Can You Fix a Bucking Horse?
July 10, 2014
Written by: Keith Hosman
Written by: Keith Hosman
Bucking may or may not be something you can fix. I mean you, personally because, sure, in a larger sense, it's fixable. It's just not something for the less-than-accomplished rider. Beyond the danger, bucking has no single specific cure and it's something that can re-occur seemingly "out of the blue" for months despite our very best attempts to eliminate it. "Proof" of a fix is often simply the passage of time without incident - and an inexperienced hand might be riding around fooling himself into a few broken bones. Only experience, coupled with mileage and wet saddle blankets provide any sort of assurance that the remedial training has "took."
Pros know that with bucking it's never a matter of "I school the horse on this and that and when he shows me this or that I'll know I've dealt with it." Nope, they'll work from the ground to instill respect... they do everything they can think of... then they get on and hope for the best. I'll say it again. They've done everything they can think of - then get on and hope for the best. Think about that before you decide to tackle something like this yourself. There simply are no assurances. Same goes for work from the horse's back: A professional trainer is going to put your horse through every exercise he knows to address the situation (after all, his health depends on it), yet still ride around hoping nothing "sets him off" before the schooling can sink in and lasting changes are made.
They know from experience that the bolting horse can be made a good citizen by being schooled on speed control and perhaps "fear management," and the rearing horse can be taught to keep his feet on the ground by learning to "give to pressure," (in both cases the horse will offer some proof in his movements when he's in a better place) but the trainer is simply not going to trust your "bucker" till they've got quality training installed - and time has passed sans incident. (Because, comparatively speaking, there are few outward signs that a horse is or is not prone to buck.)
So what are you to do? If you are an accomplished rider willing to chance (or tough out) a few launches into the dirt, then you might want to pick up every book or video you can find dealing with the subject, to consult more knowledgeable riders for advice and maybe even pay a pro to come coach you as you attempt the fix yourself. (Don't forget the helmet.) But, if this is not you, then stay off the horse and call a professional. (Get references first.) You'll still want to learn everything you can because the deepened understanding will help you prevent further/other issues. You'll also want to know why the pro you're paying does what he does so that the two of you can work together towards a lasting remedy.
* Note that throughout I'm speaking relatively as there are no absolutes with horses. Always employ common sense and err on the side of caution.Bucking may or may not be something you can fix. I mean you, personally because, sure, in a larger sense, it's fixable. It's just not something for the less-than-accomplished rider. Beyond the danger, bucking has no single specific cure and it's something that can re-occur seemingly "out of the blue" for months despite our very best attempts to eliminate it. "Proof" of a fix is often simply the passage of time without incident - and an inexperienced hand might be riding around fooling himself into a few broken bones. Only experience, coupled with mileage and wet saddle blankets provide any sort of assurance that the remedial training has "took."
Too often I see non-professionals think they can fix this themselves by applying prescription A or B out of some book or video and ride comfortably one week later. Now, this might very well be true of bolting or rearing because their "fixes" are more obvious and structured (and proof that a fix has been obtained can literally be observed through the horse's actions), but bucking as an issue is more nebulous and fixing it is something you should take a pass on if you're not already an experienced rider. Instead, learn all you can to deepen your understanding of the issue... then call a pro. What's a few months with a trainer up against five or six grand for a day trip to the emergency room?
Now, look, I'm not trying to harsh your mellow here. If you've got an up and comer problem-child colt in the backyard and feel that you've got what it takes (after reading this and everything else you can get your hands on) to turn him around, then more power to ya. However, for the rest of you, pros are a great resource. Professional trainers have the experience to (more often than the non-pro) see a dangerous incident brewing. They can quickly change course and avoid the insurrection. Beyond that, they've built in the reflexes it takes to act quickly to shut down a buck and the muscle memory to sit it if necessary. Some even specialize in this sort of thing. Weird, I know - but they're out there.
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Wanna teach your horse to drop its head and stay relaxed? When you're finished with this article, click here to read about the "Classic Serpentine."