Young Rider

Slow Down, Speedy!

Get back in control of your horse or pony

Is your horse a speed demon? When you ask her to move up a gear, does she move up three? While galloping along at 100 miles per hour might be appropriate in the Kentucky Derby, it’s not suitable behavior on a trail ride. Sure, it’s fun to have a canter or two out on the trail. And maybe even a short gallop—if you’re in total control of your horse.

Let’s look at some reasons why a horse may bolt.

l Fright
l Pain from badly-fitting tack or poor riding
l High spirits
l Too much high-energy food
l Too much galloping and tearing around at top speed
l Always running in the same place

Stay calm

If you ride a speedy horse, try to stay calm. If you get nervous, she’ll sense it and she’s more likely to misbehave. Keep your hands soft. Don’t pull on your horse’s mouth constantly. Encourage her to relax and stretch out her neck.You may have to change the bit you use if your horse is very strong. Ask a trainer for advice. If you use a snaffle in the arena, you may need a Kimberwick out on the trail.

If your horse evades the bit by putting up her head, you may have to put a standing martingale or a tie down on her. They put pressure on her nose and tell her to put her head down.

Don’t pull against your pony

If your horse runs off with you, don’t lean forward. Leaning forward tells your horse to go faster. You’ve taken your weight off her back, making it easier for her to speed up. Don’t hold on to the reins tightly. Your horse will just pull harder against you, and you’ll never slow her down. And take a deep breath and try to relax. If you’re tense, you’ll grip with your knees and this tips you forward even more. If your horse stumbles, you’ll eat dirt!

Control Tip #1
If a horse in your group bolts, turn your horse and begin   walking the other way. Don’t let your horse run off too. It can get really dangerous if the horses start racing each other.

Control Tip #2
If a horse wants to run, put her behind or next to a quiet horse and stick to the walk.

Get back in control
Sit back down in the deepest part of the saddle. Push both of your seatbones down and sit up as straight. Stop gripping with your knees. Move them away from the saddle flap, and push your heels down so you’re not tipping forward. Use half halts to slow her down. Here’s how you do a half halt. Keep your legs on your horse’s sides, but give a firm tug on the reins, then loosen them again. If she doesn’t slow down, use another firm tug, and then another and another. Don’t just pull against your horse. She’s stronger than you and can pull harder! As you canter along, do half halts to steady your horse and slow her down whenever you feel her speeding up.

Emergency action

If you’re in a real runaway situation, pulling back on both reins probably won’t help. Grab a piece of mane with one hand, and use the other hand to give short, sharp tugs on one rein until she slows down. If you still can’t stop your horse—CIRCLE! A horse can’t gallop flat out on a circle. If you’re in a field and have the space, shorten your reins and use one one rein to steer your horse into a circle. Make the circle smaller and smaller until she finally stops. Once you’re back in control, stick to the walk until your horse calms down.

Control Tip #3
Stop in a place with some space and let the person riding the runaway work his horse for a while to get rid of excess energy.

Thanks to Jock Gurnee and Rosie and the gang at Bittergreen Farm for their help!


Young Rider

Young Rider

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