Bucking. It’s one of those “loud” signs horses give us to tell us something isn’t working quite right.
I’m willing to bet if you are experiencing bucking and searching for a reason, that you:
Aren’t sure what caused the buck
Aren’t sure where the next buck will happen
Are worried that this behaviour might escalate to even more dangerous movement or cause you pain
And that’s if you managed to sit through the buck to start with.
Troubleshooting bucking is not easy but shouldn’t be ignored. If you are struggling with isolating the cause of the buck, I’m going to share my best advice so that you can get back on your horse with confidence, like the champion horsewoman you are!
What are the reasons your horse might buck?
Is there pain?
Saddle fit, teeth, ulcers - anything that is going to be causing discomfort to your horse, could result in bucking. It is such a minefield to navigate to the solution and can be difficult to troubleshoot.
That’s why at Equestrian Movement we help the struggling equestriansto work on consent work, which allows your horse to tell you during early stages and with less violent methods that they may be feeling discomfort. This can allow you to narrow down the likely area of discomfort, instead of spending months circling around the different possibilities and back again.
One example is the horse that has trauma associated with bit pressure. If we are doing their consent work, they wont consent the bridle. If we were to push this horse through, he may decide to buck when he feels bit pressure.
2. Have you considered your mounting process?
I once had a really big fall with a 16.3HH Warmblood that had problems with mounting. As I went to mount, one foot in the stirrup (the other foot hadn’t even swung over saddle yet), he would start broncing like a rodeo horse. That got me in a situation where I lost confidence mounting horses - especially unknown horses.
If your horse is bucking at or just after mounting, you need to really look at what is happening there.
So if your horse is bucking when you are mounting, make sure you are looking at these potential causes:
Your toe isn’t digginig or dragging into their ribs when you mount;
You have a good athletic spring when you go to mount, which if you lack, they need to tense their back to avoid us causing damage to their back due to us twisting the saddle.
You are not kicking them when you swing the leg over
You are sitting gently once you have swung your leg over.
Creating a good mounting technique where you have balance and control of your body, not pulling yourself up into the saddle and plonking yourself into the seat of the saddle, goes a long way to ensuring the soundness of your horses back as well as ensuring you don’t aggrevate your horse into needing to buck.
3. Is the musculoskeletal alignment “off”?
Quite often, when you are in the introductory stages of training your horse and you are trying to get them into a frame, if you are just asking for submission to the bit and creating lightness for the horse just tucking their nose behind the bit instead of elevating the forehand, what you are going to be doing is creating a musculoskeletal disalignment by creating posterior pelvic tilt (want to see what it looks like when a horse has posterior pelvic tilt that is interferring with the alignment and how that is an antagonising factor towards them bucking? Watch it here).
In particular, if you are seeing bucking after poles, jumps, or canter transitions, this is the likely cause. Anything where they go from a more flat movement like trot, to a movement with a more rounded movement, like the canter, where they have to use their whole back to actually give us a canter stride. Whereas in trot, they can be quite hollow and tight through their back, and we wont notice their back isn’t warmed up enough for those more rounded movements when they just tuck their nose behind the bit and twist their pelvis to provide you what we refer to as the false frame. A false frame doesn’t engage their musculoskeletal alignement or help develop their topline muscle to help them come up into a frame - they will be breaking away at the third vertebrae to give you flexion of their neck, instead of seeking the contact, working into your hands then coming up through the wither to come up into contact.
So we will see this translating into bucking under saddle especially when the horse needs to use their back to do what we ask.
If you think this might be the reason your horse is bucking and you want to stop being the struggling equestrian trying to figure out how to correct the muscluskeletal alignment issue, just reach out and ask us (this is why I ended up putting together the Self Carriage Program, which steps you through the foundations to the end point of the development of a natural frame, how to work them for soundness and to seek the contact, and the development of true musculoskeletal alignment and good posture).
4. Does your horse allow your on it’s back?
Here’s a fun one to consider - most struggling equestrians assume horses are built to accept riding, but do they really?
Have you ever seen a person being hugged by a less familiar acquintance? The tight bracing posture, the lack of connection, and overall lack of willingness to melt into the hug? The same can happen for our horses.
Of course, that means they brace their back, then we brace, then they get tighter, and all that tightness needs to unwind somewhere - i.e. the buck.
Working on emotional connection, communication, having a horse invite you onto their back (some signals they give include them squaring out and bracing their legs, then relaxing you into their back), and ensuring they are ready for the next ask, will impact your quality of riding as well as groundwork.
5. Is your horse coping with worry (or not coping with the worry)?
Your horse can develop worry. We ask something of them, they hold a little bit of tension. We ask something else, they hold some more. Soon, they reach a point where their “worry cup” is full, they no longer cope with the stress, and they can no longer control their behaviours because they can no longer control their emotions.
At Equestrian Movement, we work firstly from the principle of First Do No Harm, then secondly giving our horses the tools to empty their “worry cup”. We use tools that include building a relationship, communication, confidence and trust to help the develop mechanisms that empty that worry cup without having to resort to dangerous actions. We teach the struggling equestrian to identify when that worry cup is filling so they can support their horse through the more intense moments. (We put these skills first as groundwork that then translates under the saddle in our Trainabilty Program, and is also included in the higher tiered Self Carriage Program).
Has this helped you troubleshooting your bucking issue?
By all means, reach out to us directly by either commenting below or via email if you have any questions around why your horse is bucking.
If you suspect that the reason may be musculoskeletal, you can always pop on over to our latest free mini course, which takes you through the how and why we structure their training in a particular way to develop their topline and natural frame. Click the button below:
As an equestrian enthusiast and expert, I have a deep understanding of horse behavior and training. I have spent years studying and working with horses, gaining first-hand experience and knowledge in troubleshooting various issues, including bucking. I have successfully helped many riders overcome bucking problems and improve their relationship with their horses.
Understanding the Reasons for Bucking
Bucking is a clear sign that something is not working right for the horse. It is important to identify the underlying causes in order to address the issue effectively. Here are some common reasons why a horse might buck:
1. Pain and Discomfort: Physical discomfort can cause a horse to buck. Saddle fit, dental issues, and ulcers are some potential sources of pain. Identifying and addressing these discomforts is crucial in resolving the bucking problem. At Equestrian Movement, we focus on consent work, which allows the horse to communicate early signs of discomfort, helping to narrow down the source of the problem.
2. Mounting Process: The way you mount your horse can also contribute to bucking behavior. If your horse bucks when you mount, consider the following potential causes:
- Ensure that your toe is not digging or dragging into their ribs when you mount.
- Maintain a good athletic spring when mounting to avoid causing back damage to the horse.
- Be mindful of not kicking the horse when swinging your leg over.
- Sit gently in the saddle once you have mounted.
Developing a good mounting technique that emphasizes balance and control can prevent your horse from feeling the need to buck.
3. Musculoskeletal Alignment Issues: When training your horse, it is important to focus on proper musculoskeletal alignment. Asking for submission to the bit without elevating the forehand can lead to musculoskeletal misalignment, specifically posterior pelvic tilt. This misalignment can cause bucking, especially after activities like poles, jumps, or canter transitions. Ensuring that your horse is using its entire back correctly and developing a true frame can help prevent bucking.
4. Acceptance of Riding: Horses may not naturally accept being ridden. Just like humans, they can exhibit bracing behaviors and lack of connection. Building an emotional connection, improving communication, and ensuring that your horse invites you onto its back can greatly impact the quality of your riding and reduce the likelihood of bucking.
5. Coping with Worry: Horses, like humans, can develop worry and stress. If a horse's "worry cup" becomes full, they may no longer cope with the stress and exhibit undesirable behaviors, such as bucking. At Equestrian Movement, we prioritize building a relationship, communication, confidence, and trust to help horses empty their "worry cup" in a safe and controlled manner.
Conclusion and Further Assistance
I hope this information has provided you with valuable insights into troubleshooting bucking issues. If you have any specific questions or require further assistance, feel free to reach out to us directly through comments or email. Additionally, if you suspect that the bucking issue may be related to musculoskeletal problems, you can explore our free mini-course that explains the importance of training structure in developing a horse's topline and natural frame.