What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Bolting Under Saddle


Bolting while under saddle is usually a training problem but can be caused by musculoskeletal pain, dental conditions, and problems with saddle and bridle fit, among many others.

Horses that run through the bit have not been trained to properly yield to pressure by the bit. While fear or spooking may be the presumed cause for the behavior, it is only the stimulus for a spook. Trained horses should still yield to modest rein pressure and be able to be brought to a stop.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.
    • Some vets have valuable advice regarding behavioral and training issues.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • Some vets have valuable advice regarding behavioral and training issues.
You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the back and mouth and areas under the tack. Look for hair loss, swelling and pain to pressure. Assess bit, bridle and saddle fit. Seek help with an assessment of your tack and its fit. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not resort to mechanical gimmicks to try to stop your horse. This is not the answer.

Do not resort to drugs to treat this problem. This too is not the answer.

your vet's role

Your vet will try to rule out physical issues. Once your vet has ruled out a physical problem, the horse's training and the rider's riding needs to be examined.

In my experience, horses that have no respect for pressure from the bridle ideally should be restarted from the ground, and re-taught the basics of yielding to pressure. The rider may need to seek help from a qualified trainer to regain confidence that they are giving the correct cues.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this behavior?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Have you examined the horse's back and girth and checked saddle fit?
  • Do saddle fit, girth and tack look OK?
  • Do you notice swelling in the back or anything else that suggests back problems?
  • Do you notice pain to pressure applied to muscles along the back?
  • Have you changed tack or type or degree of work lately?
  • Has your horse had a dental exam performed by a vet or dental tech working with a vet?
  • Have you examined the girth area carefully?
  • Have you changed tack or technique?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP