Ask Polo - Article 2
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   15th Oct 2012   •   4,312 views   •   1 comments
Ask Polo - Article 2‘Ask Polo’ is a series of articles in which I will be addressing equine problems mentioned by players, and giving suggestions to assist in solving their problems.

Today’s problem was posed by Ponybox player ‘Kaori’.

Name of Horse: Paddy
Gender of Horse: Gelding
Age of Horse: 6
Discipline: No specific discipline.
Number of Years in Training: A year of basic training, recently started more advanced training.
Veterinary Issues: No known issues.

Detailed Description of Problem:
“Bolting when I get on. He's as good as gold on the ground, but when I mount, he bombs off before I've had the chance to get my stirrups or tighten my girth. This morning, my saddle slipped and I fell off, because he didn't give me time to adjust it, so it's getting dangerous. He settles a bit after a very tight circle, but it takes him almost ten minutes for him to settle down enough for me to get him to do anything. He is so close to perfect once he's gotten past that ten minutes, but those ten minutes are causes a lot of problems, and as he's young, I don't want it to become a habit.”

Ask Polo - Article 2

Steps Taken in Solving Problem:
“We've had his saddle checked, and it seems fine, but we're having it double checked by someone else just to be on the safe side. The vet looked at his back yesterday and said it was fine, so we know it's most likely a behavioral problem. Having someone hold him whilst I get on seems to work, but it's very, very rare that I can get someone to do that, as neither of my parents can be bothered to come down the stables, and all the liveries who I get along with have gone home by the time I'm riding. If I face him towards the arena gate, he stands still for me to get on, and gives me a second longer, but then he turns suddenly and gallops off with me.”

Duration of Problem:
I've only had him for just over a week, so since we got him really.

Other Important Information:
He likes moving... if you ask for a halt (after his funny ten minutes) he will stop for a few seconds, but he will just try and canter. So he's very forward going and likes to be doing something 24/7.

In my opinion, Paddy’s problem is less of a behavioral issue and more of a training issue. At six years old and with only a year or so of training, problems often arise in horses – especially geldings – because they get quite ‘set in their ways’ once they’re past the ideal initial training age of 3 – 4 years.

Since I don’t know Paddy’s history I can only guess, but it sounds to me like somebody did a poor job of initially backing him, and since he is an older horse to be undergoing basic training, it will be more difficult to correctly retrain him at this stage.

The way you've described this problem, it sounds quite serious, so to correctly fix it, I suggest you go right back to basics. The problem is that Paddy’s foundation is incorrect, so you have to essentially ‘reback’ your horse. Always keep Paddy very calm when you’re working with him on the ground, and make sure he respects you. Try making him back away from you, step sideways on command, walk over poles, etc. Just make sure his obedience on the ground is absolute.

Next, you want to lunge him in his tack. Get him used to moving in the saddle without a rider on his back, and get him accustomed to coming back when you tell him to.

When it comes to mounting him, make it a slow and gentle process. Horses will only bolt for two key reasons: pain, and fear. In Paddy’s case, judging by what you've told me, I would say it is the latter, and this makes perfect sense. Try to think about mounting from his point of view:

Ask Polo - Article 2

We, as humans, are natural predators, and horses are natural prey. They should instinctively want to run from us, especially when we’re jumping onto their backs like predators trying to snap their spines.

Thus, you have to instill in Paddy the fact that you are his friend and leader. He has to trust you to look after him, then he will come to accept and even enjoy having you on his back. Slowly start to back him all over again. Lean over the saddle, talk to him, pat him and fuss over him. Try lifting yourself onto his back and holding yourself there, and if he ever tries to take a step forward, say a firm “No” and instantly back him up, then make him stand again. Never try to mount if he is not standing perfectly still and relaxed. Keep doing this until he gets used to you clowning around on his back, and him standing still. Then you should start mounting him completely. When you’re fully on his back, make him stand; it’s that simple. Every time he tries to move, just keep asking him to halt. Don’t try to ‘ride’ until he has stood for as long as you have asked him to. You have to be consistent in this training, he must ALWAYS stand still when asked. You can’t let him walk off even once, and think ‘oh, it’s fine, I’ll just start riding’. He must stand EVERY time!

Here are a few key factors to keep in mind when mounting:

1. Always mount somewhere where Paddy feels comfortable. You want to make sure he feels as safe as possible, so he does not feel inclined to bolt.

2. Make sure you always check your tack thoroughly before mounting, in case he does bolt.

3. Talk to him to keep him relaxed. Stroke his neck soothingly, and just make sure that he is feeling completely relaxed before you try to mount.

4. NEVER physically punish him for bolting! The worst thing you can do to train a frightened horse is to ‘attack’ them. If he misbehaves, just calmly tell him ‘no’, and make him halt, rein back, then stand dead still for at least five seconds. Every time he moves, the five seconds starts again. If this takes half an hour to achieve, so be it. You have to be patient to achieve the correct results.

With patience and correct handling, I’m sure Paddy will gain proper experience and outgrow this habit. You just have to make sure you do everything you can to help him learn.

-Polo the Weirdo

(To pose a problem for ‘Ask Polo’, please visit this thread:
Horse News More In This Category:  Horse Training      Horse News More From This Author:  Polo the Weirdo
Thank you so much! I'll try this out and let you know how it goes :D
  Oct 16, 2012  •  3,957 views
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