Bit for bolter

Beanz

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Nov 8, 2020
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Not sure this is the right forum but would welcome some advice (maybe a bit of reassurance). Out on a hack today on a bridal way with 5 other horses from my yard. We were at the back next to another horse with one other behind. My horse, Marley just bolted, past the three horses in front in full gallop. No suggestion that something scared him, just the 3 horses in front had rounded a corner, but stayed in view. One is an ex racehorse so he reared wanting to follow. Managed to pull up maybe 200m in front of the group. But I’ve made two of the girls really nervous and they got off and walked back. I ended up having to walk in hand too because I couldnt hold Marley and he was blowing and lathered. This has never happened before.

I ride him in a Myler comfort snaffle. Everyone at the yard is saying I should put him in something stronger when we are out because he has bolted 3 times, but only when we have gone out with the racehorse. We hack every week, usually with just one or two horses and he’s fine, just won’t go in front and is great in traffic. We ride 5 days a week but the other sessions are schooling or lessons.

Im feeling utterly shit because I’ve upset two people who are really nervous and if I’m honest I’m quite scared it’s going to happen and maybe on a road or I won’t be able to pull up.

The background to this is I’ve owned Marley for 10 months. He‘s an 8 year old cob. He’s has 8 homes in the last 3 years. He bucked and reared and was scared of things like the hose which suggests he’s been hit when I bought him. He’s my first owned horse and I didn’t know he was as green as he was when I bought him. I’m a competent rider but hadn’t ridden for 25 years really. We’ve been having lessons and the progress is amazing. We even did our first dressage test last month. He still bucks and won’t go in front on a hack but no other issues remain except this. This was the worst bolt he has done today.

Would you recommend a stronger bit, or not hacking with the racehorse? Please tell me this isn’t going to get worse if he bolts again.
 

carthorse

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First of all he isn't bolting, he's being rude and tanking off with you. If he'd bolted you wouldn't have pulled him up 200m past the front of the group. It may sound like a technicality but in reality the difference is huge - a horse tanking off can be got back under control if you know how and also is still looking out for it's own safety, a bolter is running blind with no regards for it's safety and nothing you do is going to make a difference. Marley can trained better and you can learn how to handle him, a true bolter really shouldn't be ridden and certainly not in a public setting such as a road or bridleway..

How to work on it? I would start by seeing if you can do some of your lessons as hacking lessons with your instructor riding out with you. that way she can see what your problems are and advise how to prevent them and, if that fails, deal with them effectively. I would only hack out with one other safe companion for now, and be honest with them that you have a problem. Try to do a lot more hacking with him so that it becomes less exciting and he's more confident with it. It may also be useful to get a more experienced and confident rider hacking him out to get some miles on the clock and remind him of his manners. I'd discuss changing bit with your instructor since she can watch you both and have a more useful opinion than I can when I haven't seen either of you - a Myler comfort snaffle is a fairly mild bit though.

Your description of him rearing, bucking, and being scared of things like a hose pipe, when combined with refusing to go in front of a ride and running off don't sound to me like a horse that's been hit or abused but rather like a cob that is used to getting his own way and needs firm confident handling. The fact he's got through 8 homes in 3 years makes this even more likely. I think you probably need to look at every aspect of your dealings with him and make sure that you're the one calling the shots, not him.

I'm sorry if some of that sounds negative but I think there's a lot more going on than you maybe realise and a change of bit would only, at best, be a temporary fix of one problem.
 

diplomaticandtactful

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Leave the bit alone. Go back to ground work as well, to encourage better manners. Will he hack out alone? for the moment i would only hack out with a rider and horse combination who you know that if you take off they will not. I used to hack out with a friend who regularly got carted by her horse and overtook me. I rode the same horse a couple of times and could hold him easily but i don't tense and she does. Fortunately the horse i was on i could trust to not race her if she went off out of control. And i could stop or just stay well back till she regained composure. So be careful who you ride out with, i prefer to ride solo as then i don't have to worry about other riders and their confidence/ability on their horse and can concentrate on mine and do what i feel, nothing worse than being pressurised into things you don't want to do as you feel it is too risky and it goes wrong. Also don't keep cantering at the same spot which is what a lot of folks do so the horse anticipates. I would work on your ground work, making him light and willing to obey and lead him out and insist on good behaviour. Make him walk two steps, back one, all on very light touch till he is really focussed and listening. Work on softness, teach him to drop his head. He doesn't seem to be listening to you. This is either a cob getting to maturity and taking the piss or he has never been correctly taught to be happy to work which his history would suggest. Cobs are generally not good with novices or unconfident riders as they are smart and exploit every weakness plus they can be strong unless taught to be light. If you want advice, look up Ellen Cochrane on Facebook, Gaia Equestrian, she is inspirational and works with the lightest touch and aims at making the horse play and enjoy work.
 
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Beanz

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Nov 8, 2020
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Thank you all for taking the time to reply. This has helped a lot and makes sense in the context of his other behaviours. And I don’t really want to change his bit. I’m very glad to be corrected that this isn’t true bolting. He displays what my instructor describes as quite dominant behaviour. He turns in on the lunge and whilst he doesn’t now would rear up or barge into my space. I know he was gelded late. We have basically restarted his schooling, but he come on so much in the last few months that maybe I’m expecting too much too soon. As he has only ‘tanked’ off when we have been in a bigger group then yes it makes complete sense just to go with his more trusted Schoolmaster friend which is our usual hacking partner. I can’t hack him alone yet as he naps and spooks and but we do walk in hand.

And whilst it’s definitely not pain related- his teeth have been done and back have been checked. That said his saddle isn’t a great fit. We ordered a new one 8 weeks ago. Should arrive in 2 weeks (COVID not withstanding) but I’m aware he has lost weight and muscled up a lot recently So I’m sure that isn’t helping. Hes bucking a lot less than he was. Mostly right at the start of a lesson, or going into canter. working on a strategy of ignoring it and praise when he repeats the exercise without.
 
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carthorse

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Keep on with making him realise he isn't in charge, the more you say the more I think that's the root of his behaviour and while its not wise to generalize cobs are notorious for being like this if they get the upper hand. He'll come right, it's just a shame you've got to sort out other peoples mistakes.
 
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Mary Poppins

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I still wouldn’t rule out pain. In my experience, a horse who frequently bucks is reacting to pain 9 times out of 10. The badly fitting saddle could be enough to explain his behaviour and personally I wouldn’t use a saddle that I knew didn’t fit. I would be inclined to speak to your vet and put him on a bute trial. You give bute everyday for 2 weeks and if the bucking stops, you can be pretty sure it is due to pain. I would only do this under vet guidance though. Ulcers are another common cause of bad behaviour and bute will make these worse.
 

Jessey

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Yep I’d agree with the above it’s not a true bolt, so there’s hope to cure it yet, as already said just a shame you’re stuck with sorting out what seems to be already established problem behaviour.
Definitely talk it over with your instructor as they have obviously already got his number, having a lesson on groundwork might be well worthwhile too, to really help you get that foundation solid. Perhaps see if you could pay your RI to hack him once or twice for you so she can experience him out of the school to better advise you.
I too would stick with your reliable company for now, you said he shows dominant behaviour to you and lacks confidence (won’t go in front) he could well be feeding off nervous/excited vibes from the tb and that’s just pushing him into an OTT reaction as he isn’t quite in a place mentally where he feels he can trust you to make the best decisions for him so he’s taking matters into his own hands.
Good luck, keep us posted ?
 

horseandgoatmom

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I also for NOT changing the bit.

It sounds like hes not clicking at all with the TB.

Like others have said ride with a reliable one or 2.
I'm also for NOT cantering at the same spot.
Most people I've ridden with just have to canter....in name but its mostly an out of control free for all up every hill they see.
The horses just take off.
I just love the BUT OHHHHH HE WANTED TO.
Who is calling the shots. Not them.

I will not run up a hill.
Nor will I run home.

There were times I left behind in the dust and they just kept going and would not even wait for me.

Sonny doesn't NEED other horses and No way was I buying into that..
So I did my own thing..til I got back.

You might want to learn a single rein stop.
 
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Huggy

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Having a stubborn, nearly reformed cob, I feel your pain! I've had mine 2 years now, and we are slowly getting there. I agree with those who reckon he's got away with things in the past - just like mine! I would advise, quite simply, patience, patience and more patience. If yours is like mine, it's best to tackle one thing at a time, without too much confrontation. I just fight one little battle at a time, and am a bit closer to winning the war. It's a rotten feeling when you feel responsible for spoiling a ride - don't beat yourself up too much, just take a breath and start with the basics. Honestly, mine was a little thug for quite a while, but he's so much better - not perfect, but I'm enjoying him so much more now. Good luck, let us know how you're getting on.
 

Jane&Ziggy

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As another angle on this, my dearly departed pony Ziggy was a tanker-off when I got him. It happened in company and on his own and it was deeply ingrained. He didn't to my mind have dominance issues - he was very sweet with everyone and other horses too - but he would take a mile if you gave him an inch, and once he started he was very hard to stop.

I didn't want to use a stronger bit for the reasons everyone has listed here, and in fact I eventually put him in a gentler bit and tried to make him happier and more confident out hacking. He was very, very, very food oriented, and as a safety net (which made me feel braver) I clicker trained him to stop instantly whenever I said "whoa". It was very successful and whenever he got his head up and started the perpetual speed up machine, I said Whoa, he stopped, and I gave him a treat. After a few years (and it was a few years) he didn't do it any more.

The only downside of this was that to him Whoa meant stop RIGHT NOW using all 4 air brakes. I nearly came off over his shoulder a couple of times!
 

carthorse

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Lol @Jane&Ziggy that sounds rather like me trying to train Little Un in the school - he hated the school, couldn't see the point and was ridiculously sharp in there. To try and make it worth while to listen and try I coupled "good boy" with a treat, which worked well in that it had him focused on me and calmer but I never realised how much I used the word "good" and even the "g" sound was enough to have him stop dead and twist his neck round - cute but it made for some interesting moments given that his solution to any problem or concern was to go faster and he's forward even when calm!
 

carthorse

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"Faster" "forward" - Hogan would like to know what those words mean. Anyone?

I bet you can do standing still though, and halt without complaining. Trying to stop and talk to someone is a joke unless there's some grass to eat, and even then it's a short "how are you, ring me and we'll meet for coffee", or at least it was pre Covid :(
 

Huggy

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I bet you can do standing still though, and halt without complaining. Trying to stop and talk to someone is a joke unless there's some grass to eat, and even then it's a short "how are you, ring me and we'll meet for coffee", or at least it was pre Covid :(
Standing still is his fortè. Halt is selective - any closer than 100 yards from home and it's a nope.
 
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carthorse

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Standing still is his fortè. Halt is selective - any closer than 100 yards from home and it's a nope.

That's still a lot better than out halt. there are days when he gets manhandled to make him stop at junctions and if I have to wait for company - and I nearly always have to wait for company - I've been known to ride him into the nearest wall or high hedge! Some days he'll be polite and listen to a verbal cue, but then other days he just takes it as advance notice and set against the hand with a very clear intent. The one pace he will always stop from is canter, but that's hardly a practical pace to approach junctions in!
 

horseandgoatmom

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Sonny thankfully has a good halt and stand.
I also always try to make things worth his while...we both benefit
When I mount he always gets a pc of carrot..so he waits for it..
I give a treat after we do things like backing sidepass etc.
I have a couple tire sidewall thing thats used to put over roadway barrels to secure them.
We will walk over and stand in it.
A rest spot. Time out spot hang out spot.
Some people use a box made from
4 poles.

Hes fine standing hanging out.
The best compliment I ever got was on a turkey trot years ago it was a bit chaotic
Lots of people could not even get horses to stand to mount and many unruly horses.
The person I was with her horse really bought into reacting and she had to dismount and do some ground work to get his head back to her.
We just stood off to the side waiting.
She said the best thing she ever saw after getting his head back was sonny just calmly standing there w me on his back.
 
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Jane&Ziggy

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Ziggy's buttons were stuck on Fast Forward when I got him, but after those few years I was able to walk him and stop him pretty much anywhere for as long as I liked. He was very cute, being grey, and he liked all the petting and adoration he got from people we stopped to talk to.

If he was excited about something, though - for example, if we had met another horse that day - I could only turn him in circles, never get a proper stop!
 
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