esp lateral work) and work toward specific accomplishments. If the two of you are busy you will be focused and more confident.

                                    Another note: if your flatwork does not already include dressage, I would seek out dressage lessons in addition to your jumping lessons. Dressage will greatly benefit your mare not only physically but also mentally - developing her in a classical sense should teach a horse to be more relaxed and confident.

                                    Lastly as a sort of sidenote as it might also apply to your mare and other horses, remember horses can feel a fly land on one hair. If a horse is dead to the leg that is a lack of responsiveness and is the rider's fault, not the horse's. In your mare's case she might be naturally mores sensitive and responsive, but it is still your job as the rider to teach her to be less reactive to leg if necessary, or more reactive if she starts to tune out your leg.
                                    ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                                    ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                                    • #19
                                      my .02 cents

                                      I have an OTTB also. I have to work to overcome major fear issues. Major. So I just want to remind you that horse racing is not bolting.

                                      This bears repeating. Horse racing is not bolting. The jockeys are asking the horses to run that fast. They have to beat the crap out of them to get them to run. When the race is over they slow down and the horses are happy they get to stop working so hard.

                                      Most horses can't or won't run that fast, and that is why we get to own them.

                                      So relax and enjoy the scenery.
                                      2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

                                      A helmet saved my life.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by TheHorseProblem View Post
                                        The jockeys are asking the horses to run that fast. They have to beat the crap out of them to get them to run. When the race is over they slow down and the horses are happy they get to stop working so hard.
                                        Yikes, I wanted to comment because the above really bothered me, as someone who's owned and worked with quite a few OTTB's and who has worked on the track for a couple seasons as a groom and pony rider.

                                        Jockeys DON'T beat the crap out of the horses to get them to run. Neither do the horses slow down after the race or gallop or a breeze because they're happy to stop working. Ask two of my own OTTB's, specifically. One was an absolute freight train and would take sometimes half the track to pull up out of a work. The other lovesloveslovesloves to run on a regular basis - I can assure you I sure as heck do not have to beat the crap out of him to get him to run... I just have to open my hands and he's there kicking into gear as high as I allow. That's what happens when you breed for a horse who has the ability and love for running - same as those bred for jumping (for example) often seek out fences on their own and don't have to be beat to jump. There are a lot of things that happen on the track that I do not agree with - but what you're proposing is just flat-out incorrect.
                                        ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                                        ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.