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What's the best course of action if you find yourself on a bolting horse?

(50 Posts)
CamillaSalander Sun 28-Aug-11 19:18:54

Sorry to sound naive, but I was talking to another mum at the menage fence yesterday, and she had sustained some injuries after being bolted with and then falling off mid-bolt. I've been bolted with twice in the dim and distant past. I started to think that I don't really know how best to handle it. Obviously, with hindsight I lost control and the horses I was on panicked; so remaining firmly in control and avoiding situations which can frighten horses are obvious avoidance tactics.

But if you do find yourself in mid-bolt, what to do? I have been taught a sort of sawing action on the reins for strong pullers. I guess if you can steer them into an enclosed field or something, that would help?

careergirl Sun 28-Aug-11 19:40:46

I was taught you should pull on one rein to bring the horse's head round to you and circle round and hopefully stop. never tried the theory tho'!

CamillaSalander Sun 28-Aug-11 19:49:28

Oh, thanks, that is useful, Careergirl. I hope never to have to try it! I can see it could work, though.

I also meant to ask: if you are in the awful position of being on a hack - ie you are mounted - and you see your PFB disappearing into the distance on a bolting horse, would you gallop after them? (That's what they do in films!) Or would that make the bolter even more enthusiastic?

Choufleur Sun 28-Aug-11 19:53:32

Don't know about chasing after a bolting horse but i was taught to pull very hard on one rein while kicking on that side to make the horse circle. Never tried it though.

Thistledew Sun 28-Aug-11 20:00:46

If you have a very wide open space in front of you then turning in a big circle and actually kicking on can cause enough confusion to break the bolt mindset.

I think jabbing or sawing at the mouth is more likely to be counter productive as they will run even more to escape the pain.

I have been bolted with twice and unfortunately can add only two more things to the what not to do list.

Number one is not to head the horse into a ploughed field hoping that it will slow it down. This will work, but the rate of slowing down will be such that both you and the horse will end up face down in the mud. It was a nice soft landing though, and fortunately the horse was not hurt by the fall.

The second was even more scary. The horse that bolted with me was not mine. He headed directly towards a wire fence despite me pulling with all my strength, both hands on one rein, to turn him away. I was so scared that he would see the fence at the last minute and try to jump it. Fortunately he did not, and even more fortunately the fence was old and slack, so gave quite a bit when he hit it. I went soaring over his head and lay on the ground for far linger than I needed to get over the winding, as I had visions of someone's prized horse having been shredded on the fence behind me. I eventually dared to get up and look, to find that he was absolutely fine apart from a 2cm abrasion to his chest. I was so angry with him that I got up, moved the reins to the most severe ring of the gag, and finished the cross-country course I had started! He was a beautiful, talented horse, but had a nappy streak if he did not trust a rider or thought he could get away with it.

CamillaSalander Sun 28-Aug-11 20:07:27

Thanks, both; kicking on is an interesting tactic! Ouch, Thistledew. The first time I was bolted with, I just clung on for really a long distance till we reached his stable. grin The second time, I just clung on till my head reached a low branch. Ouch.

Thistledew Sun 28-Aug-11 20:11:35

As to weather to go after a bolting horse I think it would depend on a number of factors:

The age and competence of the rider;
Whether it is likely to be a true bolt or whether it is just a matter of 'we always canter here so I will do so, but I will stop at the end where we always stop';
Whether there are dangerous obstacles such as roads which make it imperative that you try anything to stop the bolt;
Whether you trust your horse not to take off and bolt as well;
Whether your horse will be able to catch up with the bolter;
Whether there is room to eg use your horse to block and turn the bolting horse.

I had a horror of a pony that would take off with me quite frequently, although it was more a case of him not obeying my aids than a true bolt because it did use to work for an adult to come alongside on a horse and grab the rein to bring him to a halt.

careergirl Sun 28-Aug-11 20:14:57

I think personally I'd not go after the bolter - might make situation worse as horses are by their nature herd animals. It might encourage the bolter to go faster as well as lose control yourself.

Pixel Sun 28-Aug-11 20:35:19

Turning a big circle is good if you can, but I've always been worried about yanking the head round to one side in case the horse went over. My pony bolted down a narrow path once (someone helpfully kicked a football at him) and when the path made a sharp left he did fall over. I found myself sitting on his neck, wriggled back into the saddle as he got up and then he carried on running, thankfully with a lot less steam by then and I was soon able to pull him up. We were lucky though I think as it was more of a stumbling fall than a flat-on-his-side-at-speed-and-roll-over type.
I've seen a 'one-rein stop' mentioned on the internet and have always assumed it involved pulling the horse round in an emergency so perhaps my fears are unfounded (or I've got the wrong end of the stick!) and it is actually a safe way of stopping?

Butkin Mon 29-Aug-11 09:41:24

I was cantering my point to pointer (which had a bit of a reputation) and he bolted with me in semi darkness of a December morning out on the Cambridgeshire fens.

I turned him in a circle by pulling on one rein and this eventually worked. I couldn't run the risk of galloping into a fens ditch!

StopRainingPlease Mon 29-Aug-11 10:28:17

The one rein stop is recommended for bolters (it's not quite as simple as pulling on one rein, you can google it) but I've never tried it myself. I've used the circle technique which is similar, but fell off over the shoulder one time doing this - this worries me about the one rein stop, wouldn't you just carry on in a straight line while the horse turned?

Dpony took off with dd on a narrow grass track a little while ago - obviously you can't turn then. I was ahead on foot, so I blocked the track and waved my arms, but he wasn't stopping for that and just carried on past me until eventually she pulled him up.

CamillaSalander Mon 29-Aug-11 11:43:17

Yes, ditches are a worry, Butkin, which is why I allowed the first pony which bolted to just carry on and trust his instincts.

I'll look at the one-rein stop. I think people are right in saying it depends so much on the horse, the environment, the circs, etc. But still these ideas are helpful! Good to have them up my sleeve, and I intend to brief the PFB and other dc once I know what they should think about doing.

CamillaSalander Mon 29-Aug-11 15:21:06

This is quite a good video of how to do the one-rein stop, and how to train your horse so he knows how to do it. Do it on the lead he's on to stop him falling over. Interesting. Have not yet looked at the YouTube videos of how to do a flying dismount...

georgesmummy11 Mon 29-Aug-11 20:24:04

My pony was a regular blotter if he didn't get his own way but I knew he would stop in the end and the sea-saw trick worked most times. If we were near a hill when he did it I would steer him up hill and let him go he would soon want to stop. I was younger and had nerves of steel. I know turning in a circle works but never tried it as when my mum was a groom a horse broke his leg due to it being done wrong x

CamillaSalander Mon 29-Aug-11 22:12:39

Thanks, georgesmummy11 - I bet you're on your phone, aren't you? I love the thought of your pony being a regular blotter. grin

sad Awful to think a horse could break his leg if the circle thing is done wront. sad

CamillaSalander Mon 29-Aug-11 22:13:28

Wrong, I mean. hmm Not even on the phone!

Saggyoldclothcatpuss Mon 29-Aug-11 22:52:52

All you can do is make sure PFB is properly primed. She knows as many options as I can think of. Turning (if the terrain allows), bridging the reins, sawing the reins, aiming the monster at a hedge.... and most importantly, Ive impressed on her that her safety is most important. If the pony is heading for a road, or dangerous obstacle, just bail out. The pony will look after itself. (We had a death round here a few years back, the rider clung on, desperately tryiny to stop her beloved horse, it ran onto a dual carriageway. The horse survived, she didnt.)
In my personal experience, one plus point is that when Ive been bolted with in the past, time slows rather, Ive had plenty of time to think about what I was going to do!

CamillaSalander Mon 29-Aug-11 22:57:21

Yes, thanks, Saggy. Think Horse Whisperer - or rather, don't.

Talking to the other mum on Sat made me realise that not only did I not have a Plan for being bolted with, nor did my dc. Of course I'll have to raise it in a way that doesn't scare them half to death.

They have been told a million times that an apparently drowning dog almost always survives; unlike the child who dives in to save him.

galonthefarm Tue 30-Aug-11 11:22:22

I don't think I've ever been "properly" bolted with, just had ex-racehorses that like to go very quick when their feet touch grass and naughty ponies that just wanted to go as quick as they could towards home!
One trick that has worked well for me is to sit up/ back as much as you can (if you lean forward that only makes them go quicker) and try to get them into a large circle, then progressively make it smaller - and eventually they'll stop. you need to keep your own balance though. I once tried to turn horse right - i went right and he went left! cheeky b******!

CamillaSalander Tue 30-Aug-11 12:37:05

I've heard too many scare stories about riding ex-racehorses to even try, Gal. Tempting though it is.

Circles sound the most pragmatic approach if you haven't trained your horse to do a one-rein stop.

Booboostoo Tue 30-Aug-11 12:57:27

If a horse truly bolts there is prescious little anyone can do about it. Even deciding to bail out is easier said than done.

Having said that few horses really bolt (mindless, unstoppable, headless of danger running), most just take off! Sitting up and half-halting works for many. Some prefer to be kept on the contact all the time and if allowed a loose rein may panic a bit and take off, while others freak out with a strong contact and may just stop if you give them the rein. If I have to sit on a horse that is likely to take off I like doing it in an open space, I pop it on a large circle and sit there until it runs out of steam at which point I kick on for another couple of circles. On a road I have turned a horse's head straight into the hedgerow but I have also been stuck on a horse pissing off down the road with nowhere to turn to and its friend, riderless, leading the way!

CamillaSalander Tue 30-Aug-11 13:03:12

I'm absolutely no expert, but I imagine that just giving the horse the impression grin that you are in control - by steering in a circle or in a certain directioon - must calm its panic. You are after all saying: I know what's best for both of us here. The sabre-tooth tiger can't get us if we go in a circle.

AlpinePony Tue 30-Aug-11 19:15:32

Not sure I'm a fan of the one-reined approach. By its very nature if you pull on the left rein you will put pressure on the right of the mouth, which is why of course we keep contact with both reins. That of course is assuming you don't just pull the bit straight through the mouth and yank off the bridle.

True bolting is very, very rare.

CamillaSalander Tue 30-Aug-11 19:44:40

I suppose you could say that the first time it happened to me, it was just the little sod running back to his stable; the second time, a feisty horse taking the opportunity of an under-confident rider to have a good gallop. The latter certainly felt well out of control, though.

The YouTube clip does say you shouldn't try the one-rein stop if you haven't practised it tons with your horse in advance. I must say, I find the ever-decreasing circles idea more alluring.

CalamityKate Wed 31-Aug-11 13:25:42

I think TRUE bolting is rarer than most people realise and in that situation there's bugger all you can do except try to stay on. I really believe that most horses have enough self - preservation to keep themselves mainly out of trouble, and that you're safer on board. However, of course there are exceptions so sometimes bailing is a neccessity.

I've known of a couple of "Take-off-erers" who were cured by the rider forcing them to keep going loooooong after they were ready to stop; basically "Right you bugger you wanted to run. Run some more..."

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