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Horses That Buck While Riding
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [March 30, 2001]


Training Question:

I have a horse that bucks when I lope her. I can tell when she is getting ready to buck. She twitches her ears. Do I need someone to ride her through the buck?

~ Mary K. Payne

Hi, I have a male Quater Horse that is four years old. He was started to early before I bought him. He is still green too. The question I have is there any possible way to get him to stop bucking. It's not like he does it all the time but, my younger sibling rides him and I am trying to look out for her well being. Thanx for your time,

~ Lia North



Trainer's Response:

There really isn't a cue to tell a horse "stop bucking" or "don't buck". However, there are cues that you can use to keep his mind off of bucking. You can use any number of cues that you want (the cues should be ones that you know he will respond to properly 100% of the time). Once he knows, or has learned, several cues and can perform them responsively and consistently, he will begin to learn to listen to you and wait for your cues instead of taking over the situation and doing what he wants to do (buck).

The trick is to teach the horse to respond 100% consistently to several cues. Teach one cue at a time, and move on to the next cue when you are sure that the horse has learned the previous one extremely well (each cue may take as little as five minutes to teach, or as much as an entire week to teach. The time it takes all depends on your teaching ability and the horse's learning ability). Teach the horse to give to the bit properly, teach him to lower his head with a cue on the bit, teach him to connect the rein to his hip (similar to turn on the forehand, but you use the bit to tell him to move his hips over).

Once he is 100% consistent in all of these cues, the next step would be to anticipate when he is about to buck. Pay close attention when you ride him. The instant he begins to tense up as if to buck, begin asking him to respond to a series of cues. This will take his mind off of bucking, and will put it on the work that you wish for him to be doing instead of bucking.

The series of cues you use can be in any order you like. Here is an example: when any horse that I am training feels as if he could buck, I give him a series of rein cues. For each cue that I ask, I immediately reward him by releasing the rein when he responds as desired. I may repeat the same cue several times until he responds quickly and consistently each time. The first cue asks him to lower his head. The next cue asks him to give to the bit to the left. Then he is asked give to the bit to the right. Then to connect the rein to the hip to the right, then to connect the rein to the hip on the left, then to lower his head, to raise his head, etc...etc...

When the horse is properly trained to do each of these cues, each one will take less than one second to get the desired response from the horse. Once you have asked for several different cues in a row, the horse begins to focus more on what you are asking him to do, than what he was thinking about doing before (bucking). Exercising your horse in this way has huge benefits even if you do not have a bucking problem. You can use this method of training for almost any unwanted behavior while riding.

Basically what I am saying is: Instead of telling your horse what NOT to do, tell him what you DO want him doing. Don't punish him for bucking, instead, simply change the subject and work on teaching him the behavior you wish he was doing, or the cue that you wish he was responding to. The horse cannot be listening and responding to your series of cues and bucking at the same time. Once he learns the cues well enough that he performs them properly 100% of the time, believe me, he will not buck. Any time your horse behaves "badly" while riding, stop and ask yourself, "What cue is he NOT responding to?"....were you trying to ask him to turn when he began to act badly? If you were, then that was the cue he is not responding to. Once you find the cue he isn't responding to, then go back to basics and work on that cue until he responds to it consistently.



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This article was published on: March 30, 2001. Last updated on: March 30, 2001.