Stopping a bolting horse

Here are some tips in case you are ever in a situation like we were yesterday.

  • Prepare beforehand.  No you will never go out riding and say “we are going to bolt today”  but you should never assume you wont.  It can happen to even the best of horses.  So always wear your helmet, heeled boots (or caged stirrups) and gloves.  Yes I consider glvoes to be safety equipment, anyone who has tried to rein in a bolting horse without can tell you the pain it causes their hands!  I always wear gloves!  Safety vest is recommended if you are doing any jumping or riding a new horse.  Also, check to make sure all of your equipment is in good shape BEFORE you mount up.  You do not want to have a stirrup leather break or your girth slip while running at 40km/hour
  • Dont trust your instincts.  Human instinct is to clamp with their legs when their horse takes off, so they remain seated.  To your horse, this feels like an attack and is only going to worsen your situation.  Rise up into 2 point and grab hold of the mane.  Take the extra 10 seconds to make sure your position is secure, a bouncing, clenching rider on his back is just going to scare him more.  Yes your horse will be X distance farther, but if you arent secure in your position, you will not be able to gain control back of your horse and you put yourself in danger.
  • Use one rein, quick pulls.  Dont just pull back with both reins.  Most horses, especially ex race horses will lean on your hands and use your strength to balance them.  This means that you are working harder, and they can just go faster.  And if you are already pulling your hardest, there is nowhere to go.  Instead, use one rein, and do a few quick sharp pulls back.  The horse cannot balance on your hands if you dont give them your hands, and hopefully this will be enough to turn the horses head, then body and get your circling.
  • Circle in a safe area.  Once you have the attention of your horse, make a large circle somewhere safe.  Keep circling smaller and smaller, your horse will have to slow in order to keep his balance.  This may take a while!
  • If the jabs dont work.  Quickly decide what way you will want to circle, place your outside hand halfway up your horses neck, and put a LOT of pressure.  With your inside rein, pull hard to the side.  You should see your horses neck bend at the point of your hand, and if done correctly, your horse will be put off balance and will be forced to circle and slow
  • Some people will tell you to go towards a fence.  While this can work, I dont recommend it, as a panicked horse may try to jump it which could lead to injury for both of you.

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