Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Allison Price
Let’s first define what bucking is. Bucking, as a lot of people refer to it, is when the horse’s front legs remain on the ground while he lifts his back legs. This is not bucking. To me, bucking is what you see at the rodeo. The horse is lowered to the ground with his head down and his mouth open. He is bellowing like a cow giving birth.
Horses that “crow-hop” or kick up are simply showing their lack of respect. What kind of horse kicks up most often? A lazy, fat horse that won’t move forward. If you ask this horse to move from a trot to a walk, he will kick up with his back legs. It’s his way to tell you to stop looking. Hot, nervous horses rarely kick up so much to get ahead.
Most horses that are truly bucking don’t show a lack respect. Most likely they are reacting to fear. This could be fear of your being on their back, fear of their girth, back cinch, fear of your legs, spurs, fear of something bouncing off the bushes in front or a branch touching their sides. The horse used his reactive side of his brain when something happened. This is how most horses learn to buck.
Sometimes, after a horse has been ridden three to four times, and has become accustomed to bucking, it can be that he starts bucking out habitually, and not out of fear. This is when what started as fear can become a lack of respect issue.
There are many ways to fix your horse’s behavior, whether he is doing it to show disrespect or because he fears for his safety. If your horse is kicking up to show his lack of respect, which is often the case, you can go back and help him get his feet on the ground. You can put him in a roundpen and signal him to move forward. If he doesn’t want to go forward, you can cluck and spank. Then, first spank the ground and, if necessary spank him until he runs around the circlepen. He will respond immediately to your request by pointing with his hand. You can get him to stop being lazy and disrespectful on the ground. He’ll be much more willing to move forward if you do that. Actually, if your groundwork is thorough, it’s likely that kicking up under saddle won’t be an issue.
Once you get on the horse, ask him to lope. First squeeze both your legs together to ask him. Wait for two counts, then cluck if he still doesn’t move. Wait for a second count, then if he still doesn’t move forward, spank him with the end or a whip. What do you do if he starts to kick up with his back legs and you are able to spank him with rhythm? You spank him again. WHACK, WACK. He may need to be spanked several times before he realizes that if his hind legs touch the ground, you will make him uncomfortable. But if he steps forward and leaves his feet on ground, you will let him go.
To be able to do this, you must be confident riding. If you aren’t confident, make sure to do your groundwork correctly and thoroughly so your horse can move forward as soon you squeeze and cluck. You may also need to have a more experienced rider take the horse on a few days to get him moving at the lope.
After he’s worked hard, tying him up gives him two things. It allows him to breathe again and gives him time to absorb what you did. It is not punishment, it is helping him learn the lesson. You should never put your horse in a stall or feed him after you have worked with him on a specific issue. You can be sure that he will stop thinking about eating once he is happy to eat.
Horses kick out when one or both his front feet are on the ground. His back feet strike out.
You can get a horse to respond to your cues better if he kicks out of laziness. Squeeze is encouraging him to go forward. Cluck warns him that if Cluck doesn’t make him move forward, he will feel uncomfortable. Spank is exactly that. You can sank him until he is moving at the speed that you want.
Correcting your horse from the ground is a good idea. Lunging for Respect Stage 2 will help him to hunch his feet and realize that bucking is a huge mistake that only leads to more work.
Get back on the horse and hustle him, making as many turns as possible.
MANAGE THE SITUATION SAFELY
If your horse is really bucking like he is in a rodeo then you don’t want to spank him. He’ll only buck more. You need to know the difference between bucking and crow-hopping.
Do a One Stop immediately if he’s bucking. Bend his neck and head to one side to force him to release his hindquarters. You can stop him from bucking by bending his neck and disengaging the hindquarters. His hind legs are moving laterally so bend his head and neck. Once he stops, get off him. Then move his feet away from the ground.
Do not let him go and leave him alone. You’ll show him that bucking is what got him off his back. You must get him to understand that bucking is a serious mistake. Lunging to Respect Stage Two can be a fun exercise. You’ll need to constantly ask the horse to move in different directions, and he will have to work hard. You should keep him moving until he’s tired, sweaty and able to use his thinking side.
DEBUNKING A MYTH
You’re likely to have heard the cowboy logic that “When you get bucked off you must immediately get back on that bronc and prove him who’s boss.” I don’t believe that. The last thing I do when I’m bucked off a horse is to get back on him. You can be sure that he will buck you again if you just get back on. It’s that easy. Instead, find out why he is bucking. Most often, it’s because you haven’t done enough groundwork. Remember Gordon McKinlay, my mentor, said to me that the more you get up from the ground, the better the groundwork. This is absolutely true. It is true. I have been bucked off many colts because I didn’t prepare the horse properly for the ride. Groundwork exercises can be used to help you get your horse on the ground and in control before you step into the saddle.
As long as you are not hurt, put the horse to work immediately. You may need to take the horse home if you are hurt. This is not a good situation because the horse will realize that you are bucking him off and release pressure. However, sometimes you must do what you need to do. It’s important to do thorough groundwork the next time you get your horse out. To prepare the horse for riding again, you might spend as much as three to four days on groundwork.
START INTO IT
Sometimes horses will buck when they come up against a thorny shrub or get poked. This could happen in any other situation where the horse is startled and his reactive side comes out. You can regain control by performing a One Reinstop to help the horse regain his control. Spend some time de-sensitizing your horse to the incident that has startled him. Walk him through narrow passages with a branch against his flank. Bend the horse around in circles to slow him down and walk him through the passage. Continue this process until your horse can think and walks calmly through the passage.