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Horse bolts when leading

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  • Horse bolts when leading

    While I was away at college, my grandmother's Clyde x Hackney was sitting around getting incredibly fat. He's on a diet now and is getting Thyro-L and Quiessence. In the mean time, I'd like to try to get him moving around some. He drives, but I do not and do not feel comfortable even if I learned how to harness/hitch.

    Here's the issue: you can't lead him outside. The barn worker is afraid of the horse so he moved to a system where he just let the horses free to run from the barn to the paddock (ended up fencing off the "running area" after they ran off several miles and they had to call the police to catch them...but that's another story), so the horse has not been handled much at all. He's very much a "big talk" horse who puts up a fuss like he's headshy, but gives up the game very fast. Leading is another animal though. In small, enclosed areas like the barn aisle, he leads fantastically. Walk, stops, backs all on a loose lead, turns on forehand without having to physically push his hindend, etc. But the second you get outside into a larger area, he drops his head, spins, and bolts off. He's a strong horse anyway, but especially with his added weight, it's definitely not something my 5'4" female self can muscle. I tried putting a stud chain on once and it prevented him from bolting when exiting his stall into the smaller paddock area and through the narrow fenced in area, but as soon as we were in the larger part of the paddock, he bolted and ran off again.

    He's a sweet guy and I'd really like to start getting him some exercise--even if it's just hand walking. Horse dentist suggested a rope halter with two knots on the nose and practicing lots of backing up and yielding to downward pressure on the nose from the lead. I wanted to see if any of y'all had any more suggestions?

    Last edited by mg; Jun. 5, 2010, 02:21 AM. Reason: grammar
    "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

  • #2
    Lunge line with stud chain. Take him somwhere he hits fence before he hits the end of the lungeline. Lead him with a normal lead rope, while holding the lunge line. If he bolts and gets away, the lunge line should give you enough time to brace and pull his face around to stop him. If it doesn't, when he hits the fence and stops, start reeling him back in and try again. Eventually he will figure out he's going nowhere.

    A better method would be to find a big, strong horsie friend, slap on a stud chain, and let the horse and friend have a nice little "discussion" about manners


    • #3
      Originally posted by Big_Grey_hunter View Post
      A better method would be to find a big, strong horsie friend, slap on a stud chain, and let the horse and friend have a nice little "discussion" about manners
      Oh dear...I need to go to bed. I read that like 8 times and instead of "horsie" friend I thought it said "horse friend". I was like, "WTF why would you attach a horse with a stud chain to another horse? Or ever at all?" I had visions of that scene from the movie Spirit where he's tied to the mare...except ending very badly...lol.
      My CANTER cutie Chip and IHSA shows!


      • #4
        Originally posted by Big_Grey_hunter View Post
        A better method would be to find a big, strong horsie friend, slap on a stud chain, and let the horse and friend have a nice little "discussion" about manners
        This is one time I think I would find someone gentle and skilled enough to use a lip chain. In the right hands this horse could be cured of this bad habit very quickly, without hurting him.


        • #5
          something we've tried with horses who aren't "terribly bad" about this is to carry a dressage whip while leading. even inside you carry it, and haev it up infront of his nose, straight across. if he gets even slightly in front of where you want him, you tap the front of his nose with the body of the wip and let him know it isn't ok. then start walking him in slightly larger places, like where your stud chain gave you enough control, still carrying the whip and still popping his tender upperlip/end of muzzle if he starts to get forward. You can also steer his force into something -- run his nose into a wall for example. unless really "out of it", he will stop before he hits it, but it's ok if he does hit it once or twice to make the point that he needs to respect your space and your instruction.

          Does he know the trick of turning his head away to give himself leverage, and do you know of that trick and how to prep and avoid it? If you let him turn his head away, the lead is now laying down his neck, and he's stolen what little control you had by ruining all your leverage. If you keep your elbow ready to brace into the crease between his neck and his shoulder, when he starts to turn away, you push into that spot and use your own leverage against his side to keep his head turned toward you. it's a key control position for handling horses with bad manners, and a lesson we learned early when rehabbing abused draft horses.
          AnnMarie Cross, Pres, Crosswinds Equine Rescue, cwer.org
          Sidell IL (near Champ./UofI/Danville IL/IN state border)


          • #6
            Rope halter

            12' line

            Small area where he can't get far

            Leading from the off-side

            Daily practice
            Patience pays.


            • #7
              I would recommend either John Lyons Leading and Loading lessons, available in both print form and on DVD.

              Or Alexendra Kurland's book and DVDs, especially the lessons about sliding to a point of contact, asking the horse to back up and turn while backing in a stall, and building from there. Since she does a much better job of explaining it with pictures in her book and on the DVD, I don't want to re-invent the wheel here.

              Alex is all about clicker training so that's what you'll be doing here. It's John Lyons' stuff with clicker added.
              Laurie Higgins
              "Expectation is premeditated disappointment."


              • #8
                What about a Chiffney bit? Sometimes it is just different enough to get the brain reconnected, but isn't quite as easy to hurt the horse with (like a lip chain might be). I'd worry putting a lip chain on this horse, as if he managed to get away with you wearing that, then stomped on the lead line, he could do quite a number on his gums!


                • #9
                  I'd use a lunge line, let him run off, then put him to work. Lunge him on a few small, tight ish circles until he wants to stop. Keep him moving until you decide that he can stop. Go back up to him, start walking him again. He runs off, he gets put to work again.

                  Please wear a good pair of gloves and a helmet when you're handling this boy. Keep yourself safe!
                  Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!


                  • #10
                    This a really serious issue and you need professional help --- which is very hard to find for horses who bolt in hand. I had this issue with my Percheron, and no piece of hardware (stud chain, bridle, lip strap) helped. I got pro help but the wrong kind, making the issue much worse. I was sent to the ER twice. Despite years of serious effort, it was never resolved, he was never 100%. I avoided leading him in open areas. When he died, it was a relief.

                    The one help was a piece of equipment called a "bonger" and used with stallions and on the racetrack. It's a leather headstall with a metal bosal with a ring on the chin for leading. It seriously gets their attention if they try to bolt. I used this with a cotton lunge line and gloves with some success. I also did a ton of ground work getting him to "hook on" to me and lead with no tack. (Go get John Lyons' "Leading and Loading" video, very helpful).

                    Our mule will also bolt in hand, but what works perfectly with him is a lip chain ---- a stud chain wrapped in Vetrap and placed under his top lip along his gums. He will NEVER bolt in hand this way.

                    You want to be REALLY careful that you don't run anything through his mouth and then have him bolt off and hurt his tongue.
                    Last edited by Watermark Farm; Jun. 6, 2010, 12:42 AM.


                    • #11
                      Don't know whether you'll approve of this, but I saw it in action once, and the horse never tried anything again.

                      The owner was using a Western saddle with a breastplate. She tied a rope from the bottom of the halter to the breastplate ring that lies in the center of the chest. The rope was long enough to give the horse freedom of movement when the horse was walking. When he flung his head prior to his planned bolt, the rope was short enough to correct him immediately. He was totally amazed and froze in place. She proceeded to lead him with no problems.

                      I'd be concerned about his neck, among other issues (what message does the horse get if the rope breaks; what if he fights and tries to rear; what if he succeeds in taking off and gets the rope hung up on something), but no harm was apparent.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by kookicat View Post
                        I'd use a lunge line, let him run off, then put him to work. Lunge him on a few small, tight ish circles until he wants to stop. Keep him moving until you decide that he can stop. Go back up to him, start walking him again. He runs off, he gets put to work again.

                        Please wear a good pair of gloves and a helmet when you're handling this boy. Keep yourself safe!
                        That's my first instinct. 2x good gloves and a helmet.
                        bar.ka think u al.l. susp.ect
                        free bar.ka and tidy rabbit


                        • #13
                          I'd be concerned putting the horse on a lunge line to correct his bolt. I'd worry that all the extra length would do is give him time to build up steam before hitting the end, and then either I'd be water skiing or he'd be loose with a lunge line trailing behind him...


                          • #14
                            Small Change, I think it was also suggested that this lunge line / halter session should take place in an enclosed space where the horse would run out of space before he ran out of lunge line.

                            Check on the gloves, helmet, and lunge line backup, by the way.

                            I don't have any suggestions regarding technique, other than that you should take seriously how dangerous this behavior is and get some professional assistance if none of the simpler ideas seem to improve his behavior in very short order.
                            I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                            I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


                            • #15
                              LoriB - That would make it more manageable. I just have visions of water skiers going across a paddock behind a big horse. I supposed he'd get tired of dragging a person and stop eventually though!


                              • #16
                                Bolting horses while leading

                                Over the years of training and doing rescue work with horses I have come across many fear bolting horses. Some do it out of fear and some do it out of disrespect, either way, it is unacceptable and dangerous. The best way I have found to handle this, is not to use chains or war bridles nor any aggressive measure, they only add to the fear on a skittish or already fearful horse. What I do first work on standing tied. The horse learns to respect the lead rope and can pull all day if he wants on rubber tire inner tube. But he needs to understand and respect the lead rope.
                                After that is work in leading in a small enclosure first, just have the horse start and stop, back and go, stay very close to them at the head, hold your rope at the point of where it is attached to your halter. Do small circles, where you are moving constantly in their space making them move, example of this, while your standing facing forward and the horse is standing on your right facing forward also, move your left foot back turning into his hip, while pulling on the lead towards you, as you go around in this very tight circle, do it slowly and calmly. Then firm "whoa", not yelling it, but a firm "whoa". Then do the same but this time move towards his head with your right foot walking towards his head and pulling the lead on his opposite side away from you under his head, if he does not move into the circle, then you might have to push with your elbow in his shoulder as well. Practice this as often as you can until he is doing it consistently and smoothly. After this then start doing the same thing, except add a little length to your lead rope where you are not holding it at his halter, gradually you will have him turning around you in a lounge line circle. If he get upset or excited as you increase the distance, that is okay, go back to the point where he was calm and practice more. Use verbal commands, move out, come here and whoa. This is all setting him up for round pen work or lounging. Next while standing tied, get some balls, some soft cotton ropes, swimming pool floaties and really work on sacking the horse out. Once he is standing there listening to your que of "Whoa" not freaking out over the ropes being tossed under him and over him, balls rolling under him and the floaties touching him all over. Keep all your sessions short, always end on a positive note, never let the horse walk away from you at the end. Always have them standing with you calmly, and you walk away at the end.
                                If you have taken all these steps, then start leading out of the smaller pen into open areas, stay calm and focused, keep the short lead, where you are holding him at the halter, work on your same routine, circles, small, then go bigger as he relaxes. If he does try to bolt, which he probably will if it is a habit, then put him in a tight circle and say your firm "whoa". There will always be bugger bears out there, but with the training you have given, he should be spooking in place, listening to you. The reward you want to give is not to make him do what you want by placing pain or pressure, the reward is no pressure on his head. This does take some time, most get it very fast. I just did this with a mule who was brought to me that had not been touched in over a year and then was brought to a "trainer" who used a war bridle on him and bronc busted him, making him severely fearful. Be very careful with stud chains on a horse who has never had one, most who are not familiar with one, will only pull harder when they feel the chain. Good luck, hope this helps some out there!!!


                                • #17
                                  mg, where are you located?

                                  If you're anywhere near Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue in Howard County, MD, they have a lot experience with re-training draft horse to lead politely. If nothing else, I'd suggest emailing Christine (gentlegiantsdhr [at] aol [dot] com) and asking for advice.

                                  I will admit several of the horses at the rescue with a tendency to do this in a flat halter and regular lead rope lead perfectly fine with a chain over the nose, just knowing it's there and you're willing to enforce good behavior works with them.

                                  A lot of the other work they do is often with a rope halter (the kind with knots) in the arena and lots of ground work to reinforce the idea that you respect the handler.

                                  And sometimes it just takes a handler who is prepared and on top of things. Some horse (like mine) can lead just fine trailing along on a loose lead rope. Some horses though need you paying attention (leading actively, just like there's a difference between active riding and being a passenger) the whole time. You can usually tell when a horse is about to try and take off and you have a split second to defuse it before it gets to that point.
                                  The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
                                  Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.


                                  • #18
                                    Great suggestions. It's so easy for us to believe that because a horse is "good" at leading in certain familiar situations that it's actually trained. It's not. It's not trained until it's good in ALL situations.

                                    It's going to be a project to thoroughly train him. But make it a *training project*, not a problem to solve.

                                    Truly, this is a great opportunity for you. There will be many horses down the road that you can help by applying what you learn. You can send him to another trainer, of course, but if you decide to do that, be sure to work with them so that you understand how they are training.

                                    You may, almost certainly will, need some means to apply strong negative reinforcement to this large pushy animal, but think this through and decide exactly what you will use and know exactly why and when.

                                    This is the ideal situation to learn all you can about operant conditioning and behavioral training. There are two ways to go about it, the traditional way (pressure-release) or the positive reinforcement way (clicker training.) You can use a combination of both.

                                    In addition to the resources in this thread, I'd recommend Andrew McLean's ACADEMIC HORSE TRAINING. This is an expensive book, but it is an absolute bible of how to train and re-train horses using operant conditioning, with every single step described and illustrated, and ways to address what can wrong. It is a book for a lifetime and well worth every penny. I would recommend it to everyone, even very experienced horsemen, as they will see why what they already know how to do works, and it's useful to teach others. McLean has decades of experience working with the sort of issues you are describing. He's a scientist, eventer and trainer, not a guru. He uses traditional pressure-release methods.

                                    On the positive training methods side, besides Kurland, you can read DON'T SHOOT THE DOG by Karen Pryor for the best layman's overview. A good practical book about clicker training for horses specifically, which gives a lot of hints about how horses should be clicker training slightly differently from dogs (not to mention elephants and dolphins) is The Art and Science of Clicker Training for Horses by Ben Hart, with an emphasis on safety. However, it is too "deep" for your introduction, so I wouldn't recommend just reading it alone, but as a companion volume to the others.

                                    Horses bolt because it's a flight reaction. Flight reactions come from a part of the brain that is very very deep. Once a fear response has occurred in a certain time and place, it is remembered and never forgotten. (This has been demonstrated in research. The memory can be obscured, but it is always accessible.) Your job as a trainer is to train in the stop and go responses so deeply that the horse reacts to your cues instead of the environment, no matter how distracting or stimulating the environment may be. But this doesn't happen in one or two sessions. It happens by using a very systematic approach, planned in small increments. (Hart's book is very good to help in developing a training plan, btw.)

                                    Good luck! And have fun. You may find this horse is a star waiting to be discovered. Believe in him; he can learn, and so can you!
                                    Ring the bells that still can ring
                                    Forget your perfect offering
                                    There is a crack in everything
                                    That's how the light gets in.


                                    • #19
                                      I had a big WB that could drag/bolt either leading or lunging. as soon as he dropped that head and got his shoulder in front of me, I knew I was a gonner...or anyone that was trying to work with him.

                                      Did all the ground work, "games" etc. he was excellent with those games, but as the same time, he just knew he was a big horse. I'm not a small woman, I never had a problem with horses dragging me..but this one was a whole new ball game. So we did have to go to a stronger plan. This plan was devised by a trainer (who also knows the natureal horsemanship type stuff, but there are times that doesnt work.)

                                      So, the plan was similiar as the chain over nose with lead rope and lunge rope..but about 5 people too.

                                      Horse only sees person #1 with lead rope attach rope..but a lunge is also attached to chain. Persons 2-5 are at teh end of the lunge rope. Person #1 leads horse. If horse bolts..persons 2-5 basically all sit down/heave on lunge line at same time as the person with the lead rope does. Horse cannot drag or get a way from 4 people and is stopped. 1st time it happened, the trainer said the horse had a huge WTF look on his face. This went on for about 5 days. going to and from the pasture and all the usual places the horse would bolt. Horse would think it was the person leading doing the heaving...

                                      I was fortunate that I boarded at a barn that had enough barn help on hand to take 5 mintes for this game. i heard the procession was pretty funny, but by day 3, WB had the idea, by day 5, they could lead without the procession. I had that horse for another 8 months after that, and never bolted during leading again. I still had to be judicious lunging, he got away from me maybe 3 times after that (when I let my guard down). But leading anywhere was never an issue again.

                                      The WB is the only horse that I have EVER had to use extreme measures as I described. All my other horses have always been trained with a more natural horsemanship style...but sometimes one has to speak in that horse's language.
                                      I love my OTTB! I get my dressage test done faster!


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Wow, surprised to see this thread got dug back up!

                                        Turns out the horse in question was scared to death of the only person who had been "handling" him for a couple years (the "barn worker"...never even touched the horse, just chased him around like I said in the OP). I gave up on the training sessions for leading since it wasn't getting anywhere and since the horse was impossible to catch in the first place to even practice. I went back to just daily handling of the horse (halter on/off, fly sheet on/off, grooming...basic stuff) and over about a month or two he ended up learning he could trust me and completely changed.

                                        I can do things that took a LOT of time or were impossible before: worming, leading, catching, etc. He's a big baby and a huge cuddlebug now! I actually have to push him OUT of my way instead of him running away!

                                        Sad...this is a horse people have been (well, they still do) proclaiming as horribly abused and a lost cause for years (tbh, I think my grandmother loves saying she has a horse who was terribly abused. She likes "saving" people and animals). In reality, he was just scared to death of the barn worker and wasn't handled.
                                        "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"