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Horse Behavior and Training


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I have a 16 year old ex racehorse who has had 'behavioural issues' for the 6 years at least I've known/ridden him, these include bolting in hand to the field, and mainly being spooky whilst being ridden. In may last year I took him on loan and moved him yards after a few months of him not showing these behaviours anymore (apart from being a bit spooky and sharp). For the first few months at the new yard he was great, we were enjoying hacking on our own around the new bridle paths. About 3 months in we were out hacking and walking around a corner of a field, a dog walker was coming the other way and he span and I fell off. He then bolted across the fields and after a few minutes of being terrified I wouldn't find him, luckily he stopped so I could catch him.

After this he became really spooky and really unenjoyable to hack out. One day we were out hacking and he saw some riders in the distance trotting along the road. He literally flipped out, rearing, bucking, spinning, anything it felt to try and get me off. After a few minutes of this I eventually decided this was only going to end one way, with me on the floor and him bolting after the horses. I jumped off and led him back to the yard.

Since then he's been checked for all physical problems (spine, gastric ulcers, teeth, hind leg lameness) and nothing has been found. I've been working with a trainer who has been helping with groundwork and desensitising. Some of the exercises included a bit of lunging. Recently he has begun bolting on the lunge and i can't keep hold of him, he now seems to be in a habit of this, I can only describe it as a switch that goes off in his brain. He goes from being completely calm to the whites of his eyes showing, head up and looking absolutely terrified with no apparent reason. Only a flag is used for direction and speed, no lunging whips.
He has got so bad that I am now scared to lunge him, he has also started bolting when I lead him to the field. This is with a dually halter on which I did a lot of groundwork with him in the beginning.
Basically things seems to be going from bad to worse and I feel I'm running out of things to try. Join up in a round pen is a scary experience as he cuts in and bucks in at me.  
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
He's such a sensitive lovely horse but he has some deep rooted issues. 
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Hi Laura. I've given your situation a bit of thought & I believe an experience of mine might be relevant. Different type of equine, very much younger with a much older handler - who is now physically less strong. Kirk would have been about 3 years old. He weighed about 380 kilos to my 80. I separated him from his family/herd for the vet to treat an abscess in his hoof. We had a helper to accompany us on the walk to a nearby yard for the vet visit. Once his foot was dressed we started back, without the helper. It was only a 8 minute walk. Stupidly, I put the lead line on the back ring of his Dually halter. I guess he heard his sister, Holy Moley, screaming & about half way back to their field he just spun round & round me till I fell in the road - then he took off at top speed. I found him about 10 minutes later, perfectly safe, standing on the other side of a big hedge from Holy Moley. I clipped the lead line to a schooling ring ( not getting caught out that way again ) & we started to go to the gate. We were in 'set aside', a strip at the edge of an arable field left to be wild for wild life. It was long & tangled & hard going for me on my short & not young legs. I guess Holy Moley was still stressing because all of a sudden Kirk tried to bolt off again. I lost my feet & fell on the lead line I still held in both hands. Kirk hit the end of it & got spun round in his own length. I looked up at him as he stared at me with the unmistakable expression of 'How the HELL did you do that'? Kirk is now 8 years old & he has NEVER, EVER tried to bolt off in a Dually since. 

I suggest that to regain your horses respect of the Dually & you, you need help. You need to two line work him from the ground & you need the help of a substantial extra human. Someone that when he acts out can use the Dually strongly but without violence. A really firm ' NO ' when he acts out - whether it's barging, bucking or whatever. I watched Monty being overwhelmed by a big horse, I think called Jack, spinning around him, yelling for Jim Goddard to come help & the horse being brought back under control, without violence by a younger, stronger handler. Monty is brilliant but age takes its toll & even when we're young we sometimes need a bit of help. The Dually needs to be used with unequivocal insistence when the horse goes into stupid mode. Your horse has taken stupid mode as normal - probably because someone else did something stupid that possibly involved a dog. How knows. What I know is the problem is temporary, with the right training. Good luck. Cheers, Jo.