If you’ve ever been riding your horse when it has suddenly bolted, you will know it can be a terrifying experience – not only for you but for others in the vicinity. Read on to find out why horses bolt and what to do when it happens.
Why does my horse bolt?
A horse has specific goals: safety, comfort and play. If they don’t have these securities, they run. Some horses bolt regularly while some will never do it.
There are several reasons why you may have to deal with runaway horses, these include:
This is part of a fight-or-flight response to a potential threat and is very common in young horses. It’s a reaction a horse has when it doesn’t understand something and the result is that the horse becomes startled and may flee.
Anything from a car horn to a plastic bag blowing in the wind, can spook a horse.
It may be that the horse doesn’t want to look at the thing or person that it has caused it to be afraid. As a result, they may spook to let off steam.
Some horses will look after beginner riders and some won’t. The horse may not be used to a novice rider, who might not be instructing the horse correctly, or in the way they are used to.
Some will realise the rider is a beginner and start to canter by themselves; dominating the rider. If the rider knows how to stay in the saddle, it’s not really dangerous but it can feel intimidating.
If a bolting horse has been used to a life of racing, it’s only natural that they may choose to suddenly gallop off at speed. It is possible the horse feels awkward being out of their natural environment.
A saddle that pinches, or too-tight bridles can’t be comfortable for a horse. If you girth your horse too tight, this can also cause stress and cause them to bolt.
It is also a good idea to clean your saddle as one that is embedded with crusty sweat or dust particles could irritate a horse.
What to do if a horse is bolting while carrying a rider
There are several ways to calm a horse when they bolt with a rider on their back:
- If you are in an open field and the horse takes off, it helps to steer them into a large circle. If you gradually make the circle smaller and smaller, they will eventually calm down, slow down and stop.
- If you have lost control of your horse and they are galloping at speed, you can disrupt the bolter’s forward momentum by exerting pressure on just one rein instead of two.
- Lead your horse towards a steep hill. If they are galloping at speed, they will lose momentum and energy as they start to climb the hill, eventually tiring.
- Use your voice calmly and clearly to send instructions to the bolting horse, especially if it is frightened. Shouting can make the horse run faster.
- Try to keep your horse’s head up and don’t let your riding position fall forward.
Hopefully, you have learned some tips on how to handle runaway horses. Always remember that is dangerous to dismount a horse while they are bolting, so consider whether an upcoming hazard is worth the risk of staying in the saddle.
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