Dealing With a Horse That Bucks

When you’re dealing with a horse that tends to buck every now and then, it can be disheartening. It may feel as if there is no way to correct the situation; it’s a potentially dangerous situation for the rider when the horse has made up its mind to start bucking. However, if you know some of the reasons why horses buck, you can evaluate your horse to get to the root of the problem.

Why does my horse buck? Here are some of the reasons why your horse may be bucking:

  • Your horse is dealing with pain in its body
  • The saddle is ill-fitted
  • The horse has excess energy to burn
  • The horse is reverting to a defense mechanism 
  • Your horse is protesting out of bad behavior


When you can understand why your horse is bucking, it will be easier to fix the problem. Sometimes, this behavior can be fixed by a simple change like using a different saddle, but other times it may take a little more work. In this article, we’ll discuss why the horse is bucking and how you can correct it depending on the reason for the behavior.

If Your Horse is Bucking Due to Pain in the Body:

Why is the Horse Bucking:

When horses exhibit a certain behavior, it’s always important to see if there is a medical reason for them to act in such a way before you try and correct the problem on your own. Horses can’t speak and tell us what the problem is, so they have to communicate in a different way. Unfortunately, if they are suffering from pain, the way they may demonstrate that is by bucking.

Before you automatically assume that the horse is just bucking out of stubbornness, check to see if there is a medical problem. The first place I would check is the horse’s back; remove your saddle and apply direct steady pressure from their withers to the dock of their tail. Look to see if your horse flinches or shrinks back when touched in a certain area.

If a horse is bucking due to a medical issue, it will usually have to deal with the horse’s back. If your horse doesn’t exhibit any signs of medical issues but the behavior continues, it’s always wise to get the horse reviewed by a vet.

How to Correct It:

When it comes to correcting a medical issue that is causing your horse to buck, the first thing you should do is consult a veterinarian. A veterinarian can give you detailed information about your horse’s condition, how you can help them, and whether or not you should even be riding.

Some alternative methods to consider would be equine chiropractic work or equine massage. Horses may feel pain due to misalignment in their skeletal structure or due to an injured muscle. Both of these types of equine bodywork can help restore the body part’s function and ability.

Some horses suffer from being “cold-backed,” where the muscles in their back tighten up. To help a horse with this issue, a good warm-up on the ground via lunging can help tremendously when it comes to warming those muscles up to prepare for the ride.

If Your Horse is Bucking Due to an Ill-Fitted Saddle:

Why is the Horse Bucking:

Horses come in all different shapes and sizes, lengths and widths; because of this, each horse has specific saddle measurements that must be catered to as you try and find them a saddle. If your saddle is ill-fitted to your horse, it could apply uncomfortable pressure to certain areas of your horse’s back, which may cause your horse to buck.

The areas of your horse’s back that are commonly pinched by an ill-fitting saddle are the areas right behind the shoulder blade, the top of the withers where the saddle could rub if it’s too small, and the muscles along the spine where the panels of the saddle sit (right under the seat of the saddle.)

Originally, saddles were created to fit the horse in a specific way that would sit just right on the horse. That means if you use an ill-fitted saddle, the pressure will be applied to areas of the horse’s body that aren’t necessarily used to it. This can not only cause pain and discomfort, but it can also cause long-term muscle soreness in your horse as well.

How to Correct It:

The best and most obvious way to correct a horse bucking from an ill-fitted saddle is by investing in a saddle that accurately fits your horse. To learn how to measure your horse for a horse saddle, check out our article Measuring a Horse Saddle: Everything You Need to Know.

There are professional saddle fitters who work for tack companies that can come out and measure your horse for the perfect saddle. If that’s not in your budget and you’re still unsure, find an experienced horse person, like a friend or instructor, who can help you find a good saddle fit for your horse.

If Your Horse is Bucking Due to Excess Energy:

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Why is the Horse Bucking:

Have you ever watched your horse frolic around in their pasture with the other horses? More than likely, you’ve seen your horse having a good time galloping around and letting out a few bucks. What do you do when you have a lot of cooped up energy? I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to make me go outside until I got all my excess energy out.

Along with galloping around, bucking may be a way your horse is letting off some energy. While it’s certainly not condonable to behave in such a way when being handled or ridden, it can help you get an idea of why your horse is acting a certain way.

Horses can start feeling “fresh” or excitable by even the slightest change of weather. Other instances where I notice horses feeling energized is when they’re in a new location they’ve never been or if they’re being ridden out with a big herd of horses. Be cautious in these situations and don’t be surprised if your horse seems to have more energy than normal.

How to Correct It:

I can usually tell if my horse has excess energy just by going and pulling him from his pasture. Your horse will be more alert and may seem a little pushy on the ground. If I notice this behavior before my ride, I’ll give my horse the opportunity to get his energy out by lungeing him beforehand. This way he can get out all of his bucks ahead of time.

If my horse’s energy picks up when I get on him and I can tell he’s feeling fresh, I immediately put him to work. I want him to burn his energy and engage his mind so he doesn’t have the opportunity to act up and buck. I change up what I’m doing a lot; I ask for many changes of directions, transitions, and serpentines to keep my horse’s mind on the ride.

If the horse goes to buck, I put a stop to it immediately by doing a one-rein stop and disengaging the horse’s hind-end. This is done by bringing one rein back to your hip so that the horse’s head turns to your leg. In this position, the horse can’t go forward, backward, rear, or buck. They can only walk in a tight circle. A horse takes this as a correction for bucking.

If Your Horse is Bucking as a Defense Mechanism:

Why is the Horse Bucking:

Horses are flight animals by nature, meaning that they are constantly looking for things that could be a potential danger. In the wild, horses would buck to predators off of them when attacked. It’s this instinct that some horse’s exhibit when they feel unsure or uncomfortable about something, in hopes that they can escape from the situation.

If you watch a horse being trained, you’ll notice that the majority of horses may buck when introduced to something new being put on them. I know my horse certainly did. The horse doesn’t buck just to buck, but rather out of fear of the potential danger. It’s important that as the horse’s trainer, we show them that they have nothing to be afraid of.

How to Correct It:

When it comes to correcting a horse that is bucking as a defense mechanism, you don’t want the horse to feel pressured as much as they already are by rushing them or being too forward. This could make your horse react even worse.

The best thing you can do to help a horse that is bucking as a defense mechanism is to do desensitizing training with them. Desensitize them to things touching their sides and flopping on their back. Desensitizing training helps your horse to learn that these things don’t pose a danger and it also helps your horse to learn to trust your leadership.

Desensitizing is a process where you work at the horse’s pace to help them get over their fear. To learn my desensitizing techniques I use in specific situations, check out our article Bombproof and Desensitize a Horse: Ultimate Guide.

If Your Horse is Bucking Out of Bad Behavior:

Why is the Horse Bucking:

Once in a while, you may run across a horse that uses bucking as a form of stubbornness and protest to the rider’s cues. I’ve seen horses buck because they knew it intimidated their rider to get off and put the horse back in their pasture. With any disrespectful behavior displayed by a horse, nipping it in the bud as soon as you notice the habit forming will save from a lot of trouble and stress in the long run.

Horses are animals that don’t want to do more work than they have to. The majority of them will try and find any way they can to get out of work. The horses that prefer to stay subtle may cut off a corner of the riding ring if you’re not paying attention, while others will throw a full-on hissy fit if they are opposed to something. These are the horses that tend to buck.

Horses are also creatures of habit. This along with not wanting to do work can form a very sour horse. If every time your horse bucks, you decide to get off and end your workout, the horse will learn that it can get out of work by doing this.

How to Correct It:

To correct this behavior in a horse, you need an assertive and forward hand, but also one of praise as soon as the horse does good. If riding a bucking horse is something that makes you uncomfortable, that’s ok; you can correct this behavior from the ground as well.

If you’re on your horse and they start to protest by bucking, you can immediately get off and do hard groundwork. (To learn some groundwork techniques, check out our article 5 Best Groundwork Exercises for Your Horse.) When I say hard groundwork, I mean move that horse’s feet and tire them out. Teach them that doing the wrong thing is going to mean a lot more work for them compared to doing the good thing.

If you feel comfortable enough to stay on the horse if they’re protesting by bucking, it’s the concept. Work the horse hard, be forward with your cues, do many transitions, serpentines, and changes of direction. Make them back up, go forward, the whole nine yards.

If you can put a stop to this behavior the first time the horse demonstrates it, you probably won’t ever have to deal with it again. However, if you let it build into a habit, it will be much harder to correct. If you’re unsure of what to do, ask an experienced horse person.

How do I Keep My Horse From Bucking?

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Maybe you want to be able to correct your horse’s behavior, but you can’t even get them to stop bucking in the first place. This could result in you falling off and getting hurt. I’ll share a super easy and effective method you can use to get your horse to stop bucking in the moment.

The One-Rein Stop

The one-rein stop is the emergency brake for horseback riding. It can stop a horse from doing any motion except walking in a tight circle. It takes the power away from the horse’s hind-end, which is where bucking, rearing, and bolting all come from.

The one-rein stop is exactly as it sounds and it’s the first thing I teach to any new horseback rider. To do the one-rein stop, simply grab one rein tight and bring it back to your hip. This will cause the horse to turn its neck so that its head is basically at your leg. In this position, the horse can’t do anything but walk in a tight circle.

I can’t tell you how many times this little technique has saved me from some big horse blow-ups. As long as you can keep a clear mind and remember to do it in the moment, you should be able to stop your horse using the one-rein stop.

I hope this article was helpful to you and that you were able to get a glimpse as to why your horse may be bucking. If you need help correcting other disrespectful behavior your horse exhibits, check out our article Disrespectful Horse Behavior: Training Guide.

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Why Does My Horse Buck

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Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

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