Riding the Better Side of Bucking

Bucking is a misunderstood horse activity. Most people look at bucking as an ornery habit, something the horse does when he’s trying to get out of work. Or when he just doesn’t feel like cooperating at that moment for some reason or another.

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Bucking is a misunderstood horse activity. Most people look at bucking as an ornery habit, something the horse does when he’s trying to get out of work. Or when he just doesn’t feel like cooperating at that moment for some reason or another. However, if you think about bucking as an activity drive that you can channel into behaviors you want instead of behaviors you don’t want, then it’s not necessarily a bad thing.


From the horse’s perspective, bucking is usually a defense mechanism. The horse feels a degree of pressure he perceives as an attack or some sort of annoyance. The horse may feel bothered physically or mentally. It really doesn’t matter because he’ll react the same either way. When a horse feels threatened in front of the secondary line of influence that runs through his shoulders, he’ll bring his head up, shift his weight back and either strike out with his front feet or spin and run away. When he feels bothered from behind his secondary line, his natural response is to drop his head and kick out behind. In other words, he bucks.


The horse will buck to the degree he feels he needs to buck in order to relieve whatever degree of attack or harassment pressure he’s feeling at the time. In the old days, people “broke” green horses by fighting with them and riding through all their bucking until all their activity drive was spent and the horse was so tired he couldn’t fight any more. The horse was supposed to learn that bucking didn’t work to relieve the attack pressures he felt when a rider got on his back. Breaking is about teaching the horse what not to do.


If a horse bucks to relieve a pressure he feels and he succeeds in tossing his rider, the horse gets rewarded for bucking because the pressure goes away. When we go to train a horse rather than to break him, we still need to be sure we can ride through whatever he does so that he doesn’t find bucking rewarding. However, we recognize that it takes a really athletic horse to buck and we want to harness that athletic activity drive and turn it into something useful. We don’t try to ride through the bucking until we use up all his activity drive

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