My horse bucks, kicks at me, and bolts on the lunge line

This topic contains 4 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Erin Dever 6 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • erin_dever Original Poster
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 0

    I got my horse off the track in June of 2018, he’s a 5 year old 15 hand thoroughbred. He’s had some bad behavioral issues that i’ve been working through with good progress. The one thing that i can’t seem to figure out is his lunging issues. Anytime i lunge him he will start bucking like crazy and bolting on the lunge line. He doesn’t try to kick at me all the time but sometimes he turns his butt towards me and bucks a lot. This is negative behavior i do not want him to think is allowed but he is absolutely terrified of whips and otherwise it’s hard to correct him. I have tried using training aids like surcingles and have had no luck. He still bucks and bolts on the line but it’s just easier to keep myself safe and turn his butt away from me. Lately i just use a halter and lunge line as to not scare him with the whip. Please help!! I’m lost and don’t need know what to do.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    Hi Erin, I had a 4 year old ottb who did the same thing a lot. First I have a few question, have you had him vet checked does his legs pop or make cracking sounds? If so them it could be his stifle locking and he could be kicking our to release it I have a horse now that kicks out when in trot or canter because of his stifle. It also could just be behavioral, I would recommend trying to lunge him in a pen not on a line and use treats when he does what you want. Also try desensitizeing him to whips because they can be a very helpful tool when used correctly ie, an extension of your arm. Does he do this under saddle when being ridden? When you lunge his is he under saddle or bareback? It could be a saddle pinch. If he doesn’t buck or kick out when your on him them I’d say it’s fine if he bucks and plays around when lunging as long as he is not kicks at you. You want him to get all that out before you get on him. Hope this helps good luck!

    neiner neiner
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 13

    Hi Erin,
    I don’t have a ton of experience with OTTBs specifically, BUT two years ago I rescued an OTTB with similar behavioral issues. He was absolutely terrified of everything and had been allowed to get away with “bad behavior”, let’s call it, since he is big (16.3) and because, as a racehorse, there’s little consistency when it comes to groundwork. Reading your post is like reading my own–same problems. I’ve always found that less is more, so is there some reason why you need a whip (sorry if I’m misunderstanding, but you seem focused on it) or other “training aids”? I’ve only ever had to whip out a lunge whip (excuse the pun) on two (absolutely braindead) horses in the 20+ years I’ve been handling them. Do you have access to a roundpen? I much prefer the horse to be naked and untethered to me…it cuts out any confusion.
    If you can’t get him into a roundpen, start at the beginning. Halter, lead rope, that’s it, and treat him like he’s never been handled. Forward, back, move the front and rear away independently, etc etc. Keep it low-threat. Use the end of the rope if you need it to make your cues clearer (for some reason, a rope was the only thing I could swing at my OTTB’s rear end that he wouldn’t lose his crap over). Once he’s mastered that, have him start making half-circles around you at the walk, still just on the lead. Eventually he will realize that all you want is for him to make circles around you. If he’s losing his mind because he has energy to burn, burn it. If he’s on grain, see if you can take him off it or give him something less sugary. Ride him before groundwork maybe (I know, backwards, but if it’s the safest way for him to burn energy, might be worth a try)? (Also may be good if he understands cues under saddle that he doesn’t understand on the ground. I used to spend hours backing my horse under saddle, hopping off, backing him on the ground, and repeating.) Is he turned out 24/7? My OTTB won’t sleep indoors, and he gets cranky and tired if he’s locked in his stall all night, so is he sleeping (getting REM)?
    Worst case scenario, put him on the end of your lunge line and let him throw his fit. The second he stops, stop and take him back to the barn. Next time, wait until he stops and gives you a few strides forward, then end the session there. And so on.
    If I’m telling you anything you already know, I apologize, but hopefully something in there helps. If you’re already doing all of those things, he may just need time to realize he doesn’t have to protect himself 24/7. Mine took a full year to realize that he was safe and that I wouldn’t punish him for being confused.
    Good luck!

    "Gentle in what you do; firm in how you do it." -Buck Brannaman

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I would recommend applying the Trust Technique to calm the animal’s mind so that he can learn easily. Check it out here:

    Erin Dever
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    Thank you for your advice. I am not focused on the whip or training aids rather than I am not sure how to communicate to him that kicking at me is unacceptable without giving him a quick tap on the butt with the whip. I tend to not do this even if it is obvious he’s trying to kick me just because it makes things much worse. If i try to correct him with a whip ( dressage whip or lunging whip) he will gallop around the round pen while bucking and kicking like crazy. I do sometimes put him in the round pen without a lunge line on just so he can get his bucks out, however every time I do this he can run around me and kick and i have no control over him to protect myself from his bucks. I find that when i do this it’s just putting myself in an unsafe situation. He is not on any grain or high sugar feed, just dried beet pulp so I can mix in his supplements. I do not ride him under saddle frequently only because I do not have a saddle of my own. I will be getting one in the next month, so I plan to ride him more frequently. I ride him in a bareback pad and even then he will kick out and throw his head around, especially if i put any leg pressure on his belly. My vet has seen him and she believes he is just thin skinned and very sensitive ( he despeises being groomed). I’m going to try to do more groundwork with him and take things from the beginning and see how that works.

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