Thursday, January 13, 2011

What do I do if my horse bucks again?

I was recently trail riding my 10 year old gelding that I purchased about 5 months ago. As we were riding down a ravine, my horse appeared to slip. When he slipped forward, I fell forward onto his neck. Then, as he was trying to get out of the ravine, he began to buck and bucked me right off. He has never bucked before with me, but now I'm concerned he will buck again. What do I do if he starts to buck (besides hold on for dear life)? Do I pull one rein to my hip, as if to stop? Any suggestions?

Congrats on the new horse! It is always exciting to add a new horse, but it can also be frustrating to adjust to a new horse. Of course, riding different horses in different situations is what makes us good horsemen and horsewomen.

You don't mention how experienced a rider you are, and that can make a difference in my answer. For example, if you aren't an experienced rider, you might not be able to tell whether or not your horse was bucking. Sometimes when a horse comes up out of a ravine or up a very steep hill, they take bounding or leaping steps that can feel like bucking. And if you aren't prepare for those leaps, then it is easy to be unbalanced and come off.

However if you are an experienced rider, then you probably know the difference between a leap and a buck. Your horse may have been bucking because you were unbalanced - you said you had slipped forward onto his neck. Sometimes an unbalanced rider can make a horse uncomfortable enough to buck. Or you may have startled him when you slipped onto his neck, and that may have made him buck. You can prevent those two things in the future. More riding time and lessons with a good instructor can help you develop better balance. Desensitizing your horse to you moving around in the saddle - leaning backwards and leaning forwards onto his neck can help him be better prepared in the future. You also should get your horse used to having you touch him on his neck, back, sides, etc. when you are on his back.

These bucks may have been an isolated experience: a reaction to stumbling, you slipping forward and then being unbalanced when coming out of the ravine. However if he bucks again, here are a few tips:

  • Try pulling his head up and sending him forward. It is more difficult for a horse to buck when their head is up and they're moving.
  • Teach him the one rein stop ahead of time and use if he bucks.
  • Teach him an absolute "whoa". That means teaching him that no matter what he's doing, when you say whoa he stops moving. This is what works best with my mare who occasionally bucks. If she starts, I say "whoa" loud and firm and she stops. However, she's been taught in training sessions that when I say "whoa" I mean to stop right now!

Good luck with your horse. I hope this helps and that you have many more enjoyable rides together.

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