How to stop my 10 yr old daughters pony from putting his head between his legs & bolting off??

AmandaLouise

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Nov 21, 2018
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Looking for help please. We got my daughters pony in April, and in general he is a lovely pony. However we have taken him to a couple of hunter trials and he has put his head between his legs and tanked off with her. Not only has she not been able to stop him, but she has had no steering either. She is so scared that he might trip and rolls on top of her. This doesnt happen in the arena or in a fenced show cross. Teeth are fine, and saddle is fine. When this first happened he was in a vulcan pelham bit, so have put him in a Waterford and not worked him in open fields, until Monday when we went into a large familiar field and he did it again. This time we had a hill to turn him up to slow him down, however my daughter was scared and upset again.
I was wondering if there was any thing I could do to stop him from getting his head between his legs? Or any other techniques that might stop this behaviour.
ps, we do mounted games in a snaffle and he is totally fine!!
 

hepsibah

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You could consider a daisy rein. Simple stuff but would keep him from getting his head down. What sort of waterford are you using?

Alternatively, take him back into the field and gallop him up the hill then take him down and gallop him up again. Continue until he gets it out of his system. Then gallop him up a couple more times before having him ride nicely in the field the way it was originally planned.
 

Jessey

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Maybe tell us a bit about the pony? And how old is your daughter? Suggestions for a 5 or 15 year old might be quite different :)
 

Mary Poppins

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I wonder if this pony had a previous owner who liked to gallop fast? It sounds like learnt behaviour to me. My advice would be to get an adult, or a very competent child to try and school the pony out in the field. I don't think that it is a problem that can be solved overnight. If the pony has learnt that setting foot on grass means galloping at flat out speed, then the only way round this is to re-school.
 

AmandaLouise

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Maybe tell us a bit about the pony? And how old is your daughter? Suggestions for a 5 or 15 year old might be quite different :)
Thanks for your reply Jessey.
Pony is 13h Skewbald. 11 years old.
One previous owner who backed him for their 7 yr old daughter. (He hadn't had the best start in life up till that point)
She is now 14 and around 6ft tall (albeit super skinny)- hence her selling him. The mum told us that cross country is the ponys favourite thing, and her daughter previously hunted him in a pelham. He is stabled over night, in the field during the day. Due to the dark nights we have gone from riding him 5 times a week to probably 3. We are feeding him Baileys balancer, happy hoof and magic calmer.
My daughter is nearly 11, an active member of pony club and this is her 3rd pony. They attend most pony club rallys and she has a private lesson once or twice a month.
She had a few bad falls out hunting last year (on previous pony) which knocked her confidence, which is why we went for a 'push rather than pull' pony this time - which he has been up until now, and actually still is when show jumping (competent at 75cms) or pole/ground work. They have done pony club games competitively in open field scenarios, in a snaffle, and his behaviour is great. stopping, standing, cantering - all controlled.

Great hacking out alone, in company, on tracks and road, and normally ok in the fields. This taking off with her has only started since we went to a hunter trial around 3 months ago. He was ok & controlled when they were trotting round in between jumps, but as soon as she asked for canter he put he head between his legs and went flat out. He has done this twice more. The bolting in the field at home on Monday was a first and most unexpected.

Im worried that now he knows he can and knows she cant hold him that he will do it all the more.
 

AmandaLouise

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Nov 21, 2018
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You could consider a daisy rein. Simple stuff but would keep him from getting his head down. What sort of waterford are you using?

Alternatively, take him back into the field and gallop him up the hill then take him down and gallop him up again. Continue until he gets it out of his system. Then gallop him up a couple more times before having him ride nicely in the field the way it was originally planned.
Hi, yes I was looking at daisy reins on line yesterday. I was trying to find one that i could attach to the top of hid bridal at the poll, and run down his neck, and then split off to the D rings on the saddle, but I couldn't find anything like that. Maybe it doesn't exist!?

I will try the hill reps tactic and see if it works - thanks for the suggestion :)
 

AmandaLouise

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I wonder if this pony had a previous owner who liked to gallop fast? It sounds like learnt behaviour to me. My advice would be to get an adult, or a very competent child to try and school the pony out in the field. I don't think that it is a problem that can be solved overnight. If the pony has learnt that setting foot on grass means galloping at flat out speed, then the only way round this is to re-school.
I think the previous girl (14 yr old, 6ft & super skinny) probably did love to gallop round. She is much bigger than my daughter with legs that wrapped right round him!! But she wont have always been like that. They had him from her being 7 . They backed him, and have had him for 7 years. Only selling him to me after the daughter realised she really was too big for him!!
I think what is worrying me that in the 8 months that we have had him he has not done this before. In the late spring they did a full up 70cm cross country course as part of a pony club tetrathlon, and she got round the whole thing (it was very long) in trot and canter absolutely fine - Lots of ponies came home with out their rider that day!!
She normally hacks out regularly in fields with friends and alone, and this usually is in trot and canter - all fine!! This behaviour has literally just come out of nowhere :( I really want to nip it in the bud before it becomes a habit!!
 

AmandaLouise

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Nov 21, 2018
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You could consider a daisy rein. Simple stuff but would keep him from getting his head down. What sort of waterford are you using?

Alternatively, take him back into the field and gallop him up the hill then take him down and gallop him up again. Continue until he gets it out of his system. Then gallop him up a couple more times before having him ride nicely in the field the way it was originally planned.
Using a Full Cheek bit with Waterford mouth
 

Mary Poppins

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I'm not sure what you would hope to achieve by galloping the pony flat out for several laps of the field? Is the theory that you are trying to communicate to the pony that if they want to gallop, they will be made to gallop until they are absolutely exhausted? Is this supposed to teach the pony that if they start galloping, this will ultimately be an unpleasant experience for them? Or, is it that the pony will be tired after galloping and therefore safe for the child to ride? If this is the case, then someone will always have to gallop the pony before the child gets on?

To me, it sounds a very risky strategy to purposefully ask this pony to gallop, when it is the galloping that you want to stop in the first place!

If the behaviour has just started, I would get the normal checks done. Have his saddle, teeth and back looked at. Get the vet to give him an MOT to make sure there is no pain that he is running away from. If he gets a clean bill of health, I would get someone else to take him round a few XC courses and see how he behaves with them. This will tell you if it is the way your daughter is riding him that is the problem. If he has a very strong bit, perhaps she is holding on too tightly and pulling him in the mouth? Maybe she is leaning forward and therefore going into 'gallop' position so the pony thinks this is what is wanted?
 
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AmandaLouise

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I'm not sure what you would hope to achieve by galloping the pony flat out for several laps of the field? Is the theory that you are trying to communicate to the pony that if they want to gallop, they will be made to gallop until they are absolutely exhausted? Is this supposed to teach the pony that if they start galloping, this will ultimately be an unpleasant experience for them? Or, is it that the pony will be tired after galloping and therefore safe for the child to ride? If this is the case, then someone will always have to gallop the pony before the child gets on?

To me, it sounds a very risky strategy to purposefully ask this pony to gallop, when it is the galloping that you want to stop in the first place!

If the behaviour has just started, I would get the normal checks done. Have his saddle, teeth and back looked at. Get the vet to give him an MOT to make sure there is no pain that he is running away from. If he gets a clean bill of health, I would get someone else to take him round a few XC courses and see how he behaves with them. This will tell you if it is the way your daughter is riding him that is the problem. If he has a very strong bit, perhaps she is holding on too tightly and pulling him in the mouth? Maybe she is leaning forward and therefore going into 'gallop' position so the pony thinks this is what is wanted?
Booked in to get his back looked at next week. Teeth done a few months ago, so should be ok. Saddle has been checked, and is a goof fit for him, however it is getting a bit small for my daughters leg length - maybe this is affecting her position in the saddle and has unknowingly put her into a 'gallop' position.
Having read what you have said about galloping up the hill, maybe best to avoid this as I dont want him thinking this is what we do on grass!!
Re the bit, she is always getting told that she rides with washing lines and to pick up the contact, so I dont think she pulls his mouth.
Thank you.
 

Jessey

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Pushing them through a learned get out of work tactic can be appropriate in some situations, or giving them a bit of a leg stretch if they have too much energy to concentrate can let them shake it off, though the inconsistency of it doesn't really suggest the latter.
Once the mot gives you the all clear perhaps a few schooling sessions in the trigger places might stop him taking off. Is it a true blind panic bolt or is he well aware and just taking control? You said teeth done a few months ago and also that this behaviour started a few months ago, was that around the same time? Might be worth getting teeth double checked if it was, sometimes something can be missed. It's worth checking the mouthpiece of the bit too, especially if it's not metal, for any drinks or sharp bits or if the cheeks have worn making them loose enough to pinch the lip against the mouthpiece.
The daisy rain you describe does exist, not sure if they have a different name maybe?
 
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Mary Poppins

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Booked in to get his back looked at next week. Teeth done a few months ago, so should be ok. Saddle has been checked, and is a goof fit for him, however it is getting a bit small for my daughters leg length - maybe this is affecting her position in the saddle and has unknowingly put her into a 'gallop' position.
Having read what you have said about galloping up the hill, maybe best to avoid this as I dont want him thinking this is what we do on grass!!
Re the bit, she is always getting told that she rides with washing lines and to pick up the contact, so I dont think she pulls his mouth.
Thank you.
When I was a kid, most ponies were naughty with me. This is because unless I trusted the pony 100%, I would get nervous and think that they were going to misbehave. When I got nervous, I would lean forward and shorten my reins. My tension alone could send the most sane, bombproof horse into a frenzy. If a confident child got on the same pony and sat up and relaxed, the pony would be an angel. I'm not saying this is the case with your daughter, but it is something to think about. Does the pony think she wants him to gallop?

Also, look at the differences in the workload that your pony is doing now compared to his previous home. Was he out and about every weekend in his old home? Did he hunt on a very regular basis? If so, perhaps your pony is having problems adapting to a different workload and his galloping is down to sheer exuberance and excitement? Perhaps someone (not necessarily your daughter) could take him out more often so it isn't so much of a big deal when he gets into a big open space? You say that you stopped riding him in open fields, so maybe now when his feet touch the grass he thinks "finally I can go" and gets very full of himself. Schooling is the answer here, and letting him have a good gallop, but only when his rider allows it.

I think that it must be hard for a pony who has only had one rider for 7 years to suddenly adapt to another. It is very common for ponies to change behaviour after a few months into ownership. I don't think that there is any quick fix for this, just thinking through lots of different options and deciding which one to try first!
 
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chunky monkey

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Sometimes my old horse would put his head down and then gallop. It was usually done when I took him for a ride in my field, and was sheer excitement. He knew where the gate was so would want to gallop towards it. If you turned him and asked him to canter away from the gate he would be fine.
I would make sure that your daughter doesn't always canter in a particular place in an open space. Also practice plenty of transitions in the open spaces.
Ive been silly with my youngster letting him canter up a field from the bottom to the top. Because thats what we all love to do in an open field. Always in the same place. It was fine to start with, but now it's turning dangerous. He gets on his toes as we approach the canter stretch, getting so excited and does mini rears till let him canter then he flies up the hill. The other day he got very upset with me as i am now trying to reschool him. Realising that I've caused this problem myself. He tried the rear, didn't work, so he started stamping his feet. I just sat it out till he stood quietly. Then I made him walk the whole length of the field at walk. I will have to keep doing this till I get washing line reins. Then once he gets that I will introduce trot to walk transitions etc.
I equate the head down, gallop, to my youngsters on his toes mini rears let's go mum. There maybe nothing wrong, but without realising it your daughter may have caused the horse to show excitement by sticking his head down.
 
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