Woof-Woof-Bolt. Barking dogs and bolting horses.

With all this Olympic fever, I’d almost forgotten about the “Ask the Expert” Q & A.

This time, Richard Thompson answers a question put to me by one of my pupils:

Q.  How to cope with your horse when riding out past some gardens and a dog rushes at the fence and scares your horse which leaps away in panic and tries to bolt.

How can the rider go about desensitising her horse to this kind of “attack” and how to cope with it when it happens.

(I was hoping that Richard wouldn’t suggest throwing the dog a bone to distract it! Thankfully, he didn’t :-)

Richard’s answer:

How do you cope with your horse when riding out past some gardens and a dog rushes at the fence and scares your horse which leaps away in panic and tries to bolt?

We must always consider the horse’s point of view first. They are a prey animal that is going to try to save its life at all times.

The most reassuring thing we can do is to direct its mind toward a safe place. That means we have to be very much in the here and now as we observe the environment we ride in.

We have to think like horse. As they study the path ahead of them they already have an idea where they will run to if a life threat is perceived.

We must make sure we are not in the way.

Pulling on both reins restricts the head so they can’t look around for the path to safety. They depend on their legs to take flight. If we try and make them stand we become part of the predator pack.

In this case, it seems that it is a predictable re-occurring situation.

Stay focused on the path to safety, allow the horse to give a wide berth to the fence near the dog, exhale, loosen the grip on the reins, some how show the horse you are aware of the dog but more intent on the path to safety.

If the situation and time allows, ride back and forth many times past the dog until the horse relaxes.

Good luck and please let us know how you resolve this.

Richard Thompson
Check out the Promo for Level 2 Horsemanship Video

Thank you Richard for your advice. If you have any questions for Richard, you can contact him directly at his website


Always wear appropriate safety items of clothing, gloves, shoes and head protection when handling or riding your horse. There is always some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Be sensible and stay within your level of training. This information illustrates the training methods and techniques I and my colleagues use. It is your responsibility to use it wisely. It is not intended to replace personal instruction from a professional instructor. Keep yourself and your horse out of trouble. If you wish to learn more about these methods contact us at: elizabeth@horsetrainingsolutions.com www.horsetrainingsolutions.com

Video/Skype  consultations are now available. Contact me for details.


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