I have a fourteen year old gelding that i purchased a few months back. He is very well behaved but i have a problem, when we go out riding he listens well but on the way back home he takes over and starts galloping and i can't stop him; i have no control what so ever. Can you please give me some advice on what i could do to fix this problem?
Many horses are obedient when they don't have strong feelings about what you're doing. But heading home is another matter. Home is a place of comfort and safety and most horses feel a strong desire to get there as quickly as possible. A good rider can keep this under control and might actually enjoy the extra life in the horse, the extra spring in his step, the extra willingness to move out. For the less experienced rider, this can easily turn into a terrifying and life-threatening experience. We need to get this under control immediately.
I will give you two suggestions, one that will help you regain control when this happens and one that will make it less likely to happen in the first place.
The instant your horse starts going faster than you want, do not pull on both reins. Pull on one rein only to bend the horse’s head as far to one side as you can. Try to bring his nose to the toe of your boot. This will cause the horse to go around in a circle and finally come to a stop. This is called a one-rein stop. Keep the horse’s nose on your boot until he stops moving his feet and relaxes completely. Then release the rein and praise the horse. Keep yourself as relaxed as possible through all of this. After giving him a minute or so, begin pulling his head first to one side, then the other, again trying to touch his nose to your boot. Hold each time until the horse “gives” or creates a little slack in the rein. This exercise is called lateral flexion. By doing these things you prove to the horse that you can control his movement and his straightness, and are thus worthy of his respect. Doing these things without hurting him or getting angry helps earn his trust.
When your horse is relaxed and quiet, you can resume your ride. He may do the same thing again. If so, repeat the one-rein stop and the lateral flexion. You may have to do this several times before your horse realizes that speeding up only makes more work for him.
It’s important to understand that the one-rein stop is not a foolproof emergency brake. But for most riders, it’s the best option available. It works better if you practice it ahead of time in a controlled setting, such as an arena. Ask the horse to move out and then bring him to a stop with one rein. Do this many times, at the walk, trot, and canter. Having practiced it ahead of time will make its use in an emergency much more effective.
As for preventing this from happening in the first place, I will give you a general strategy for any situation in which a horse is drawn to a particular place, whether it’s the barn, a gate, the trail back home, or other horses on a ride. The strategy is to make that place less appealing to the horse by allowing him to go there but making him work when he gets there. By work I mean trotting circles and figure eights, doing lots of rollbacks, and plenty of backing. These exercises use a horse’s energy and air supply. Some horses are just lazy and don’t like to work, but all horses become concerned when they start getting winded. When the horse is huffing and puffing, take him away from the barn (or gate or other horses) and allow him to rest. Do this a few times, increasing the distance and finally just continue with your ride at a nice, slow pace. so it is genuine relief for him to be away from the place he thought he wanted to be. If you do this a few times, he will soon lose his fixation on being elsewhere because it always means more work for him.
Another little tip: try not to feed your horse or unsaddle him immediately upon getting back to the barn. Loosen his cinch and let him stand tied for a minimum of 15 minutes. An hour is even better. When the horse knows all these good things are going to happen as soon as he gets back to the barn, it’s harder to keep his mind on you. By the way, drinking is another matter. Allow your horse to drink at every opportunity. It’s very important that he not become dehydrated.
Final thought: there is nothing wrong with your gelding. He is just being a horse. These tips will help, but as you become a better leader to your horse, these kinds of things seem to disappear on your own. Every horse is happy to be a follower if he gets the right leader. You will become a better leader as you continue on your journey.