How to Stop a Horse From Bucking When in the Saddle


Dealing with a horse that bucks can be frustrating and dangerous. Many horses have exhibited some bucking behavior throughout their life, ranging from young ones just being started to one who gets angry if you hit him with a crop to one trying to tell you he is in pain (Reference 1).

Things You'll Need

  • Access to veterinarian
  • Trainer

How to Stop a Horse From Bucking When in the Saddle

  • Examine your horse for health issues, ideally with a thorough examination by a veterinarian. Bucking is a way of communicating, and your horse may be trying to tell you he is in pain. Some common causes could be tooth pain; back pain; hock pain; stifle pain, or discomfort from a poor-fitting saddle. Always rule out a physical cause before proceeding in a training or behavioral standpoint (Reference 1).

  • Gauge the horse's training experience. Young horses are sometimes prone to buck because they have not been trained sufficiently to respond to "go forward" cues. If you are educated and experienced enough to teach the horse "in hand" so he better understands those cues, and do other ground preparation work such as long-lining and ground driving, then do so, starting first without a saddle and then doing ground work with a saddle. If you do not feel confident taking these steps, take the horse to a trainer or have a trainer come out and train you in working with him (Reference 1).

  • Evaluate the horse's history. It is easier to identify causes and solutions if you know your horse's history. For example, if this is a horse you have had for several years and the bucking is fairly recent, go back and think about what has changed: Did you make a tack change, such as using a different saddle or bridle? Are you asking the horse to perform at a higher level physically? If it is a horse you recently purchased, hopefully you watched the horse being ridden and also rode yourself before purchasing. If so, contact the previous owner and ask if the horse has exhibited the behavior before. She may be able to help you pinpoint a cause. If you do not know the horse's history, that makes it more difficult, as the horse could have been mistreated and have trust issues. In this case, it is best to proceed as you would a young horse: from the beginning, establishing trust and respect on the ground (Reference 1).

  • Look for rider error. If you are the rider, have a knowledgeable horse person watch you ride. You may have developed a bad habit that is bothering the horse. For example, when beginning to jump, or increasing the height of jumps, you may be pulling on the horse's mouth over the jump, not getting off his back in the air, or landing hard on his back upon landing. Many horses will buck in response to these errors because they are being "punished" for doing their job. Perhaps you are accidentally spurring the horse while riding. If the horse does not buck with a different rider, that points to something you are doing while riding him.

  • Take the horse to a professional trainer with a reputation for behavioral issues. The solution might be as simple as having a very experienced rider who will not come off when a horse bucks. If a horse starts bucking and unseats the rider, the horse quickly learns that, by bucking, he can get the rider off and not work that day. Many times, once a horse realizes the rider is there to stay, he gives up. You can also have the trainer do different types of riding -- not all horses are happy doing the job we have chosen for them. A horse who is confined to a dressage arena for an hour every day, five days a week, may be happier jumping or going out on trail rides. A good trainer can detect these issues and find ways to "let your horse be a horse," and then give you a truthful assessment of your prospective partnership.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you can find no reason for the bucking and training does not help, it could be that your horse simply enjoys bucking. Contact a rodeo association and ask for contractors or handlers in your area who may be interested in taking the horse as a rodeo bronc (Reference 2).
  • Always wear a helmet when working with a horse with known behavioral problems such as bucking. Even if you come off and do not land on your head, the helmet can protect you from contacts with the horse's feet if he continues to buck while you are on the ground.

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  • Photo Credit George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images Jupiterimages/ Images George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images
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