How do I deal with a horse that has learned to bolt through my hands on the lounge line? Jac Review Week

“Stacy-How do I deal with a horse that has learned to bolt through my hands on the lounge line?”-Stephanie P.

Horses that pull away from the handler generally come in two categories;

  1. They don’t know any better and are impulsively just leaving
  2. They have learned they can get away with it

A horse that doesn’t know any better can quickly become a horse who learns to get away with it –  if they have a chance to practice.

The good news is that the ‘fix’ or answer to the problem is the same in both cases. Lets first look at the horse that doesn’t know any better. Jac in Episodes 2 and Episode 3 was a great example of this.

Jac didn’t know how to properly respond to the pressure on the rope and without the proper handling he could have quickly figured out the big secret; he is bigger and stronger than me. I say this is a ‘secret’ because horses really are bigger, but with proper training the horse doesn’t need to view us this way.

Whether you are training a green horse, like Jac, or working with an older ‘problem’ horse the key is to get the horse to ‘mentally’ connect with you. They are bigger and stronger, that is a fact. Instead of looking at how to physically over come this, it is important to look at how to mentally get the horse on your team.

The beauty of the Jac series is that you can watch multiple episodes to see how I achieved this connection.  There were physical things that I did. For example when Jac applied pressure by trying to leave in Episode 3, even pulling me out of the camera, I didn’t release until he slightly turned back to me. I was beginning to teach Jac the idea of disengaging his hip even if it doesn’t look like the traditional ‘tap on his hip’ method which I did later in Episode 8. I was confident in my ability to correctly time my release of pressure even when Jac was pulling on me. If you are less confident of this then I would recommend being inside a round pen. For a less experienced handler it is often easier to properly time the release of pressure when the horse stops pulling because he has reached the wall.

The key is getting the horse to view turning and facing you as a reward. Re-watch Episode 2-5 and specifically look for how I slightly annoyed Jac with gentle taps and released when he moves the direction I want. If I had applied large amounts of pressure I would have physically caused a bigger reaction and mentally I may have offended Jac.

Mentally they need to see that you are the leader and that you have something to offer. Most of the time, unless the horse is acting from pure fear, horses that will drag people tend have strong personalities. They require strong leaders who have a plan and who also have their interest in mind. A common mistake I see with these horses is a handler who becomes frustrated and then becomes the strong leader the horse needs. On the surface this works fine but often this becomes a game with the horse. Once the handler isn’t frustrated they slip back into being less of a leader and the horse slowly begins to take the role again…until the rider eventually ends up frustrated enough to step up again. These horses are often the toughest to work with not because they have a chronic problem but rather because they have become experts at manipulating people.

You will not be able to out pull a horse but if you can get him to mentally engage with you, you will not have to. Another great example of continuing to build this mental connection can be found in Episode 14 where I show the beginning of what is considered ‘liberty’ work or working without any attachment to the horse. Learning to control a horses movements when you have only body language to communicate is often eye opening for the human. Once you have learned how to read the horses body language and control the horses direction, speed and focus at liberty it will change the way you view your horse…and how your horse views you.



  1. Monica Huettl on July 18, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Stacy, this is your best, most important advice. When you get your horse’s respect on the ground like this, everything else you do will be easier and safer. This is a post to read and watch again and again.

  2. Shelley Massey on July 17, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Love your stuff, by the way!

  3. Shelley Massey on July 17, 2014 at 8:39 am

    I have an issue similar to this….I have a very gentle 5 year old (huge). Three times in three years he has very suddenly decided to leave—to his buddies–with me in tow. It is just when I am leading him–not lunging. Once they came loping past us and he wanted to go. Kept him focused on me for a short time and then GONE. He lets me catch him eagerly when I get to him. The other two times we went away from the others and he sprinted back to them. Generally he is supple and easy to bend—-loves the individual attention….

  4. SIMONE SCHULZ on July 17, 2014 at 3:26 am

    I post this on your chronic:jac always seems so soft and supple. My mare tends to tense up. It was through training after your dvds permeable and more compliant. By things that they will distract the horse tense quickly. This is noticeable especially in the canter. Is there any idea to make it faster return soft. She’s not nervous, I would rather say overzealous. Thank you Simone after this horseblog i would say i must build a stronger connection.In video 14
    you have say :This is not about the ball this is about me beeing able to control him.Can i build this stronger connection with groundwork when i´m using language that another horse would use? Thank´s for open eye´s!

  5. Lynn Turner on July 16, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I understand your reply and have done what you are suggesting before when he doesn’t rip the lunge line out of my hands that is!!! There is no way to release when he breaks away. He does it so quickly. I try to keep his head bent to inside to prevent this…Its usually when he’s fresh and hasn’t been worked for a while. Not sure what to do after they get loose…..Please advise Stacy. Have really enjoyed your Jack series and was at Congress when you And Roxie performed your saddleless, bridless win!!! That was so wonderful…..

  6. Rachael on July 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    My little mustang barrel mare runs away on the lunge. She is absolutely terrified of the whip. I have tried repeatedly to desensitize her and she will let me rub her all over. I have never hit her and only to try and get her to break over into a lope. She will lunge with just hand signals but refuses to lope. If i pick up the whip she ends up dragging me around the field. I have no issue in a round pen though since i free lunge her and terrified or not i get the desired result of a lope….once she slows from an all out run that is.
    She has a puppy dog personality of wanting to please so I cannot punish her for anything. She bucked when I first got her and after several times of stopping her.and telling her no, she started refusing to lope at all. I ended up having to ignore the problem and it went away.
    Considering her personality, i cannot urge her forward to lope I on the lunge with anything but hand signals without her being scared of me. I have had her for four years now and ignoring her problems on the.lunge line has not worked. I’ve given up on lunging her outside of the round pen. Since she’s a good barrel horse, I don’t feel any need to lunge her on a regular basis.

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