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The tack room

How do you cope when a horse just bolts?

17 replies

Lemieux7 · 21/08/2023 20:24

My daughter had the misfortune of the horse she was riding in her lesson on Saturday, bolting. It was so scary to watch. I thought she was going to be thrown into the fence but somehow she stayed on - I really have no idea how. I was worried that he might actually jump the fence and run off with her. She has ridden him before with no problems but he's not her 'usual' horse.

What happened was that he was playing up from the beginning of the lesson and he was bucking when she asked him (nicely) to canter. Her instructor suggested she drop her whip, which she did. But then he got really naughty. So the instructor said 'I think you should have the whip back'. And as she handed it back to dd, the horse got a look in his eye and went on a rampage!

The instructor took him out and put dd on another horse and she carried on jumping - I was proud of her that it didn't stop her wanting to ride.

Since then, I have heard from other people at the yard that this horse has always been unpredictable. I am wondering what she should do if this ever happens again? We weren't advised in the lesson.

OP posts:
ArcticBells · 21/08/2023 20:29

You should make it clear to the riding school that your daughter does not ride that particular horse again. This is a safety issue and the horse is clearly too much for her.

Whyohwhyohwhy123 · 21/08/2023 20:39

Ever decreasing circles is the best way. Sit deep and pull firmly and constantly on one rein (obviously keep the other reasonably firm) and they end up circling and the circle gets smaller until they stop. Then get off quick. Works well in large open fields.
it happens to all of us at some point.

Lemieux7 · 21/08/2023 20:46

Thank you. I have asked that she doesn't get put on him again. He was being schooled for these lessons by his owner only up until a few weeks ago. She has only been riding since February so doesn't have a huge amount of experience although she's made good progress.

OP posts:
Missmoppetspoppet · 21/08/2023 20:53

It depends why the horse is bolting, tbh. I’ve been bolted with a few times and the circumstances really make a difference. Does the horse buck regularly? I’d be wondering about pain issues - probably back but could be any number of locations, especially in a riding school horse that may well not get any treatment for physical issues. I’d recommend asking as PP said that she’s not out on that one again. Bolting without an obvious cause is different to taking off with a group of horses in excitement during a hacking canter for example or being spooked. Tbh if a horse is really determined to go it can be pretty difficult to stop them. A strong bit can help depending on the reasons but a riding school is unlikely to go for that in inexperienced hands and it doesn’t address the root cause. You don’t say how experienced your DD is but if it becomes a recurring thing it will dent her confidence, so another horse sounds like the best option for now.

Missmoppetspoppet · 21/08/2023 20:54

Cross post re experience! Well done your DD for staying on if she’s only being riding since February x

longingtoretire · 21/08/2023 21:00

The reasons the horse is behaving as it does is not your concern. Your daughter's safety is. I speak as a horse owner.

maxelly · 21/08/2023 21:04

Agree, that doesn't sound a suitable horse for a novice child (and any child riding in a school environment should probably be counted as a novice). Sounds to me as though he's either got some undiagnosed/untreated pain somewhere or has gone very school sour, either of which are common enough sadly in riding school ponies. Sounds like your DD did very well to stick on and did exactly the right thing.

There's two different approaches to stopping a horse tanking off (as opposed to a blind bolt where really the rider stands no chance at all and your only hope is to stick on and/or look for a safe place to bail out) - personally in a school where they're unlikely to actually go anywhere (as I say unless properly panic bolting most horses won't run into a wall or jump the fence) I'd sit quiet, drop my stick if I had one, grab a handful of mane or neckstrap if available, keep hold of the reins but don't pull, concentrate on 'sit up!' (the horse person's clarion cry in the case of any emergency!), keeping your centre of gravity low and back (not forward to clutch the horses neck or hunch over your hands as the instinct can be) - eventually the horse will stop of their own accord but the problem can be sudden swerves, spins or bucks so you want to be sitting deep and balanced and looking ahead of you to anticipate these. As per a PP, gently steering in an ever decreasing circle will gradually declerate them as well. Out hacking or if they really aren't stopping in the arena I'd use the one rein stop technique which shouldn't really be used by novices but involves breaking the horse's stride using both hands on one rein to do a hard pull of the head to one side, ideally steering them towards a convenient hedge or bush or something else to act as a brake. But really, I wouldn't focus on learning these for now, she should be focussing on developing her seat and balance and that will serve her well both in riding generally and in dealing with more tricky ponies as she gets more advanced in future...

Daisydoodo · 21/08/2023 21:08

My daughter has a bolter but only ever when the pony has issues it’s generally ulcer related with ours so we know it’s a reaction to pain she has learnt to turn her in small circles and eventually the pony calms down. I would ask the riding school to not ride this one again

fluffy2buffy · 21/08/2023 21:43

You daughter shouldn't ride that pony again that's for sure.

Bolting isn't what happened here however form what you describe. What happens sounds scary for all involved but it sound like the pony ran off in reaction to the whip. Bolting is a blind panic and the horse will run through fences across roads etc and cannot be stopped until they stop "flight" response. Luckily it's extremely rare, but incredibly dangerous.

Lemieux7 · 22/08/2023 01:46

Thank you so much for your replies. Yes, she's so new to riding and we are not a horsey family. She wants to have her own horse one day but not for years yet!

I am sure any horse can be unpredictable because they are animals at the end of the day but she usually rides a particular mare whom she seems to have a nice bond with.

OP posts:
Hawkins009 · 22/08/2023 01:55

From google

"Use One Rein
Pulling on both reins simultaneously when your horse is bolting will not work because the horse has more leverage than you do, and will brace against the bit. Instead, use one rein and steer them in a circle, then continue to spiral it down to increasingly smaller circles as your horse slows down.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&opi=89978449&url=learninghorses.com/why-stop-horse-bolt/%23:~:text%3DUse%2520One%2520Rein,as%2520your%2520horse%2520slows%2520down.&ved=2ahUKEwjyzev3hu-AAxXKuKQKHUBHBaMQFnoECAwQBQ&usg=AOvVaw0GLjstMRvTuDjKP9kqT5sS

https://www.google.com/url?opi=89978449&rct=j&sa=t&source=web&url=https%3A%2F%2Flearninghorses.com%2Fwhy-stop-horse-bolt%2F%23%3A%7E%3Atext%3DUse%2520One%2520Rein%2Cas%2520your%2520horse%2520slows%2520down.&usg=AOvVaw0GLjstMRvTuDjKP9kqT5sS&ved=2ahUKEwjyzev3hu-AAxXKuKQKHUBHBaMQFnoECAwQBQ

Lastqueenofscotland2 · 22/08/2023 06:50

A true bolt would have run through the fence…
I’d agree with the above this is a pain reaction or a reaction to being very school sour or bored, which is very normal in a riding school setting sadly. However would still cause me to have some concerns about the riding school. Is it a BHS school? True bolting is very rare, and honestly the handful of times it’s happened to me I’ve just bailed. If that horse wants to run across a busy road or into a barbed wire fence I’m not going with them.
In a school where they are tanking off, sit deep, make sure you’re not gripping with your legs and breathe. They can’t run forever!

DiDonk · 22/08/2023 08:10

I don't know about your stables but where DD rides the horses are just coming back from their summer holiday (3 weeks in a field!) and are a bit fat and frisky as a consequence.

Perhaps the horse will settle down as the year progresses.

Lemieux7 · 22/08/2023 08:37

Yes, it is a BHS school. I'm glad it wasn't a true bolt!

Interestingly, the instructor told me that one of the other ponies did this the other week with a girl who rides him every week. And that pony has a reputation for being very reliable so yeah, maybe it is to do with being end of summer. A mum who used to be at the yard also told me she'd heard that they are all acting up lately.

This particular pony isn't used much for lessons. It's only the last few weeks I've seen him in lessons so maybe he doesn't like it. I did also wonder if his tack could be hurting him or something.

OP posts:
Postapocalypticcowgirl · 02/09/2023 11:00

This will probably sound quite harsh, but it's ultimately not your issue as to why the pony is doing this. If you owned/loaned the pony that would be different.

In a riding school, you should be able to trust that the pony your child is riding is going to be safe and not run off with them- particularly for a child who's been riding for less than a year. As a one off, these things happen but I would be concerned if it starts happening regularly.

Bucking is usually a sign of discomfort, and not something an inexperienced rider should be pushing through.

If all the ponies are wound up for whatever reason, then maybe the instructor needs to be bringing the energy of the lesson down, and focusing on maybe more complex exercises/movements at a slower speed, for example. If all the ponies are wound up, and they've got everyone cantering around or jumping etc, then it's likely to make things worse. A good instructor can come up with interesting exercises which will suit the horses and riders they've got there on the day.

WisherWood · 02/09/2023 14:26

A mum who used to be at the yard also told me she'd heard that they are all acting up lately.

Are they turned out? There may be a late flush in the grass making them whizzy. Or they're all sour at the end of the school holidays. Or both.

Just to reiterate, OP, it sounds like this horse ran off rather than flat out bolted. I would insist that your daughter not ride him again. A child who's been learning for a short space of time shouldn't have to deal with this. I would also re-evaluate the school though. Since the horse ran off when the whip was handed back, it sounds as if he's being beaten and is thoroughly fed up with it. He's running off as the only way he knows how to get away from a situation he anticipates will be painful. That's not being naughty, it's absolutely understandable behaviour and a defence mechanism.

As for dealing with it, once she has a secure seat and a bit more experience, a good thing to do in a school is to push the horse forward and ask them to work harder. Ask them to engage their hindlegs and push them up to the bridle. In effect make it clear that if they have all this energy, they can use it to work hard. They quite quickly flag. Well most of the time. But as I say, that's for further along when she's more experienced.

Lemieux7 · 02/09/2023 15:14

WisherWood · 02/09/2023 14:26

A mum who used to be at the yard also told me she'd heard that they are all acting up lately.

Are they turned out? There may be a late flush in the grass making them whizzy. Or they're all sour at the end of the school holidays. Or both.

Just to reiterate, OP, it sounds like this horse ran off rather than flat out bolted. I would insist that your daughter not ride him again. A child who's been learning for a short space of time shouldn't have to deal with this. I would also re-evaluate the school though. Since the horse ran off when the whip was handed back, it sounds as if he's being beaten and is thoroughly fed up with it. He's running off as the only way he knows how to get away from a situation he anticipates will be painful. That's not being naughty, it's absolutely understandable behaviour and a defence mechanism.

As for dealing with it, once she has a secure seat and a bit more experience, a good thing to do in a school is to push the horse forward and ask them to work harder. Ask them to engage their hindlegs and push them up to the bridle. In effect make it clear that if they have all this energy, they can use it to work hard. They quite quickly flag. Well most of the time. But as I say, that's for further along when she's more experienced.

Thank you for your advice. To be quite honest, the child who owns this horse doesn't treat him very nicely. And I see him mistreating dogs too. Perhaps that is the problem.

I agree with you - she's very new to riding and this sort of thing is not going to help. I asked if she could not be put on him again, at least until she has more experience.

Yes, all of the horses and ponies get turned out. So maybe the grass is a factor as well.

She has just started learning to jump and she has a nice bond with a particular mare that she normally rides.

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