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.
Fear is another good reason that a horse may buck. While riding with a friend awhile back, her saddlebag came loose on one side and as we loped our horses along the loose bag was slapping against her horse’s rump area. He had no idea what was hitting him or why, so he began to buck in an attempt to make it stop. Funny thing, though, the more he bucked the more it smacked him, and my friend and I had to laugh at the whole situation once we fixed the problem and no one was hurt.
Last week Cricket and I were out riding with Joe and Baci and as we led the way down the trail, Cricket bucked!
“Was that a buck? Did Cricket really just buck?”
The thoughts ran through my mind in a split second. It was so out of character for her. I turned around to check her hind end and the cause was wet and slimy with hair out of place on her rump, staring me in the face. Baci bit her! She kicked at him because he bit her. It wasn’t really a buck, it was her kicking at Baci telling him not to bite her. I didn’t blame her and I consoled my poor baby with kind, soft words and a rub on the rump.
Bucking usually has a cause or reason, and it’s our job to figure out what that cause or reason is. Rarely is bucking a result of a horse’s aggression and, yes, it can be, however a properly gentled horse will typically have a real reason for bucking. Fear, pain, lack of confidence, whatever is going on, you must help your equine so bucking is not an issue. A buck may not be a buck at all. It may just feel like one to you.
Figure out what is causing your horse to buck and eliminate the reason so you can trust that she won’t buck, and you will both feel safer when out on the trail.