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Please Help -- Horse bolting while being led!

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  • Please Help -- Horse bolting while being led!

    Hi there,

    I have a 7 year old drafty Haflinger gelding. He is somewhat green but coming along well in his training. He has a very sweet temperament and is extremely smart but is constantly testing -- an extreme sport opportunist, always looking for a chance to dive for grass or finding some means to stall work (very light). Once he is in his 'groove' he seems to be very happy and willing.

    We have had bolting issues in the past but with consistent training it seemed to pass. We have been venturing outside of the arena for several months and he was doing great, however yesterday when I took him out for a walk on the lead, right away I noticed that he had a different air about him, petulant. We were walking down a little hill ( a hill we have walked down dozens and dozens of times with no problem) and he bolted towards our hay cart and started chowing down. There is no way on earth I could have held on to him without risking life and limb -- Arnold Schwarzenegger could not have held on to him. He did not seem scared at all, he just wanted eat. He bolted 1 more time and then I put a chain over his nose (I hated to do it!) but no matter, he still bolted again.

    To not end on a bad note, we went back and only went up the hill a tiny bit with no bolting. We then proceeded with his regular riding lesson. During the lesson he did not seem himself, i.e., very jiggy and racing, not a happy camper.

    For the record, weather was great. No spooky wind or cold. No weird distractions or noises. No changes in pasture mates, feed, or anything else that I can think of.

    What do you all think? His teeth are fine, just were checked by our vet a couple days ago, eating voraciously. Just acting horrible! I don't want to further ingrain a bad habit!

    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you!

  • #2
    Just sounds like he's taking advantage of you. I'd suggest leading with a stud chain for a bit.
    "Are you yawning? You don't ride well enough to yawn. I can yawn, because I ride better than you. Meredith Michael Beerbaum can yawn. But you? Not so much..."
    -George Morris

    Comment


    • #3
      Keep working on ground manners - reward generously with your voice when he is good, even if he has only offered good behavior in some tiny way. You can use some small treats or tiny pieces of carrot as well. What is your routine like before and after your ride? Try spending half an hour on the ground with him (after grooming and tacking) doing different things - leading, tying, even stretching, lunging, everything you can think of that you'd want your horse to be well mannered and cooperative about. Keep it interesting though, not too much of each thing at one time, walk different routes, go over things, etc.

      The unusual behavior in the ring might have been a reaction to being scolded for his lack of manners on the ground. Some horses hold a grudge. He may have been saying "If you're going to put a chain on me before the lesson, I'm going to be a jerk for the rest of the day". Its a bit of a stretch but I've known some who are like that. When I get an unusually fresh horse I do one of two things - let him canter it out of his system and when he starts to tire and slow down, I make him keep going, OR, work on getting a nice calm and controlled walk. Even if it takes the whole ride/lesson time.

      All of the drafty types I've known mature very late and like to throw their weight around. They need to know who is boss. Make sure anyone else in the barn who may handle him (turn out, stall cleaning, feeding, meds, whatever it may be) is firm and consistent as well.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by SaturdayNightLive View Post
        Just sounds like he's taking advantage of you. I'd suggest leading with a stud chain for a bit.
        I tried that and he still bolted.

        Comment


        • #5
          I think he needs a come to jesus moment.. is there anyway when he gets ready to bolt you could spin him around, we had a pony that used to try to bolt when being led and this is what worked for it a chain and before she could bolt but if she started jigging which meant she was about to bolt she was sharply spun and backed up with a sharp tug on the chain and that seemed to really fix the problem, but i understand that a draft cross is much MUCH larger than a pony lol Good luck!!

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree with both Jinxy and Eqrider. Ground manners training and positive reinforcement is very important, however you need to demand his obedience when he gives you the horsie version of the finger.

            Here's what I did with my herd when they tried things like that:
            Strike 1- give a sharp "Hey!" or "No!" Whatever you choose, be consistent. If he doesn't respond,
            Strike 2-give the verbal reprimand again along with a sharp jerk on the chain (over the nose, please. Under the chin just leads to rearing). If he is still being a pig,
            Strike 3- GET ANGRY! Jerk that chain as hard as you can as many times as it take to get him to stop, then back him up quickly at least 10 steps while moving toward him with authority (body language= back up and get out of my space NOW!). Then let him stand quietly for a few seconds (if he moves, back him up again). Then pet, say "good boy" and go on your merry way.

            A few sessions like this and he should start responding to your first verbal warning and act like "Ok, Mom! Just kidding! I'll be good boy now."
            The only thing the government needs to solve all of its problems is a Council of Common Sense.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Captain's Mom View Post

              He bolted 1 more time and then I put a chain over his nose (I hated to do it!) but no matter, he still bolted again.
              If you hated to put the chain over his nose then I am guessing you would really hate my suggestion which would be to actually use it.

              Comment


              • #8
                What worked for a large draft horse here was to use a bit with LONG shanks. The leverage stopped him, when nothing else would.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Get someone else to do it for awhile. If you put a chain over his nose, pay attention, and move quickly, you can set him on his tail pretty fast. I'd also suggest carrying a crop.
                  http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by JinxyFish313 View Post
                    Keep working on ground manners - reward generously with your voice when he is good, even if he has only offered good behavior in some tiny way. You can use some small treats or tiny pieces of carrot as well. What is your routine like before and after your ride? Try spending half an hour on the ground with him (after grooming and tacking) doing different things - leading, tying, even stretching, lunging, everything you can think of that you'd want your horse to be well mannered and cooperative about. Keep it interesting though, not too much of each thing at one time, walk different routes, go over things, etc.

                    The unusual behavior in the ring might have been a reaction to being scolded for his lack of manners on the ground. Some horses hold a grudge. He may have been saying "If you're going to put a chain on me before the lesson, I'm going to be a jerk for the rest of the day". Its a bit of a stretch but I've known some who are like that. When I get an unusually fresh horse I do one of two things - let him canter it out of his system and when he starts to tire and slow down, I make him keep going, OR, work on getting a nice calm and controlled walk. Even if it takes the whole ride/lesson time.

                    All of the drafty types I've known mature very late and like to throw their weight around. They need to know who is boss. Make sure anyone else in the barn who may handle him (turn out, stall cleaning, feeding, meds, whatever it may be) is firm and consistent as well.
                    Thank you for your response. Yes, I think you are correct, Captain's behavior in the ring seemed to be direct fallout from the negative experience we had had beforehand. I do think he holds a grudge -- he has a memory like a steel trap! So doggone smart, too! By the same token, he also seems to float like an angel from the day before if we have had a good time together (which is the norm). Because he is so doggone smart, late maturing, and BIG, we are presented with some interesting challenges! He has a lot of weight to throw around!

                    Yes, we use treats to reward for good behavior. He isn't muggy and is quite a gentleman and waits patiently for his reward. Regardless, his barging tendencies keep resurfacing!

                    Thanks again. I will take your advice, especially to take extra time before our lesson.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      A lip chain is an option too. Since you were reluctant to use the chain over his nose, it sounds like he may have been babied just a little bit too long.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Bolt once, shame on him, bolt twice, shame on you.

                        Bolt again and you've taught him that he is in charge. What do you do after he bolts and you've recaught him? I'd go exactly back to where we started, and rinse and repeat as many times until he decided that bolting was a bad plan.

                        That lip chain sounds like a fine plan if you cannot control him with the chain over the nose.

                        I'd personally not go straight to the chain, but I'd set him up for bad behavior on my terms, using a LONG rope. Possibly even a lunge line.

                        Staying in front of the shoulder can do wonders, once they've gotten past you, you've lost them. The problem is that you have to be faster than they are and react correctly immediately before the bolt happens.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 867-5309 View Post
                          If you hated to put the chain over his nose then I am guessing you would really hate my suggestion which would be to actually use it.
                          Agreed. Your attitude toward the chain needs to change. You aren't the one deciding it needs to be used...the horse is. You only use it when the horse doesn't listen. If he behaved himself, you wouldn't be using it.

                          I have a horse with excellent ground manners and I'm still always reminding him that I'm the boss. He's a spooky sort and will bolt off if scared, but he tries to follow the rules for the most part. On especially sensitive days, I will do little reminders of how he's suppose to behave BEFORE he's done anything bad. For example: We'll be walking along and I will stop short, saying "Whoa" as I do. I expect him to stop within a step or two at most. If he doesn't, I remind him that he was suppose to stop and then back him up a bit. Then we walk for a bit and I do that same. Two-three times of doing this and he is paying attention to me and stops the second I stop. This strategy worked well for many months of handwalking with a highly sensitive horse...so I tend to think it works.
                          Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
                          Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Another thing you can do is make leading part of his job. Make sure he's paying attention to you even on good days. Instead of walking directly from point A to point B, stop in the middle, make him back up, turn around and walk the other direction for a couple steps, etc. Mix it up enough that he can't anticipate what you're going to do. Hopefully he'll have to focus enough that by the time you get to point B he will have forgotten he was going to be naughty!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Is he already bridled and bitted? If so then lead him from that and get some training done. You need to ensure you're leading him correctly and if he's bridled then put a long lead rope (20 or 30 feet) clipped to the bit ring at the side furthest away from you and under his chin and run through the ring nearest to you and lead from that.

                              Practice first in an arena and get him so he responds to your voice and listens to you. You need to be aware of his body language and ensure you keep his attention on you. Keep him walking and say WALK and WOA. And ensure you have control and practice, practice and practice some more where you feel relatively safe. You can move to a field once you're totally confident he's listening in the arena.

                              If he's not bitted and bridled then using a chain is totally sensible if you're not managing him properly. I don't know why you have it in your head it's not.

                              Again lead him off a long line loosely coiled but held by the end and take a whip with you and if he does start to do something stupid and you've got space then let the rope uncoil and lunge him round you and keep him going in a circle until you are ready to allow him to stop.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                What RugBug and Thomas said. Gloves for you and a stud chain for him, and pay attention so that you can catch him in the first stride of the bolt, not once he's already past you and you've lost your footing.
                                Originally posted by HuntrJumpr
                                No matter what level of showing you're doing, you are required to have pants on.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Walk him out and anticipate the bolt. In fact, set him up so that you know he will bolt.
                                  When he starts to look like he will bolt (and you can see it coming, honestly you can) just plant your feet and give him a huge shanking (pulling on the lead shank that has the chain over his nose). Make it huge and fast, and then just continue on walking like nothing happened. If he does it again, be ready. I cannot imagine this will continue. Good luck.
                                  Sandy
                                  www.sugarbrook.com
                                  hunter/jumper ponies

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Thank you, everyone for your helpful replies! I will try again tomorrow and I will be ready for him -- EMBOLDENED!

                                    I will update with our progress! I know that you all are correct, I must be more assertive and confident -- my chain is ready . . .

                                    Thanks again.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Dramapony_misty View Post
                                      Strike 1- give a sharp "Hey!" or "No!" Whatever you choose, be consistent. If he doesn't respond,
                                      Strike 2-give the verbal reprimand again along with a sharp jerk on the chain (over the nose, please. Under the chin just leads to rearing). If he is still being a pig,
                                      Strike 3- GET ANGRY! Jerk that chain as hard as you can as many times as it take to get him to stop, then back him up quickly at least 10 steps while moving toward him with authority (body language= back up and get out of my space NOW!). Then let him stand quietly for a few seconds (if he moves, back him up again). Then pet, say "good boy" and go on your merry way.
                                      This!
                                      He doesn't respect you at all and I hate nothing more than being ignored.

                                      About the chain, don't be afraid to use it. It won't hurt him, it's just a little uncomfortable. And the chain is a lot less uncomfortable than what would happen if he bolted off and seriously injured somebody.

                                      About step 3, he should see his life flash before his eyes. Don't beat him, but make yourself so mean and scary that he feels like he will die if he doesn't listen and back up.

                                      Then the most important part. Stop, if he behaves, act as if nothing happened. Be a little bi-polar. The key is you need both sides of the coin for it to work, the craziness and the calmness.

                                      Don't be afraid to reprimand him. Do it a couple times and he'll come around. Most do.
                                      Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Dramapony_misty View Post
                                        I agree with both Jinxy and Eqrider. Ground manners training and positive reinforcement is very important, however you need to demand his obedience when he gives you the horsie version of the finger.

                                        Here's what I did with my herd when they tried things like that:
                                        Strike 1- give a sharp "Hey!" or "No!" Whatever you choose, be consistent. If he doesn't respond,
                                        Strike 2-give the verbal reprimand again along with a sharp jerk on the chain (over the nose, please. Under the chin just leads to rearing). If he is still being a pig,
                                        Strike 3- GET ANGRY! Jerk that chain as hard as you can as many times as it take to get him to stop, then back him up quickly at least 10 steps while moving toward him with authority (body language= back up and get out of my space NOW!). Then let him stand quietly for a few seconds (if he moves, back him up again). Then pet, say "good boy" and go on your merry way.

                                        A few sessions like this and he should start responding to your first verbal warning and act like "Ok, Mom! Just kidding! I'll be good boy now."
                                        YES THIS.

                                        bolting, in hand or under saddle, is dangerous. you owe it to your own safety, and the safety of those around you and anyone else who might handle this horse, to stop this behavior NOW. he's clearly learned that he can use this to get out of work and to intimidate you, and it's got to stop. get mean, get scary, make him think he's going to die. he'll get over himself. once he stops the bolting nonsense, think about doing some showmanship-type groundwork with him to get him working off your body language on the ground.
                                        Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

                                        PONY'TUDE

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