Manes & Trails

Rope and Spurs

Bucking is a very undesirable behavior in our horses even though it is a natural one. Bucking horses are scary, as it seems so out of control to most of us. It’s a powerful movement that everyone recognizes as dangerous, whether you’re a horse person or not.

I used to think, long, long ago, that riding a bucking horse was fun, that it was a challenge. I was young and silly back then. Now I don’t ever want a horse to buck when I am riding. It hurts my back among other parts of my body. Riding a buck is a lot like being on a catapult.

From the rodeo grounds to our own backyard pastures with our horses at play, horses buck. Even a crazy, uncontrollable horse out on trail or a pony throwing a fit in the show ring can throw a buck or two. But is it really a buck, and what does it mean if it is — or isn’t?

Our own horses buck at times and just because your horse bucks when she’s out in pasture doesn’t mean she automatically will when you ride her. Figuring out why your horse displays the unwanted behavior and when is very important. Is your horse bucking because she’s mean? Maybe she’s in pain? Is it a form of defiance? All of these can be true, and then some.

I got a text message just the other day from a friend who went riding with another friend of hers on an easy trail and she told me her friend was bucked off the horse she was riding. My pal told me the woman was banged up and bruised but would be fine, and they thought it may have been caused by an ill-fitting saddle.

Saddle fit is extremely important, but I do wonder if that is truly what the problem was. Pain can make a horse buck.

Of course not being present I can’t say for certain, but I do know the horse that bucked and I was not surprised in the least. He’s a mess in his mind, and insecurity can cause horses to buck at the least little things — and I know that particular horse lacks confidence. Bucking is his way of dealing with things that he is unsure of. Saddle fit may have played a part, but his insecurity is where I’d lay my money.

Bucking can have many causes and reasons. Pain and insecurity are certainly good reasons, playing is another. Cricket sometimes runs around in circles and jumps and bucks as she plays. She flies up five or six feet and squeals with a look that resembles a smile and kicks her heels high into the air with delight. It’s cute to me because I know she is playing.

AH! There is the difference — bucking during play and bucking for other reasons. All of my horses buck. My horses do not, however, buck around people. I did have Cricket, just once, kick out at me in the round pen during a work session in defiance and I put her in check. While that was a real surprise, it only happened the one time. She was checking on leadership, making an effort to see if I was still the leader. When I showed her I was still in control, she felt much better.

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