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How to Stop a Horse From Taking Off

By Jen Davis

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A horse that bolts to the barn, spooks or just up and leaves for whatever reason he sees fit isn't just unpleasant to ride. A bolting horse is a danger for both himself and others. If you want to stop your horse's bolting, you must determine the root cause of the behavior and work with a horse trainer to correct the behavior. Being able to stop your horse from running away is one thing; keeping him from bolting at all is the goal.

Step 1

Remain calm. A panicked rider only makes the bad behavior worse for everyone. The horse will feed off your fear and use it to justify his own behavior as he runs away.

Step 2

Circle your horse. Turn your horse in one direction or the other and make him travel in small, tight circles instead of running away. A circling horse will tire more quickly and will usually stop trying to run off within a handful of circles.

Step 3

Ride through it. You need to sit deep in your saddle and maintain a steady hand a leg contact throughout the entire process. When your horse is no longer trying to take off and has calmed down adequately, you need to resume riding him as if nothing has happened and go on with your training or activity.


  • 💡 Know what sets your horse off. Horses typically don't just take off running for no reason. If your horse is spooky and takes off in fear, work to desensitize him. If your horse is barn sour and tries to run home, work on correcting that.
  • 💡 Bolting is a dangerous habit; if you are not a highly experienced rider, you need to obtain the services of a professional trainer who deals with horses who take off unexpectedly while being ridden.


  • If you are unable to ride well enough to avoid accidentally gripping the horse with your legs or falling forward in the saddle, or if you can not provide a consistent turn or stop cue, you do not need to try to ride a horse that takes off unexpectedly.

Photo Credits

  • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images


Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.