How to stop a horse from bucking

by Ditte Young

Updated on October 27, 2023
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes 

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing horse bucking firsthand, you’ll know that not only is it uncomfortable for the rider — it can also be very dangerous.

While horses buck for a variety of reasons, bucking is part of a horse’s fight or flight response, and horses often buck as a response to pain or a perceived threat.

This article will cover some of the most common reasons your horse might be bucking. We will walk you through what bucking is, why horses buck, and what you can do to stop your horse from bucking.

Table of Contents

What is bucking?

Bucking is when the horse lowers its head and raises its hindquarters into the air while kicking out its hind legs. A buck can be anything from a small protest to a series of wild jumps, kicks, and “crow hops” — i.e., when the horse jumps seemingly stiff-legged into the air with all four feet.

Why do horses buck?

Horses buck for a variety of reasons. Because horses cannot talk, they communicate through body language. Bucking is normal equine behavior that the horse uses to communicate its feelings.

Bucking is, first and foremost, part of a horse’s fight or flight response. This response is often triggered by pain or the presence of a perceived threat — in this case, the “threat” is the rider on the horse’s back or how their weight on its back is making the horse feel.

Below, you can read more about some of the most common reasons your horse might be bucking:

Stop your horse from bucking with “How to make durable horses” by Ditte Young

Want to get to know your horse’s personality profile and learn what you can do to stop your horse from bucking?

With Ditte Young’s online course “How to make durable horses,” you can learn exactly what you need to know to find out what is causing the problem and stop your horse’s bucking habit.

You can also have a look at our other animal communication classes.

Excitement

Bucking is not always a response to negative feelings. Sometimes, horses buck to show excitement or other positive feelings. For example, free bucking in the pasture can express playfulness. Some horses also buck out of exuberance when galloping.

Feel-good bucks are usually one-shots in specific situations of excitement. An excited horse may sometimes buck under the saddle with a rider on its back. While happy bucks aren’t usually an issue, the response can still cause problems for the rider — especially if the rider isn’t skilled enough to ride them out.

Pain

If your horse is bucking when you’re in the saddle, it’s likely the horse is in pain and trying to tell you. This is particularly likely if you have a mild-mannered and well-trained horse who has started bucking out of nowhere.

As part of the horse’s fight or flight response, bucking is a defense mechanism to throw off predators. When the horse experiences pain, it attempts to throw off the cause of its pain. If the weight of the rider is the cause of that pain, the horse may buck the rider off.

If your horse bucks only while under saddle and otherwise acts like its usual self, it’s very likely that it is experiencing some pain that needs to be addressed.

Common reasons your horse might be bucking due to pain include:

If your horse is in pain, please contact your veterinarian right away. They can help you identify the problem and determine how to treat it.

If you are not sure if your horse is bucking due to pain, a good way to find out is by enlisting an animal communicator who can help you understand what your horse is trying to tell you. You can read more about what an animal communicator can do for you and your horse later in this article.

Frustration

Another reason horses sometimes buck is frustration. This might be the case if the bucking seems random and inconsistent.

Bucking out of frustration can sometimes be caused by poor riding. If, for example, you are sitting too heavily in the saddle, or you are asking your horse to do something that will throw off its balance, your horse might get frustrated and buck in protest.

If this is the case, taking a professional lesson with a trainer can be a good way to get a pair of well-trained eyes on your situation and identify precisely what is causing your horse to be frustrated with your riding.

You might also be interested in: How to stop a horse from biting?

Fear

As mentioned earlier, bucking is part of the horse’s fight or flight response. This means that horses often buck as a reaction to fear. The horse might fear the girth, the back cinch, or having a rider on its back.

In some cases, the consequences of the buck — namely, the rider falling off — can scare the horse and make the horse afraid of being remounted, leading to the horse bucking again.

Want a greater understanding of your horse’s mental and physical state? Check out my EquiCoaching online sessions.

8 tips to stop a horse from bucking

Some horses buck because of pain. Some horses dislike having riders, oppose the tack, or dislike their surroundings. Other horses need to blow off steam and release energy from their bodies. Whatever the reason, bucking is unsafe for you as a rider, as well as for anyone near your horse.

If your horse has developed a habit of bucking, it’s important to stop this behavior and figure out what is causing the problem.

Below, you will find eight tips to stop your horse from bucking:

1. Sit deep in the saddle

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced rider, it’s important to focus on your weight and how you sit in the saddle.

Many riders have a tendency of leaning to the front to either check if their horses are doing alright, to check the horse’s mouth during riding, or because they are afraid of losing control over the horse if they lean backwards.

However, many horses — especially sensitive horses — have no contact with their hindquarters, hind feet, or lower back. Your leaning can unbalance your horse, who will start bucking as a defense mechanism.

Keep your weight centered and avoid leaning forward. If your horse bucks, sit deep in the saddle. Keep your heels down and your shoulders back, and give pulls on the reins to discourage your horse from putting its head down. Remember — a horse with its head up cannot buck during riding.

2. Disengage the horse’s hindquarters

When the horse bucks, immediately disengage the horse’s hindquarters.

Gently pull the reins to one side, drawing your horse’s head around to that side and letting its nose touch one of its front legs. This position will make your horse ride in circles, making it impossible to buck you off.

3. Keep the reins in a straight line

Keep your horse’s head up and its neck soft and flexible — you can do this with soft half halts. Make sure you have a live connection with your horse’s mouth and your hands.

Don’t let your horse bite the bit, and pull your hands down. Keep the reins in a straight line. Remain calm to prevent your horse from being confused by your signals or locking its neck, as this will engage lively back legs if the horse continues to feel locked, blocked, or under too much pressure.

Finally, give your horse a clap on the neck and tell your horse: “You’re a good horse.” Your horse is motivated by acknowledgement and positive reinforcement. These things, as well as a relaxed environment and positive energy, will help prevent your horse from bucking, too.

 

4. Adjust the bridle and saddle

Ill-fitting tack is one of the most well-known causes of horse bucking.

An inexperienced rider might forget that the horse reacts to the smallest things. As little as a fly landing on your horse will cause a reaction. It is, therefore, only natural that your horse responds to the feel of the tack and your weight in the saddle, too.

Keep your horse’s head up and its neck soft and flexible — you can do this with soft half halts. Make sure you have a live connection with your horse’s mouth and your hands.

Don’t let your horse bite the bit, and pull your hands down. Keep the reins in a straight line. Remain calm to prevent your horse from being confused by your signals or locking its neck, as this will engage lively back legs if the horse continues to feel locked, blocked, or under too much pressure.

Finally, give your horse a clap on the neck and tell your horse: “You’re a good horse.” Your horse is motivated by acknowledgment and positive reinforcement. These things, as well as a relaxed environment and positive energy, will also help prevent your horse from bucking.

Additional reading: How to get a horse to come to you?

5. Let your horse smell you

One of the most common reasons for bucking is that the horse reacts to a perceived threat.

When you have removed the perceived threat, you can let your horse know there is nothing to be afraid of by letting your horse smell you. Your scent is familiar and safe, which will help calm down your horse. It also helps to pet your horse and tell him in a calm voice that there is nothing to be afraid of.

6. Keep a daily work routine

The more predictable you are, the more your horse can relax in its daily routine. Your horse’s senses pick up countless different things during the day. Anything you can do to make its day more predictable will help your horse avoid getting frustrated or frightened.

As human beings, we need routines, too. We prefer to know our schedule the next day or throughout the week. Horses are the same — the more your horse knows what is going on, the calmer your horse will be.

7. Retrain your horse

Sometimes, your horse’s bucking is not caused by one of the common reasons listed above, and retraining your horse may be necessary to eliminate the habit.

Return to basics and remove pressure from your horse. You can do groundwork in a round pen or liberty training without sitting on your horse. This helps to show your horse that you can be together in a state of trust, respect, and freedom.

Additional reading: How to get a horse to trust you?

8. Learn to understand what your horse is telling you

Your horse is an intelligent animal. Your horse communicates how it feels through its behavior — feeling happy, frustrated, fearful, or in pain. Not only does your horse express how it is feeling, but it also responds to how you are feeling.

However, if you need help understanding how to communicate with your horse, a misunderstanding may arise between you. In short, the best thing you can do to find out why your horse is bucking is to learn how to understand what your horse is telling you. An animal communicator can help you do just that.

An animal communicator, also known as a horse whisperer, can help you understand what your horse is telling you. With help from an animal communicator, you can get to the root of your horse’s bucking. This gives you the tools you need to stop your horse from bucking and helps you get to know your horse better.

Additional reading: What does a horse say?

Animal Telepathy Mastery

Stop your horse from bucking with animal telepathy by Ditte Young

Ditte Young has been a spiritual coach, therapist, and clairvoyant for 25 years. She is the author of 3 books about animal communication and is known as Denmark’s most recognized animal communicator.

With Ditte Young’s online course “How to make durable horses,” you can learn exactly what you need to know about your horse to stop it from bucking.

Want to learn behavior techniques applicable to horses from Europe’s most recognized horse communicator? Now is your chance.

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