Why Does My Horse Buck: Complete Guide (2024)

When you’re dealing with a horse that tends to buck every now and then, it can be disheartening. It may feel as if there is no way to correct the situation; it’s a potentially dangerous situation for the rider when the horse has made up its mind to start bucking. However, if you know some of the reasons why horses buck, you can evaluate your horse to get to the root of the problem.

Why does my horse buck? Here are some of the reasons why your horse may be bucking:

  • Your horse is dealing with pain in its body
  • The saddle is ill-fitted
  • The horse has excess energy to burn
  • The horse is reverting to a defense mechanism
  • Your horse is protesting out of bad behavior

When you can understand why your horse is bucking, it will be easier to fix the problem. Sometimes, this behavior can be fixed by a simple change like using a different saddle, but other times it may take a little more work. In this article, we’ll discuss why the horse is bucking and how you can correct it depending on the reason for the behavior.

If Your Horse is Bucking Due to Pain in the Body:

Why is the Horse Bucking:

When horses exhibit a certain behavior, it’s always important to see if there is a medical reason for them to act in such a way before you try and correct the problem on your own. Horses can’t speak and tell us what the problem is, so they have to communicate in a different way. Unfortunately, if they are suffering from pain, the way they may demonstrate that is by bucking.

Before you automatically assume that the horse is just bucking out of stubbornness, check to see if there is a medical problem. The first place I would check is the horse’s back; remove your saddle and apply direct steady pressure from their withers to the dock of their tail. Look to see if your horse flinches or shrinks back when touched in a certain area.

If a horse is bucking due to a medical issue, it will usually have to deal with the horse’s back. If your horse doesn’t exhibit any signs of medical issues but the behavior continues, it’s always wise to get the horse reviewed by a vet.

How to Correct It:

When it comes to correcting a medical issue that is causing your horse to buck, the first thing you should do is consult a veterinarian. A veterinarian can give you detailed information about your horse’s condition, how you can help them, and whether or not you should even be riding.

Some alternative methods to consider would be equine chiropractic work or equine massage. Horses may feel pain due to misalignment in their skeletal structure or due to an injured muscle. Both of these types of equine bodywork can help restore the body part’s function and ability.

Some horses suffer from being “cold-backed,” where the muscles in their back tighten up. To help a horse with this issue, a good warm-up on the ground via lunging can help tremendously when it comes to warming those muscles up to prepare for the ride.

If Your Horse is Bucking Due to an Ill-Fitted Saddle:

Why is the Horse Bucking:

Horses come in all different shapes and sizes, lengths and widths; because of this, each horse has specific saddle measurements that must be catered to as you try and find them a saddle. If your saddle is ill-fitted to your horse, it could apply uncomfortable pressure to certain areas of your horse’s back, which may cause your horse to buck.

The areas of your horse’s back that are commonly pinched by an ill-fitting saddle are the areas right behind the shoulder blade, the top of the withers where the saddle could rub if it’s too small, and the muscles along the spine where the panels of the saddle sit (right under the seat of the saddle.)

Originally, saddles were created to fit the horse in a specific way that would sit just right on the horse. That means if you use an ill-fitted saddle, the pressure will be applied to areas of the horse’s body that aren’t necessarily used to it. This can not only cause pain and discomfort, but it can also cause long-term muscle soreness in your horse as well.

How to Correct It:

The best and most obvious way to correct a horse bucking from an ill-fitted saddle is by investing in a saddle that accurately fits your horse. To learn how to measure your horse for a horse saddle, check out our article Measuring a Horse Saddle: Everything You Need to Know.

There are professional saddle fitters who work for tack companies that can come out and measure your horse for the perfect saddle. If that’s not in your budget and you’re still unsure, find an experienced horse person, like a friend or instructor, who can help you find a good saddle fit for your horse.

If Your Horse is Bucking Due to Excess Energy:

Why Does My Horse Buck: Complete Guide (1)

Why is the Horse Bucking:

Have you ever watched your horse frolic around in their pasture with the other horses? More than likely, you’ve seen your horse having a good time galloping around and letting out a few bucks. What do you do when you have a lot of cooped up energy? I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to make me go outside until I got all my excess energy out.

Along with galloping around, bucking may be a way your horse is letting off some energy. While it’s certainly not condonable to behave in such a way when being handled or ridden, it can help you get an idea of why your horse is acting a certain way.

Horses can start feeling “fresh” or excitable by even the slightest change of weather. Other instances where I notice horses feeling energized is when they’re in a new location they’ve never been or if they’re being ridden out with a big herd of horses. Be cautious in these situations and don’t be surprised if your horse seems to have more energy than normal.

How to Correct It:

I can usually tell if my horse has excess energy just by going and pulling him from his pasture. Your horse will be more alert and may seem a little pushy on the ground. If I notice this behavior before my ride, I’ll give my horse the opportunity to get his energy out by lungeing him beforehand. This way he can get out all of his bucks ahead of time.

If my horse’s energy picks up when I get on him and I can tell he’s feeling fresh, I immediately put him to work. I want him to burn his energy and engage his mind so he doesn’t have the opportunity to act up and buck. I change up what I’m doing a lot; I ask for many changes of directions, transitions, and serpentines to keep my horse’s mind on the ride.

If the horse goes to buck, I put a stop to it immediately by doing a one-rein stop and disengaging the horse’s hind-end. This is done by bringing one rein back to your hip so that the horse’s head turns to your leg. In this position, the horse can’t go forward, backward, rear, or buck. They can only walk in a tight circle. A horse takes this as a correction for bucking.

If Your Horse is Bucking as a Defense Mechanism:

Why is the Horse Bucking:

Horses are flight animals by nature, meaning that they are constantly looking for things that could be a potential danger. In the wild, horses would buck to predators off of them when attacked. It’s this instinct that some horse’s exhibit when they feel unsure or uncomfortable about something, in hopes that they can escape from the situation.

If you watch a horse being trained, you’ll notice that the majority of horses may buck when introduced to something new being put on them. I know my horse certainly did. The horse doesn’t buck just to buck, but rather out of fear of the potential danger. It’s important that as the horse’s trainer, we show them that they have nothing to be afraid of.

How to Correct It:

When it comes to correcting a horse that is bucking as a defense mechanism, you don’t want the horse to feel pressured as much as they already are by rushing them or being too forward. This could make your horse react even worse.

The best thing you can do to help a horse that is bucking as a defense mechanism is to do desensitizing training with them. Desensitize them to things touching their sides and flopping on their back. Desensitizing training helps your horse to learn that these things don’t pose a danger and it also helps your horse to learn to trust your leadership.

Desensitizing is a process where you work at the horse’s pace to help them get over their fear. To learn my desensitizing techniques I use in specific situations, check out our article Bombproof and Desensitize a Horse: Ultimate Guide.

If Your Horse is Bucking Out of Bad Behavior:

Why is the Horse Bucking:

Once in a while, you may run across a horse that uses bucking as a form of stubbornness and protest to the rider’s cues. I’ve seen horses buck because they knew it intimidated their rider to get off and put the horse back in their pasture. With any disrespectful behavior displayed by a horse, nipping it in the bud as soon as you notice the habit forming will save from a lot of trouble and stress in the long run.

Horses are animals that don’t want to do more work than they have to. The majority of them will try and find any way they can to get out of work. The horses that prefer to stay subtle may cut off a corner of the riding ring if you’re not paying attention, while others will throw a full-on hissy fit if they are opposed to something. These are the horses that tend to buck.

Horses are also creatures of habit. This along with not wanting to do work can form a very sour horse. If every time your horse bucks, you decide to get off and end your workout, the horse will learn that it can get out of work by doing this.

How to Correct It:

To correct this behavior in a horse, you need an assertive and forward hand, but also one of praise as soon as the horse does good. If riding a bucking horse is something that makes you uncomfortable, that’s ok; you can correct this behavior from the ground as well.

If you’re on your horse and they start to protest by bucking, you can immediately get off and do hard groundwork. (To learn some groundwork techniques, check out our article 5 Best Groundwork Exercises for Your Horse.) When I say hard groundwork, I mean move that horse’s feet and tire them out. Teach them that doing the wrong thing is going to mean a lot more work for them compared to doing the good thing.

If you feel comfortable enough to stay on the horse if they’re protesting by bucking, it’s the concept. Work the horse hard, be forward with your cues, do many transitions, serpentines, and changes of direction. Make them back up, go forward, the whole nine yards.

If you can put a stop to this behavior the first time the horse demonstrates it, you probably won’t ever have to deal with it again. However, if you let it build into a habit, it will be much harder to correct. If you’re unsure of what to do, ask an experienced horse person.

How do I Keep My Horse From Bucking?

Why Does My Horse Buck: Complete Guide (2)

Maybe you want to be able to correct your horse’s behavior, but you can’t even get them to stop bucking in the first place. This could result in you falling off and getting hurt. I’ll share a super easy and effective method you can use to get your horse to stop bucking in the moment.

The One-Rein Stop

The one-rein stop is the emergency brake for horseback riding. It can stop a horse from doing any motion except walking in a tight circle. It takes the power away from the horse’s hind-end, which is where bucking, rearing, and bolting all come from.

The one-rein stop is exactly as it sounds and it’s the first thing I teach to any new horseback rider. To do the one-rein stop, simply grab one rein tight and bring it back to your hip. This will cause the horse to turn its neck so that its head is basically at your leg. In this position, the horse can’t do anything but walk in a tight circle.

I can’t tell you how many times this little technique has saved me from some big horse blow-ups. As long as you can keep a clear mind and remember to do it in the moment, you should be able to stop your horse using the one-rein stop.

I hope this article was helpful to you and that you were able to get a glimpse as to why your horse may be bucking. If you need help correcting other disrespectful behavior your horse exhibits, check out our article Disrespectful Horse Behavior: Training Guide.

P.S. Pin this article to your Horse Training Pinterest Board!

Why Does My Horse Buck: Complete Guide (3)

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Reasons Why Horses Buck

When a horse bucks, it can be disheartening and potentially dangerous for the rider. Understanding the reasons behind this behavior can help in addressing the problem. Here are some of the reasons why a horse may buck:

  1. Dealing with pain in its body: Horses may buck as a way to communicate that they are experiencing pain. Checking for any medical issues, particularly in the horse's back, is important .

  2. Ill-fitted saddle: An ill-fitted saddle can cause discomfort and pressure points on the horse's back, leading to bucking. Common areas affected by an ill-fitted saddle include the areas behind the shoulder blade, the top of the withers, and the muscles along the spine.

  3. Excess energy: Horses may buck to release excess energy. Similar to how horses frolic and buck in pastures, they may exhibit this behavior when they have pent-up energy.

  4. Defense mechanism: Bucking can be a defense mechanism for horses. When they feel unsure or uncomfortable about something, they may buck as a way to protect themselves and escape from potential danger.

  5. Bad behavior: Some horses may buck as a form of stubbornness or protest to the rider's cues. This behavior can be a result of the horse trying to avoid work or finding ways to get out of it .

Correcting Bucking Behavior

The approach to correcting bucking behavior depends on the underlying cause. Here are some suggestions for addressing each of the reasons mentioned:

  1. Bucking due to pain in the body: If a horse is bucking due to a medical issue, it is important to consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination. Alternative methods such as equine chiropractic work or equine massage can also help address pain-related issues.

  2. Bucking due to an ill-fitted saddle: Investing in a saddle that accurately fits the horse is the best way to correct bucking caused by an ill-fitted saddle. Professional saddle fitters can help measure the horse for the perfect saddle. Alternatively, seeking assistance from experienced horse people can also be helpful.

  3. Bucking due to excess energy: To address bucking caused by excess energy, it is recommended to provide an outlet for the horse to release energy before riding. Lunging the horse beforehand can help them burn off excess energy. During the ride, engaging the horse's mind through various exercises and transitions can help redirect their energy.

  4. Bucking as a defense mechanism: Correcting bucking as a defense mechanism involves desensitizing the horse to things that trigger fear or discomfort. Desensitizing training helps the horse learn that these things are not dangerous and builds trust in the rider's leadership .

  5. Bucking as bad behavior: It is important to address disrespectful behavior in horses promptly. Using assertive yet praise-based training methods can help correct bucking caused by bad behavior. Groundwork exercises and consistent reinforcement of desired behavior can be effective.

The One-Rein Stop

To prevent a horse from bucking in the moment, the one-rein stop can be used as an emergency brake. The one-rein stop involves grabbing one rein tight and bringing it back to your hip, causing the horse to turn its neck and walk in a tight circle. This maneuver takes away the horse's ability to buck, rear, or bolt, and can be an effective way to regain control in a potentially dangerous situation.

I hope this information helps you understand the reasons why horses buck and provides some guidance on how to address the behavior. If you have any further questions or need more information, feel free to ask!

Why Does My Horse Buck: Complete Guide (2024)


Why Does My Horse Buck: Complete Guide? ›

The main reasons horses buck are fear and pain. They may buck in an effort to get away from something that startles them or because they think they are being forced to go somewhere they fear. Pain may range from an irritant under the saddle pad (blanket), vigorous spurring, or excessive use of a whip by the rider.

Why is my horse bucking so much? ›

Some horses buck instantly and without thinking whenever they're startled or annoyed; bucking may also be a horse's reaction to pain or irritation from ill-fitting tack. Mixed signals or confusing cues from you, the rider, can also sometimes bring it on.

How do you stop a horse from bronking? ›

Keep forward momentum.

If you hesitate your horse will know immediately and might take this as an opportunity to buck you off. Keep solid contact with lower legs and if you start to sense a buck coming, try to keep moving forward – a horse can't buck without planting his front legs. Don't let him stop.

Do horses buck when happy? ›

A Happy Buck

Equines can also buck when they feel anticipation and excitement. These, though, are happy bucks. For example, if the horse enjoys a canter around a meadow and you lead it to the same place every time, it will anticipate a fun canter, feel in high spirits, and buck to display its pleasure.

What pain would cause a horse to buck? ›

A variety of physical problems may cause a horse to buck including mouth problems (loose wolf tooth, mouth wound, a snaffle that pinches the corner of the mouth), ill-fitting saddles, back pain, irritation under the saddle pad, or lameness due to an undiagnosed injury.

Do bucking horses like to buck? ›

Gay, the rodeo producer, agreed that you can't make a horse buck that doesn't want to. “They buck because they like it. They're not going to be a saddle horse or a riding horse to be ridden in the grand entry, nothing like that. That's not what they want to be,” he said.

How long do bucking horses last? ›

Rodeo livestock have long and healthy lives: Many of today's top bucking horses are 20 years old, and many bulls are active buckers at 15 years of age. Veterinarians attribute these long, healthy lifespans to good care, quality feed and adequate exercise.

How do you train a horse to stop bucking? ›

If he is bucking, immediately do a One Rein Stop— bend his head and neck around to one side and try to get him to disengage his hindquarters. By bending his head and neck and disengaging his hindquarters, you take away his ability to buck because his hind legs are moving laterally.

Why do bucking horses buck? ›

The flank, or “bucking,” strap or rope is tightly cinched around the animals' abdomens, which causes them to “buck vigorously to try to rid themselves of the torment.”3 “Bucking horses often develop back problems from the repeated poundings they take from the cowboys,” Dr.

Do draw reins stop bucking? ›

They encourage the horse to raise its head, although they may cause slight pressure on the poll, and are therefore good for certain horses that buck and plunge with the head lowered, attempt to run away by first lowering the head, and for horses that pull, lean on the bit, or have learned to lower the head and stop to ...

How do horses tell you they love you? ›

Horses are quite the romantics. They show love through gentle touches, like nuzzling or resting their head on your shoulder. They might follow you around or show a calm, trusting demeanor when you're handling them. It's the equine equivalent of a bear hug (but safer).

How do you tell if a horse dislikes you? ›

How Can You Tell If Your Horse Doesn't Like You? It's in the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) signs. If your horse is turning away when you approach, pinning its ears back, or has the tail swishing faster than a metronome at a Beethoven concert, it's their way of saying, “Not today, human.”

How do you tell if a horse is happy to see you? ›

Signs Your Horse is Happy
  1. Nostrils. Your horse's nostrils are soft, round, and relaxed and breathing is even on both sides.
  2. Tail. Your horse's tail will swing freely, evenly, and loosely when happy and relaxed.
  3. Lower Jaw. ...
  4. Rearing or Pawing. ...
  5. Licking and Chewing. ...
  6. Yawning. ...
  7. Snorting. ...
  8. Mutual Grooming.

Why does my horse buck when I ask him to trot? ›

Usually, these behaviours are either because a horse is sore or because they don't understand what you're asking – or can't do what you're asking, even if they're not in pain. The natural place to start, especially if the behaviour is new, is with a basic check of the saddle, back, and teeth.

Why did my horse buck me off? ›

So when they are carrying the rider's weight, on top of that pain, they obviously want us to get off. So some horses will buck as a way to communicate this. A horse could be in pain for various reasons. The most common reasons to consider would be saddle fit and a sore back.

What does it mean when a horse buck? ›

Horse bucking as an act of disobedience or discomfort. Bucking in horses, especially if triggered by fear, pain or excitement, is generally a minor disobedience, unless it is strong enough to unseat the rider, at which point it is a dangerous act.

How do you fix a bucking horse? ›

If he is bucking, immediately do a One Rein Stop— bend his head and neck around to one side and try to get him to disengage his hindquarters. By bending his head and neck and disengaging his hindquarters, you take away his ability to buck because his hind legs are moving laterally.

Why is my horse so jumpy all of a sudden? ›

Your horse may become understandably skittish if it can't see obstacles clearly or if it's unable to see people or animals until they're much too close. If your horse has suddenly become jumpy, it's a good idea to rule out health conditions or poor vision as the first step in treating anxiety.

What are the symptoms of kissing spine in horses? ›

Common symptoms of kissing spines in horses include:

Bucking or rearing under saddle. Cross cantering and/or difficulty cantering. Hollowing the back.

Can ulcers cause a horse to buck? ›

In addition to the symptoms listed in the film, horses who have ulcers may be aggressive generally, protective about their food, grouchy when having their stomach groomed or touched and they may exhibit a whole range of ridden problems including bucking or a reluctance to go forward.

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