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Why Do Horses Buck and How to Stop Them

Why Do Horses Buck and How to Stop Them

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Bucking is a common problem that all horse riders have to deal with at some point. When a horse bucks, it lowers its head, rounds its back, and kicks its rear legs up into the air.

There are many reasons why horses may buck, which often makes it difficult to identify the root of the problem.

Horses can buck due to excitement, pain, or as an attempt to release pressure and unseat their rider. It is therefore important to rule out any potential medical issues before declaring bucking a behavioral problem.

It can be extremely frustrating when a horse suddenly starts bucking out of nowhere, putting both the rider and surrounding people at risk. However, with a systematic approach and lots of patience and determination, most bucking issues can be corrected.

10 Reasons Why Horses Buck

Trying to figure out why a horse bucks under saddle can be like searching for a needle in the haystack. To give you some pointers, here are the most common reasons why horses buck:

  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Issues in the legs or hooves
  • Back problems
  • Ill-fitting tack
  • Overtight girth
  • Unskilled riding
  • Excitement
  • Built-up energy
  • Recent backing
  • Lack of respect for the rider

If a well-trained horse with good manners starts bucking one day to the next, it’s most likely because of physical pain. This is the most common reason why a horse doesn’t like being ridden.

To get a full picture of what’s going on, make an appointment with your vet, farrier, physio and massage therapist as well as saddle fitter.

How to Stop a Horse Bucking

Let’s say there is nothing physically wrong with your horse and all tack fits. To find out what’s causing him to buck and how to stop it, you need to look into your own training routine and riding technique next.

To stop a horse bucking, make sure he is fully warmed up for the ride and has released any excess energy. In the saddle, keep a steady contact and look out for signs of an imminent buck. Transitions, circles, and keeping your horse’s mind busy are all effective ways of preventing bucks.

When it comes to bucking horses, being proactive rather than reactive can make all the difference. If your horse is known to buck, it’s a good tactic to lunge him in all three gaits before climbing in the saddle.

Lunging is not only a great way to warm your horse up, it also gives him the chance to release any excess energy. The longer you work your horse from the ground, the less energy he will have left for bucks.

Horse preparing to buck

If you have been riding on your own for a while, it’s also possible you’ve developed some habits that make your horse buck.

While many of us think of ourselves as competent riders, it’s good to have a friend or instructor examine our riding from time to see if we’re making riding mistakes.

Also read: Is Horse Riding Cruel?

If Things Get Out of Hand

You’ve ruled out a physical problem, asked friends and instructors for help, but still can’t get your horse to stop bucking. At this point, you have arrived at a crossroads. You either keep tolerating the problem and working with your horse, or hire a professional trainer.

If hiring a professional trainer is within your budget, you have a few options regarding how to proceed. You can look for a reputable trainer in your area who will come and work with your horse on a weekly basis. Or, you can board your horse at a training facility until he is ready to come back to you.

Why Do Horses Buck When Asked to Canter?

Bucking often happens when the horse is transitioning into canter. This can be especially off-putting for less experienced riders, who might become reluctant to canter at all because of what happens next.

Some horses buck when asked to canter as it’s a transition into a higher gait with higher energy levels. This can get the horse too excited and throwing bucks to channel their bursting energy.

Horses can also buck during canter transitions if they are unbalanced or not fit enough to maintain the canter. In this case, bucking is a sign of frustration and shows that the horse is not comfortable performing the task.

To stop a horse bucking at the canter, give them a good workout on the lunge before you ride. This will take away some of their surplus energy and they will be less motivated to buck as a result.

Woman riding a horse on a beach

Many horses have balance issues when cantering on a bend and are usually worse on one rein than the other. With these horses, it might be useful to practice canter on a straight line to build up their balance and fitness. Mastering canter on a lunge without a rider is also a great first step towards solving the issue.

How to Stay on a Bucking Horse

Unless you know your horse really well, bucking will likely take you by surprise. And so, it doesn’t hurt to read up on some tips on how to stay on a bucking horse.

First of all, it’s crucial that you sit deep in the saddle with your weight in your heels. Avoid leaning forward, as this will only make it easier for your horse to buck you off.

If you can feel a buck coming, you can try to get ahead of it by picking your horse’s head up and riding him forward. It’s very hard for a horse to buck without his head down, as he needs to bring his center of gravity forward to lift his hind legs off the ground.

It’s also important not to put oil on the fire and wind up your horse further by getting mad. Keep your cool and give your horse clear but firm aids to shift him out of bucking mode.

And finally, do everything you can to stay on the horse as long as it’s safe to do so. Assuming it’s a behavioral problem, your horse will only buck harder the more he succeeds in unseating you.

With that being said, never let yourself be pressured into riding a bucking horse and get professional help if you feel unsafe.