I thought I'd write a section about horses who are naughty and buck, bolt, rear etc. These problems often arise from ill-fitting gear, medical issues or a total lack of respect. So if you have checked your gear, seen a vet and still have problems then you may have a leadership/ respect issue.
Lets face it if a horse really doesnt want us up there then they have a fair few things they can do to us and most of them can really hurt! Through this series I will try to share a few tips and tricks to make your horse a better friend to have.
Ok so lets start with bucking! We can break it down into the kick-up ( hind legs kick back and up) This can be ridden by simply leaning back and applying a halt command followed imediatly with a go signal. Ride the horse through this. He doesnt get a rest until he is cantering smoothly in a circle ( the bend helps put his feet where he cant really kick too high). When he canters smoothly stop for a rest. This is a "get stuffed" response to leg aids and the go signal. Dont reward rude behaviour with a rest simply ride on. If you dont have the confidence or fall off then lunge the horse at a fast trot both ways with plenty of changes of direction. Do this immediatly and go for a good 10 minutes. Show the horse that bucking you off was a bad idea as he only works half as hard when your in the saddle.
The Crow-Hop (back arched, four legs stiff and jumping off the ground) Roll with the action and maintain contact with the bit dont let the ears get out of sight. Get your heels down and sit deep in the saddle. Try to stop the horse and raise the head. They cant crow hop with their head in the air. Horses often crow hop out of fear or its the most common buck. Ride the horse at a slower pace and try and regain control. Failing that dismount and lunge as above. Also yield the hindquarters to disengage them and back the horse up a few paces firmly. Do this several times.
All out bucking ( the horse kicks out both sides and throws their head around often while running forward) This type of bucking is often from fear or a horse that has bucked alot of riders off. This type of bucking can be very serious. The best thing to do is go back to ground work. Get the horse lunging with a roller make sure you hurry their feet and change direction every 2 laps of the yard, encourage them to turn off their hocks ( cutting horse style). Backing up on the slightest signal, flexing, de-spooking with as many things as possible and disengage the hindquarter ( leg yield). If the horse bucks, stop it immediatly and then start again as though nothing happened. Next lunge the horse with a rider and stop any bad behaviour if it starts. Ride the horse alot! Dont ignore it. Make it work hard and soon it will save its energy for the task not being naughty.
Always reward the slightest try from the horse and gain its trust as bucking often stems from fear and the horse not trusting its leader ( you). Remember a horse that bucks is not neccessarily mad or bad and can be fixed if treated right. Most importantly stay safe yourself and dont ever get on if you dont feel as though you can cope. Always get help rather than get hurt!
I will cover the other issues in the comments section for those interested in the thread. Let me know if theres anything else you particularly want covered.
Bolting horses are in my opinion the scariest to ride. The whole idea of a horse running wildly into the unknown makes me shiver and I know what its like to be sitting white knuckled on such an animal. So what do we do?
1. DONT SCREAM!!!! It only scares the horse into going faster! I know it sounds hard but is really important.
2. One Rein Stop. Begin in a yard and practice bringing one rein to your hip and maintaining the pressure till your horses feet stop moving. Then release immediatly. Practice on both sides and the horses nose should come back to your boot. Practice at a walk and then move up the paces till the horse will stop from a canter.
3. Pull Release. If your horse is actually bolting, hauling on both reins will only cause pain or steady pressure the horse can bolt through. Instead pull and release to attract the horses attention to the stop command. Alternately pull release on one rein to give the horse a chance to circle and slow down.
4. Stay with the horse. If you bail out there is more chance of hurting yourself in the fall than if your ride the horse to a stop. Most horse will stop at the fence and your probably safer in the saddle. Use your judgement before simply leaping off.
5. Stay calm. If you are with a friend who has lost control its very important to stay calm. Galloping after the horse or running and screaming at it to stop can put them in great danger. Should the rider fall and become hung up, the horse may think its in trouble and run faster or kick at them. Instead follow along and wait till the horse slows/stops and approach slowly. Talk calmly in a friendly voice and never punish the horse. Bolting is the natural flight response of a horse.
6. Prepare. Teach your horse flexing and get them soft and supple before heading out on the trail. Ride them often and "cruise" ( ride one pace for 10minutes at a time). Spend time desensitising the horse and work on softness and obedience. It often pays to lead them off another horse ( without a rider) on the trail to teach them to stay with the other horses and not run off.
Bolting is a fear response but soft supple horses rarely bolt. By riding often and teaching the horse to respect you, you can show the horse that hes really running away to nowhere! A respectful horse likes to stay with his human and so bolting is cured.
Rearing is a problem with the "stop" command. Horses with alot of energy often rear as the energy has to go somewhere and up is often their only option. I have a gelding that will rear in frustration if he thinks you have been standing still too long.
1. Backing. Teach the horse to back up on command to engage the hindquarter and encourage the horse to lower his head. Horses that rear are stiff to halt and back. Backing is an extension of stop and a quick way to gain respect. Start on the ground and cue the horse to back up. Watch their feet and when they back release all pressure. Dont worry about their heads just their feet, the head will come down eventually. We are then teaching the horse to release energy through their feet instead of going up. You want the horse to become loose and supple in all directions. Once the horse has learnt to move off your cues and stand quietly till asked to move the rearing should stop.
2. Snaffle Bit. A soft bit removes the pain and fear from a horse and allows them to think rather than react. A strong bit only encourages the horse to fight this new pressure.
3. Keep a Busy Horse Busy!. I often keep my horse moving untill he wants to stop and then I ride a little longer to show him that standing still is a rest and a reward. If the horse has excess energy school them in a circle or work on your One Rein Stops. Back up some distance and flex the horse. The more he has to think about the less inclined to rear up he is as his energy has a better direction to go in.
Sometimes the horse will really bolt and they dont look at the ground at all. I have ridden colts that have taken on fences, river banks and roads when given their head and the need for control is particularly important for the horse and riders safety. It depends on whether the horse has bolted in fear from something or if it has run off with the rider (as you suggest)
Sawing on the mouth is never the answer however pressure and release on the reins can be very effective in diverting the horses attention from the fright they got back to the rider and then the stop command. There is a very big difference in the two.
Speaking calmly to the horse is also a good plan as the animals attention is then shifted from bolting back to the rider.
As riders we seek a partnership with the animal and if we apply the correct information the horse is then able to respond in what we call an acceptable manner. We are then working with the horses natural instincts. Fighting with the horse doesnt help at all but applying clear, calm cues to the horse can remind it of its job and distract it from potentially dangerous behaviour.
rearing is usually the result of lack of forwardness. It is a braciness of the mind and / or body, and if your horse is rearing because he has been standing still for too long, he needs a bigger job to do, and you may not have engaged his mind enough.
Bits are only as harsh as the rider's hands, and a snaffle bit can be just as detrimental in the hands of a rider who doesnt ride with softness, feel, timing and balance.
See point 3, Keep a busy horse busy. rearing can be the horses response to not being able to think with his feet as I say.
The reason I covered bits as its a common rider "fix" to upgrade the bit to "gain control" Hackamores can be bloody horrible too if they are in the wrong hands and there is no bit at all so its a matter of soft hands expose soft mouths/necks/minds. I have just remouthed 2 mares who have come on in leaps and bounds ( metaphorically speaking).
The main thing is to read the horse and find the cause for any misbehaviour and work from there. Most people donot ride with softness timing and balance and thats why its important to always work to be a better rider/communicator.