Last updated: January 18, 2021
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Horses buck, and if you’ve ridden a few, the chances are that you’ve been thrown, I know I have, more times than I care to count. But do you know why horses buck?
Horses buck when energetic and playful, mad, annoyed, or in pain; they also kick up their heels to avoid work or situations they don’t like. If your horses’ bucking is not related to pain, you need to hone your riding skills, have patience, and be firm.
Many people shopping for a horse avoid ones that buck. But when you consider why they buck and how they can be fixed, maybe you will give one a chance.
Horses buck when they are energetic.
Pictured below is a thirteen-month Thoroughbred colt we just let in the pasture after spending the night in a stall. He ran, played, and kicked up his heels for a solid ten minutes.
I love watching young horses run around pastures and blowing off energy. They enjoy playing during chilly spring mornings. Running and bucking are a couple of ways they blow off energy and express themselves when they’re feeling good.
But it’s not only the young horses that buck when happy. Frequently when horses are freed from their stall, they dart into the pasture and buck. This display of liveliness emanates from pent up energy, excitement to see their friends, and sometimes high energy diets.
How do you curb energetic bucking?
Your first question should be, do I need to stop a horse running and kicking in a pasture. If it’s just adolescent behavior, then your answer should be no, let these youngsters have fun.
If you think your horse is stall kept and its energy level is too high when it’s released, and it’s a safety concern, then there’re steps you can take to reduce this behavior. The easiest thing to do is give your horse more turn-out time.
Horses are naturally free-range animals, and shouldn’t be kept in stalls for extended periods. They get depressed and anxious; time outside of a stall is healthy for horses.
If a horse is infrequently let out, they will get excited and bolt and buck. Horses should exercise regularly. Get on a routine and work your horse, this burns energy and takes some spunk out of it.
To bring your horse’s energy down, reduce its consumption of high energy sweet feed, and provide oats, and hay.
Horses buck when they are mad or annoyed.
Have you known horses that only bucked when ridden by specific riders? I have. My friend has a spirited palomino quarter horse he takes on trail rides. The horse has good feet for riding on a rough trail, doesn’t stumble, and rarely makes a bad step.
I thought it would be a good horse for me to ride, so I could let a novice rider take my gentle horse. I’ve been around the horse a good bit and never seen it buck.
I saddle the Palomino at the trailhead and mounted the horse, no sooner did my rear-end hit the saddle than the horse began to buck like a rodeo bronco. I stayed on, but it was quite a shock, everyone had a good laugh.
I rode the horse for the rest of the day and enjoyed every minute of the ride. His owner forgot to warn me that his horse always likes to test a new rider. But this isn’t uncommon. Horses become irritated with riders and will buck.
I find well-trained horses are easily annoyed. Especially ones that haven’t been ridden by many different people. I have another friend that rodeos on a dun mare.
It’s one of the best horses I’ve been around, but with an inexperienced rider, she will buck. His mare responds with the slightest leg pressure; novice riders are not familiar with the different ques used to direct a horse and often send mixed signals that horses find frustrating.
Some horses, when they get frustrated, will buck and guess what they get for their bad behavior, no more inexperienced riders, at least for the rest of this day.
How do you fix bucking in a frustrated horse?
To prevent a horse that gets easily frustrated with its rider, its best to work on your riding skills first. Learn to ride using ques, and find out how the horse is trained, try to learn as much as you can from the previous owner or trainer.
In the case of my friend’s dun mare, you wouldn’t want to adjust his horse; she was finely tuned. You have to change the rider to keep the mare from bucking. Under the hand of a skilled rider, she is terrific.
Horses buck when they’re in pain.
In the previous examples, it wasn’t unusual for those horses to situationally buck. But what if you have a horse that starts to buck and it’s entirely outside his normal personality.
In these situations, the culprit is typically pain. We had a horse that was often ridden by the children; he was an older gelding we rode for years. During the time we owned him, he never bucked with a rider.
One day the kids saddled him and some other horses and headed towards the pasture before they made it to the gate the old gelding showed his spirit and started bucking.
I immediately ran outside and removed the child and started looking for what could have caused him to buck. We took his saddle off and checked his back, the girth and the saddle pad, then we removed his bit and noticed his teeth were inflamed.
Do you know why bronc riding horses at rodeo’s always come out of the shoot bucking? It’s because they’re in pain. A flank strap is tightened around the horse’s abdomen right before the gate is opened, and the horse comes out, throwing its body around to stop the torment.
If your horse starts bucking for no apparent reason, check for pain sources. Something is hurting your horse, spend a little extra time, and deeply investigate and you will likely find the problem.
How do you fix a horse that’s bucking because of pain?
Once the cause of the pain is removed, your horse won’t buck. That’s a pretty obvious answer, but you have to know where to look. The best place to start is with the saddle.
Before removing the saddle check it, make sure it was put on correctly, if not take this opportunity to teach the person who saddled the horse proper saddling methods and procedures.
Next, check the horses back for soreness or injury. Check your horse’s mouth and the placement of the bit. These areas are likely to be where you will find the source of pain. However, if you don’t notice anything continue investigating, and if you can’t figure out the problem, call in a veterinarian to check your horse.
Horses buck when they want to avoid unpleasant situations.
Your horse learned he can prevent something it doesn’t like to do by resisting. If your not an experienced horseman, you should get someone with experience to work with you and your horse to stop this type of behavior.
This type of bucking is terrible, and it’s learned, so the horse must be trained out of it. If a horse is saddled and mounted then bucks off its rider, and you unsaddle the horse and turn him out, he believes bucking is what he needs to do to get his way.
Unsaddling the horse after bucking is no different than giving a child candy when it throws a crying fit. Do you think the child will cry each time it wants candy? Your horse has learned lousy behavior is rewarded.
How do you fix a horse that’s bucking because they want to avoid something?
Horses are individuals, but there are some fundamental truths. Don’t reward lousy behavior by letting your horse get away with unacceptable actions.
To fix the behavioral problem takes time, he didn’t learn it overnight, and it won’t be unlearned overnight. You’ll have to be firm and work through the issues regularly.
Stay in control when riding your horse and pay attention to the movement he makes right before he bucks. Once you recognize his signal, you can take action to prevent his bucking.
You can try to straighten him, turn him, or stand him still. Staying in control is a good practice for you and your horse. The main thing to understand is there is no quick fix.
We once had a horse that bucked infrequently, but each time he did, we worked him a little harder on those days. Before long, he stopped bucking completely.
When he worked well and didn’t buck, his time under saddle was shorter. He related good behavior with a reward. You have to be flexible and try different things, and there is no one size fits all when training or retraining horses.
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Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
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