Well trained pony that has started to bolt

I bought an “anyone can drive him” pony three years ago. On the whole, he’s been very good. Last fall, he tried to bolt but I got him under control. I just had him out and a pick-up and trailer came up behind us (nothing new for him) and he tried to bolt and then he tried with each successive car behind us. Had some driving lessons and I get on well with him. Any advice would be great!!!

I would say stop driving him out of your property and get professional help sooner rather than later.


What @SuzieQNutter said.
Bolting on the road is not going to get any safer for you or the pony.
Please get help before either of you gets hurt.

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I agree, you need to get a Professional Trainer involved.

While working on finding one, think about possible changes that could have started the problem. Harness changes? A driving bridle without a full noseband, could be gaping, letting him see behind his blinkers. The rein action might let the cheek pieces move out, away from his skull, so he is getting flashes of things behind. They might be startling, no time to actually “look” at them to identify them. Are blinkers centered on his eyeballs? Not high or low, to allow peeking over or under the blinkers? Is the full noseband tight, holding cheek pieces flat on the sidea of the skull. Do blinkers open out, away from the eyeball itself? While some animals go all right with tight blinkers, the ones I know prefer blinkers more open, not close to the eyeball.

Any changes in vehicle or harness on his body? Maybe it needs adjusting because he gained weight over winter. Run your hands on inside parts that touch him, looking for things that could be poking him. Keepers by buckles are often stapled. Staples break, come loose, so the sharp end could be a problem. Has vehicle been serviced recently? Wheels greased, bolts all toght, in good condition? Are the shaft wrapped? Another location for staples.

Checking your harness, look for worn spots, bent buckle tongues, get them repaired. If harness lets go, you can’t hold him.


In addition to checking the harness and getting a professional out to tune him up, check the pony over as well. Feel him all over for swelling, sore spots, etc. Make sure his teeth have been done recently.

Remember that horses are being trained every single time you work with them. Even the most trained of horses can be untrained over time.

You’ve gotten some very good advice, and I’ll second it. Things can become catastrophic quickly when you add a carriage and a harness to a pony whose brain has checked out. A good, logical, calm trainer–someone who will work with you to identfy the problem and develop tools to manage it–will be extremely valuable.

The suggestion to go back to basics is also spot-on–start slowly, and try to see what pushes Pony out of his comfort zone. Is he relaxed and focused on his job being harnessed? Long-lining or ground driving? Walking and trotting? Halt and wait? Rattling noises?

More than any other discipline, you don’t want to skip steps driving. I’d resist the human impulse to solve problems quickly and move ahead to the next step. It sounds like you already have a relationship with a good trainer, who can be another pair of eyes for you. That’s a bonus, because you don’t have to weed out the quick-fix artists with a strong hand or a strong bit who whisk your horse away for 30-60-90 days…

I’m not a trainer, but I can tell you that my riding instructor breeds and trains her own horses. They spend very little time in stalls, but lots in the field as a herd. They all come when called, and are “in your pocket” wanting attention. None of them kicks or bites. Even little children and complete novices can ride most of them. Her students do well at hunter/jumper events, some have even gotten to nationals.

I like her methods better. Even if you can just find somewhere to turn your horse out, at least it’s not developing an aversion to human interaction. Horses don’t respond well to force.

One person I follow online is Olivia Dixon at Dixon Equine. She’s a trainer at a horse rescue in Kentucky, semi-famous for taking in the pony known as Satan.

Another thought you might consider is nutrition. My horse can get a little difficult in spring and fall since we moved to a new state. It turns out we are especially low in soil magnesium here, so I now supplement this in his diet which has helped.

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Where are you located? Some of us here are trainers/married to trainers :lol:/know of good trainers and with your location can give you recommendations.

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In addition to all the excellent advice already posted, I would add a thorough vet exam. I once had a horse who was absolutely solid in harness, until he wasn’t. Turns out he was in pain from spinal and neck arthritis, and his reaction to pain was bolting.

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