How can I stop my horse from doing a roll back on the trail when spooked?

Hey everybody!!

I have a “small” Belgian (his legs are short when compared to the size of the rest of his body!). All I do is trail ride BUT he is very spooky.

I know that he was ridden Western by a previous owner and supposedly even did the sliding stop (I think it’s called).

ANYway, unfortunately, on our trail rides when anything, and I mean anything, spooks him, he follows his instincts and tries to flee the situation. When I first bought him, he did the 4 footed stop and stare. This is what I hope to being able to have him “re-learn”. Then he progressed to the stop and twirl. Then, he quickly progressed to the twirl and bolt. So, I had to learn to stop the bolt.

But, he has now started what I think is a roll back(?) and bolt. I “diagnosed” his behavior by going online so I may not be labeling it correctly. Basically, he drops his left shoulder as he is turning to his left, and tries to take off down the trail. He has always preferred turning to his left.

So, in the hope of avoiding future USD’s as I call them (UnScheduled Dismounts), is there anything I can do to extinguish this behavior?

Thanks!

Ah the dreaded spin-and-bolt. I had this problem with a couple of mine.

For my guys it’s come down to submission - which I gained through work in-hand (like me on the ground where I won’t get hurt). If your horse doesn’t see you as the leader of the pack, he’s going to think it’s his responsability to get you guys out of the dangerous situation. And the ones that have the ability to spin, usually do.

Keep your left leg on him hard, shorten your right rein, hold him steady when he stops. If he shifts weight to spin right, move him forward.

Practice halting and squaring up.

I agree that he’s not seeing you as the leader. Have you been maybe a little too relaxed on the trail? I had the same problem with my half-Arab when I drastically cut back on my riding time. Spending more time with him did the trick!

You know, plenty of horse owners take those horses to a trainer for remedial/further training.

The problem many times, the horse doesn’t do any of those things with the trainer, because the trainer is riding proactively and has the horse going where it won’t think to do those things.

Some times, a trainer can get a horse further in it’s training so it won’t take advantage of less skilled riders.
Some times the trainer just knows the horse will go home, not be in serious training, maybe get too much to eat and is getting too fresh for the horse’s level of work/exercise, training and confidence and the ability of the owner to handle those fresh moments as they may happen and they may revert back to where they started, an insecure horse and tentative rider.

First, not knowing exactly what is going on there as far as what is going on, do you ride alone or in company, how the horse rides and how you ride, I would say, don’t go riding outside where you have a problem until you both are further along with your training and riding.
No need to practice doing the wrong thing, plus what is going on sounds like an accident may happen if this continues.

Second, the problem with stopping, spinning and bolting started way before you got to that point, the horse was already saying before it didn’t want to listen to you and do what you say and that is when you need to intervene.
To hear the horse when this starts and ride so that doesn’t happen, that takes time to learn.
The problems you find outside is reflecting the lack of training and skills you both have to be riding outside quite yet.

Could you find a good professional in your area that may evaluate both of you and then explain how you can learn to ride your horse so he is not taking those liberties with you?

There is so much that just can’t be learned from books or videos, you have to develop the skills with direct instruction, appropriate to the situation at hand, that may change every second.

Don’t get discouraged, sounds like this is but a bump in the road for both, the horse and you learning to work together.
That is part of how we keep learning about horses and riding.
All of us have been there at some time, with some horse and learned from it.

Learning to ride further, getting the horse trained a bit more, both are options that will make the problem you have now disappear on it’s own, once you both are more confident.
You will acquire the skills to prevent the horse even thinking of shying and the horse learns to go where told and that there is nothing to worry about.

I have seen horses to have one of two responses when faced with an unknown… it is either flight or freeze …both reactions I assume are based upon self preservation

I found the greater the confidence the horse has in you the less likely they are going to fall back upon flight as a savior .

The trust relationship that develops overtime seems to help

Ditto Bluey and Clanter. Horse does not really respect you or have much confidence in you. I recommend a lot of ground work and riding in the ring to get the horse to listen to you and pay attention to you and respond correctly to your aids. Also as much desensitizing with scary things (plastic bottles on tarps, inflatable pool toys, etc) as you can possibly do.

Trail riding can kind of be like untraining - most of the time we are letting the horse walk down the trail with no communication with us. I try to do some bending, shoulder ins, a little trot here and there, while going down the trail just to keep my horse listening for my aids.

[QUOTE=Flash44;7741194]Ditto Bluey and Clanter. Horse does not really respect you or have much confidence in you. I recommend a lot of ground work and riding in the ring to get the horse to listen to you and pay attention to you and respond correctly to your aids. Also as much desensitizing with scary things (plastic bottles on tarps, inflatable pool toys, etc) as you can possibly do.

Trail riding can kind of be like untraining - most of the time we are letting the horse walk down the trail with no communication with us. I try to do some bending, shoulder ins, a little trot here and there, while going down the trail just to keep my horse listening for my aids.[/QUOTE]

I have not heard it put like that, but yes, many times people ride without really asking the horse to do more than amble along.
That is fine with some horses and situations.
When a horse is needing more direction than that, a younger or inexperienced horse come to mind, that needs training, not “just ambling along”, we are, in fact, missing a good opportunity to further our horse’s training, if not directly “untraining”.

Most very experiences riders and professional trainers are so used to training all the time that hardly happens, they are proactive every time they ride.
Most other riders tend to relax and forget, or not know how to go about keeping a horse moving and working and paying attention properly and so letting things slip until the horse finally makes it clear it is not getting the help it needs by balking or shying or showing other resistances.

Thanks for the concept.

I have a horse that will do that, if I am not paying attention and I have figured out its when he thinks he has to get us out of there, because I am not in charge. Smart, alpha horse. The fact is, I have to be “on” at all times riding him. I have to ‘tell’ him what to do, even before he has a chance to decide for himself. I also had to spend alot of time on ground work, establishing my self as alpha, and teaching him to move his feet when asked. It is the crux of your issue. Good luck.

Call Luis Guerrero. He has trained a lot of horses around where you board. He is absolutely great. I’ve had a lot of friends who used him to correct issues with their horses, including that whipping around when they were trail riding. (I’ve not used Luis but we are friends, since I’ve boarded where I saw him training horses with gentle but firm hands, when no one else was around.)

[QUOTE=Bluey;7741301]I have not heard it put like that, but yes, many times people ride without really asking the horse to do more than amble along.
That is fine with some horses and situations.
When a horse is needing more direction than that, a younger or inexperienced horse come to mind, that needs training, not “just ambling along”, we are, in fact, missing a good opportunity to further our horse’s training, if not directly “untraining”.

Most very experiences riders and professional trainers are so used to training all the time that hardly happens, they are proactive every time they ride.
Most other riders tend to relax and forget, or not know how to go about keeping a horse moving and working and paying attention properly and so letting things slip until the horse finally makes it clear it is not getting the help it needs by balking or shying or showing other resistances.

Thanks for the concept.[/QUOTE]

I am hardly what I would consider a very experienced rider, but this concept explains so much about my trail riding adventures this summer on a few camp horses. I don’t nag, and I’m quite relaxed overall (usually chatting with the guide) but I will keep an eye in the trail and ask the horse to go here around the mud puddle instead of there, or please step to one side so I don’t get run into a branch, etc. One of the horses in particular really perked up when I was riding him and went from the general “ho hum” beginner safe plodder to a quite nice walk and a feeling that he’d happily spend all day wandering around the trails with me. It was very enjoyable.

(He did spook once because of a very startling deer, but after the immediate “wtf was that?!?” Response he started listening again right away and was not all twitchy the rest of the ride like some horses can be after spooking.) (In great timing, just earlier that day I had been wondering if I had enough muscle memory to stay on in case of something like a spook. Yes, apparently so. Although I have no idea what I did - I just remember feeling nice and secure so I could just focus on circling him away from some trees and getting him settled down again. Wasn’t even sore in any muscles later. Go figure.)

I fully agree it’s a respect issue. When he does this he doesn’t think you are in charge. He needs quick correction and consequences for this behavior. The more he does it and wins… the more he will do it. I had one that did this and regularly left me on the ground.

I ended taking him to a Ray Hunt mentored clinic. Started working on respect from the ground up. The horse did learn… but he was always a tester. He spooked when he just didn’t want to go somewhere… down the driveway or when he had enough on the trail. He never spooked on the way home going by the same horse monsters…

Took time but it did work… we did lots of round pen work then moved on to other tasks demanding the same respect from him.

I agree that it is a respect and leadership problem
Horses are a prey/herd species, and the spook reaction, combined with flight, is a natural survival instinct for them. Thus, a horse likes to put distance between him and what he considers a possible threat, then evaluate it. The horse that stayed behind began ‘dinner’
However, through training, we teach a horse to over ride his natural flight response and to trust our leadership, so that when we tell the horse something is safe, he trusts our judgement.
His reaction thus becomes a spook in place, or even a small spook, but he does not try to whirl or bolt
I would get body control on this horse first, before riding him out, so that you can successfully ride him through stuff, and not allow him to go on auto mode

I have one of these, too. He is the master of the “Arabian teleport trick.” He knows the second my mind starts to wander and then tries to stage a coup d’etat.

Does your horse have “holes” in his training that might not be readily apparent when you bought him? My boy had huge holes in his training when I got him. Cloudyandcallie had an excellent recommendation that you might want to seriously consider. It’s always helpful to have a neutral person evaluate you and your horse.