- present participle of buck
Bucking is a movement performed by a horse in
which the animal lowers his head and raises his hindquarters into
the air, usually while kicking out with his hind legs. If powerful,
it may unseat the rider enough so that he falls off.
Reasons for Bucking
Bucking, though a potentially dangerous
disobedience when under saddle, is a natural aspect of horse
. It developed in the wild for the purpose of
protection from feline predators such as mountain
s, who would attack horses by dropping onto their backs
from above. The process of kicking out with both hind legs, another
defense mechanism for the horse, also results in a mild bucking
movement. Thus, for a human to safely ride a horse, the horse has
to be desensitized to the presence of something on its back and
also learn not to kick out with both hind legs while under saddle.
Nonetheless, because the instinct is always there, bucking can
still occur for a number of reasons:
- Happiness, such as when a horse bucks during a gallop because
he is enjoying himself, or during play.
- General excitement, such as horses that buck in a crowded
schooling ring or at the beginning of a ride in a crowd of horses,
such as an endurance
- The rider's aids are
causing confusion or fear in the horse, and the horse responds by
- The horse is "fresh," having been kept up in a stall for a long
period of time, and is releasing pent-up energy.
- Pain, which may be due to an ill-fitting saddle or another
piece of equipment, tooth
problems, or other medical issues.
- Provocation, usually due to an insect bite (usually on the
hindquarters) which the horse is trying to rid himself of, or in
some cases a response to use of a whip on the flank or hindquarters.
- Untrained horses may instinctually buck the first few times
they have a saddle on the back if not given proper ground
training, and occasionally, even with proper preparation. This
is an instinctive defense mechanism.
- Having found that bucking the rider off results in not having
to work, the horse does it to avoid his exercise.
- Disobedience to the riding aids,
when a horse does not wish to do what is asked by the rider.
Sometimes this is due to poor riding on the part of the person, but
sometimes a horse attempts to evade a legitimate request by
- Rodeo broncs are
used specifically as bucking horses, usually bred to be prone to
bucking and encouraged to buck whenever a rider is on their back
with the help of a "bucking strap" around their flank.
Ordinary riders need to learn to ride out and
correct a simple buck or two, because it is a relatively common
form of disobedience. Further, at times, movement akin to bucking
is actually required of a horse: Horses that are jumping
an obstacle actually are using almost the same action as bucking
when launching themselves into the air, it is simply carried out
with advanced planning over a higher and wider distance. The
movement known as the Capriole
very similar to the low buck done by a horse when it kicks out with
both hind legs.
Solutions to Bucking
Bucking, especially if triggered by fear, pain or
excitement, is generally a minor disobedience, unless it is strong
enough to unseat the rider, at which point it is a dangerous act.
If bucking is a premeditated act of the horse and becomes an
undesired habit (such as when a horse learns to buck off a rider so
that he will no longer have to work), then the horse must be
re-schooled by a professional trainer. There have been Olympians
who have had to send their horses for re-training by a
It is important to address the problem of the
bucking immediately. Even with good cause, it is a potentially
dangerous disobedience that cannot be encouraged or allowed to
continue. However, a rider does need to be sure that it is not poor
riding that is causing confusion, or a result of poorly-fitting
tack that is causing the horse pain. The horse's turn-out schedule
should also be assessed, as extra turn-out will give a horse to
release his extra energy before the rider gets on. In certain cases
(such as a show, when horses are unable to be turned-out for
extended periods), longeing
the horses for a brief
period can help calm him enough so that the rider can get on.
If a horse bucks, the best solution is to use one
direct rein to pull the horse's head sideways and up, turning the
horse in a small circle. If a rider pulls the horse's head up with
both reins, the horse's neck is stronger and the rider is likely to
be flipped over the horse's head. By turning the horse sideways,
the rider has more leverage and a horse cannot easily buck while
turning around. When the horse stops bucking, it must be asked to
move forward; a horse also cannot buck very hard while moving
forward. Usually a horse gives some warning that it is about to
buck by dropping its head, slowing down or stopping, and
excessively rounding up in the back (cowboys referred to this as
"getting a lump in the back"). To discourage bucking when the rider
anticipates it, the rider should ask the horse to move forward or
in a circle, raise their hands and the horse's head, and
deliberately put the horse into a hollowed-out frame for a moment
by sitting back a bit with their heels down, seat deep, and
shoulders slightly back. This will help a rider stay in balance if
the horse bucks, and the act of deliberately raising the head and
hollowing out the horse's back reduces the power and severity of
the buck. Certain training aids, such as a gag bit
types of martingale
or, particularly on ponies, an overcheck
may also discourage bucking.
Consequences of chronic buckingHorses that are chronic and
consistent buckers cannot be ridden safely and if they cannot be
retrained, become unsuitable for any type of ordinary riding. There
are few options available to such an animal.
In a few cases, a horse that cannot be trained
not to buck may be sold to a rodeo
Ironically, such horses often fetch a high price in the bucking
world because they are easy to handle on the ground, yet
very clever and skilled at unseating riders, thus allowing a
to obtain a high
score if he can stay on. At rodeo auctions such as the
Miles City Bucking Horse Sale
, a spoiled riding horse,
particularly one that is powerfully built, will bring a top price
and enjoy a long career doing what they have learned to do.
Unfortunately, many other horses that cannot be
trained not to buck cannot find a home anywhere and will eventually
wind up being sold for horsemeat