Has it ever happened to you to ride a particularly “electric” horse? Not a great experience, because it feels like sitting on a time bomb that could explode at any moment … and maybe you’ve been bucked off right after! This is not only an unpleasant situation, it can also be quite dangerous.
I have got to know some of these horses in the last few years, I know exactly how it feels and with this article I would like to tell you what I do in these situations and how I taught these horses not to buck anymore thanks to AsvaNara.
People often ask me “why does my horse buck?”. Apart from the fact that it might have back pain, which we would have checked by a veterinarian, or that it bucks out of joy and exuberance, which we can observe especially in young horses, there are two different answers to this question.
The first is that the horse does not really want to go forward and that it has grown resentful towards the rider, who is pushing him constantly. The rider often reacts to this with even more leg pressure and kicks the horse in the stomach, often with spurs, and therefore the horse then tries to get rid of him by bucking.
The second reason, however, is that the horse is full of accumulated energy, nervous and excited. It is “electric” and cannot get used to the saddle and the rider on its back and calm down, especially if it is a sensitive and emotive horse.
In the first case it is a lack of respect, in the second a lack of trust. In this article, I will not describe the first situation, because the solution is obvious … but what can I do if my horse bucks out of fear.
“Observe your horse and find out whether he is bucking due to lack of trust, i.e. fear, or due to lack of respect or unwillingness … or both.”
Some horses have learned to combine the two and out of habit, every time they don’t want to do something or are afraid of it, they buck. Let us remember, however, that horses are flight animals and it is an instinctive survival strategy for them to protect themselves from predators and humans, by nature a predator.
If a horse cannot run away and feels trapped, it usually reacts by bucking and rearing. These reactions can be dangerous both for the horse and for us, so for the time being it is important that we do not behave towards the horse like predators, but learn to understand the nature of horses.
To achieve this, a real horseman will establish a connection with the horse before riding and create a relationship of trust and respect through communication. It is much easier, safer and faster to do this on the ground for the time being and not immediately on the horse’s back, because on the ground it can see and observe me and does not feel trapped between my legs and arms as when riding.
One of the greatest gifts of a true horseman is to be able to observe horses and understand what is about to happen before it happens. For example, the horse’s ears are a good signal to determine what the horse is thinking and feeling, and its body tells us whether it is relaxed or nervous and tense.
It is important not to ignore these signals, but to listen to them, because it is the most direct way to communicate with the horse and understand its thoughts and feelings. The body language is, so to speak, the highway to its soul.
When the horse gets nervous, anxious or tense inside, it is usually very helpful to simply take a step backwards, withdraw, take the pressure off, wait until the horse relaxes and then start again. This tactic works for most horses, only a few exceptions need a different approach.
I use the 60 second rule … if I can’t solve the problem in the saddle in one minute, I get off and solve it from the ground, this is more efficient and safer for horse and rider!”
When I am in the saddle and I feel that the horse is not calming down and I can’t get the situation under control in 60 seconds, then I get off. In tricky situations I don’t even wait 60 seconds, but dismount immediately, because I have never been bucked off on the ground before, but only if I have been in a risky situation in the saddle too long.
On the ground we can solve difficult situations much easier and more efficiently than in the saddle, especially because the horse sees me better now and I don’t cling to his back like a panther.
In this article I describe the work I have done with Bella, an 11 year old Quarter Horse mare. Her owner had her for 4 years and had already been bucked off several times and also injured. Bella had already been in training with several trainers, but no one had managed to take away her fears and wean her off the reaction of bucking, on the contrary, it only got worse.
Tired and weary because she could no longer ride the horse, the owner finally decided to bring Bella to AsvaNara as a last resort. With patience and methodology I started to work with her, step by step, and after a few weeks I was able to ride Bella without any major problems. After another two months the owner could finally have fun and joy with her horse again and enjoy riding together in peace and safety.
Now let’s take a look at how I worked with Bella and how I also work with other horses when they react with bucking out of fear and insecurity.
Sensitive and hot-tempered horses, especially mares, can become very defensive if they are touched by something on their belly, flanks or hind legs. These horses must first learn that not everything they are touched by in these sensitive areas is dangerous and that they can trust us.
In the beginning I use the Carrot Stick with a plastic bag to touch the horse all over its body. With the stick I can keep a safe distance and I don’t risk being bitten or kicked.
When the horse has accepted this touch and can remain calm and relaxed, I will then touch the horse with my hand all over its body and then with other objects such as the rope or lasso. At first slowly and gently, but then also with more speed and rhythm to desensitize the horse really all over the body.
Once I have desensitized the horse while standing, I would like to do the same in movement, in all gaits. I therefore send the horse on a circle, first in walk, then also in trot and canter, and desensitize him on both sides. To do this, I attach my lasso to the stirrup and move it back and forth, up and down, and also let it clap its flanks a little to test whether the horse is disturbed by these rhythmic movements and runs away, or whether it can tolerate this in a relaxed manner.
If the horse gets frightened, runs away or bucks, it is important not to stop the movements but to continue until the horse calms down again. This is the only way he learns not to run away from all noises and movements like an flight animal, but to use his left brain, to stay calm and to get through the situation.
Horses learn through repetition and positive reinforcement, so it is important to stop stimulation at the right moment.
Now I do the same exercise as before, but tie the lasso to the opposite stirrup and let it dangle around the hind legs, above the ankle joint. This is a very good and effective way to desensitize the horse, but requires some experience and feeling from us. The horse can easily get tangled up in the lasso and then we have created a situation that can easily get out of control.
The lasso should not be tight, but should lie light and loose over the hind legs. I move it back and forth with rhythm and wait until the horse is no longer frightened by it, but remains relaxed and calm in the gait. This exercise helps the horse to stay calm, even if an object touches his hind legs.
Desensitization – I start by desensitizing the horse all over its body and touch it with the Carrot Stick and a plastic bag, then with my hands, the rope and the lasso. I can also extend the desensitization and with plastic sheets, umbrella, balls, balloons etc. I can teach the horse not to run away from strange objects.
Desensitization in motion – now I tie the lasso to the stirrup and send the horse on a large circle, first at a walk and then at a trot and gallop. While the horse is moving, I swing the lasso back and forth, up and down, so that the stirrup rhythmically touches the horse’s side and stimulates it to run away or to buck.
With the lasso on the hind legs – then I attach the lasso to the opposite stirrup and let it dangle over the hind legs. There is no pressure on the rope, I just move it slightly back and forth, pull and release. In this way the horse learns not to be frightened when it is touched on the hind legs or flanks.
When the work on the ground bears its fruit and the horse no longer panics as soon as it is touched by something unfamiliar, the moment has come to mount. At the beginning I prefer a small space like a paddock or a round pen. Whatever happens, in a small area it is easier to regain control.
First I check the lateral flexion, because this is the best way to stop and control a horse when it starts to buck. I teach this to the horse first in standing, then in walking and later also in trot and canter. Only when the lateral bend is light and effortless do I have the ability to control the horse in an emergency and bring it back to the left side of the brain.
Then I ask the horse from a standstill to move his hindquarters and the hind legs to step under. This gives me the opportunity to control the horse immediately when it becomes emotive and should go into the right side of the brain.
The hindquarters are the most powerful part of the horse, so to speak the motor and engine, and when the horse bucks or rears up, it uses mainly the power from the hindquarters. However, if I can make the hind legs step under, I take the power away from the hindquarters and the horse can no longer buck or rear.
The secret of control lies in the hindquarters and not in the bit, as most riders believe! Often riders pull both reins tight when they get into trouble, but this only gives the hindquarters more power and energy. On the other hand, the lateral flexion and the indirect rein help the horse to calm down and relax, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally.
Now I ask the horse to go into the walk; it is a good habit not to kick with the heels into his belly, but to move the horse into the walk with light, steady pressure of the lower legs. If the horse just doesn’t walk with thigh pressure, I need some rhythmic pressure on the croup until it walks.
If I have the feeling that the horse could buck at any moment, I hold on to the saddle horn or the mane. Under no circumstances do I want to hold on to the reins with both hands, because as soon as the horse puts its head down when bucking, I would fly off the horse in a high arc.
Holding on to the saddle horn with one hand gives me a secure feeling on the horse and causes a relaxed seat. There is no shame in holding on to the horse or the saddle, because there is nothing worse than sitting cramped and stiff on a sensitive horse, which only increases the horse’s insecurity, it is like pouring petrol into a fire.
At the beginning I behave like a passenger in the saddle. This means that I don’t steer the horse, but let it carry me where it wants to trot, the important thing is that it stays in the trot, doesn’t stop, walk or gallop. I ride with long, relaxed reins and, depending on the horse, in a rising trot or possibly even standing in the stirrups.
Many riders have great difficulty with this exercise because they are used to controlling every step and every little movement of their horse and they are afraid to let go of this control.
It is precisely through such an exercise that the horse finds its mental and emotional balance, because it is now itself responsible for maintaining the gait and choosing the direction in which it wants to go. This gives him more self-confidence and security … and ultimately also us.
If we can trot the horse calmly in a small space, such as a round pen or paddock, then the next step is to go to a larger area. A riding hall, an outdoor riding arena or a pasture are suitable for this. It is important to take one step at a time and not to be impatient and take a shortcut.
With each repetition the horse will find more confidence in itself, the rider and the surroundings and will no longer run and buck as before with every little uncertainty. This makes riding safe and fun again, both for the rider and the horse.
“Don’t forget how important it is to simply spend time with your horse – CavalloTime – moments of friendship without any demands.”
1. lateral flexion – with one rein I ask my horse to bend laterally, first in a standstill and then also in walk. This is the most effective way to control and stop the horse when he wants to run off and buck
2. indirect rein – after that I ask the horse to step under with the hind legs under and relax the hindquarters This gives me more control and the horse relaxes not only physically but also mentally and emotionally
3. at the walk – now I send the horse into a walk with an even pressure of the lower legs. I never kick my horses to walk, because it is not only impolite but also disturbs them, especially the sensitive horses
4. at the trot – I hold the reins long and relaxed, and let it trot where it wants to, as if I was just a passenger. This way the horse finds its balance in movement and builds up self-confidence and more security
I hope you enjoyed this article and that you found many useful hints and tips in it. Feel free to leave your comment below.
If you have any questions about this topic, contact me and I will answer you in the forum.
I wish you much success, fun and joy with your horse … and remember, it has never lasted longer than two days.
With kind regards, Edwin