Why do some horses buck?

Hey Stacy, I have a horse behavior question for you. Since the beginning of training my 5 year old mare she has bucked at the beginning of each ride, maybe 10 bucks or so. it never lasts very long and she always did it when you first get on her. Any insight as to why she did this? i solved the problem by getting on her and keeping her head toward my leg until she didn’t want to buck anymore, and i tried all types of saddles on her. she no longer bucks, but I’ve been curious as to why she did it in that pattern. Thanks! -Lauren

Lauren-As you eluded to it could have something to do with comfort…or a number of other things. I am going to focus on one here.

The most common reason I have seen over the years is a combo of not adding enough steps and/or allowing them to buck. To me those two are tied together; the number of steps and allowing them to buck.

The more steps you add the less likely your are to get a big, crazy reaction. The less steps you add the more likely you are to get a big, crazy reaction. Picture the old ‘breaking’ method that might have involved tying the horse up, blindfolding it, saddling, climbing on…and have someone turn ’em loose’n watch the show!

….speaking of watching the show….how about this video?

Have you been watching the Jac series? The difference between the old ‘breaking’ method and the Jac series….night and day. But there are probably at least one hundred people out there wondering if I am EVER GOING TO RIDE! Lol…

I do in this week’s Jac episode. Sorry, no bucking.

Here is a great example:

I had a very nice lady attend one of my clinics. Upon meeting her my first question was, “What happened?” She had a very black eye, scratches all over her face and one side of her body was pretty beat up. I was surprised she was even there.

When I asked what happened she said her horse bucked her off. I asked questions about the horses training and the BIG red flag was;

A bronc buster broke him to ride. Seriously. The guy rode broncs.

I doubt he ‘discouraged’ bucking…

At the end of the training he could ride the horse but the training wasn’t so good for the 50+ owner.

Your case obviously wasn’t that extreme and it sounds like you handled the situation well (it sounds like she no longer bucks). It could have been a case of playing around that started to become a habit that you discouraged and now doesn’t happen.

Many horses ‘play’ with the bucking like Jac did in Episode 15, which I discouraged. He didn’t even play the next time but if he had I would have really discouraged it with lots of inside turns and changes of speed and direction, etc.

You discouraged the bucking when mounted by pulling her head around, which is what I would have also done if the first place I had the issue was on her back.

If bucking isn’t discouraged it can become a habit so plant those seeds early, or pull those weeds, to prevent issues in the future.


  1. LadybugFarm on February 27, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    when i see a video like this it just breaks my heart to hear the horse breathing like that. with what i know now, i’m a aware that the horse feels like it’s going to DIE in this situation. makes me wonder what he thinks the next time the cowboy goes to catch him 🙁 i’ll bet it’s not a pretty picture…

  2. shirley snyder on February 26, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    My mare has never bucked or kicked I have done my foundation training till we know it in our sleep .I need all the help I can get to mount her the right way To old to be bucked off

  3. Ian on July 31, 2014 at 3:31 am

    what is that guy trying to achieve ? that is just so terrible…and the dog running around just shows total lack of being in control of the situation. The guy was just encouraging the bucking with his spurs. T he horse was obviously distressed.

  4. Kenzie on July 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I got my first horse for free from a missionary, he said that Bucky (the horse) had lost his cart partner that he had grown up with and the owners had sold him. The people that got him next had never owned a horse before and didn’t know what they where doing, they got thrown several times and decided to sell him, I don’t know how many people he went through before he got to a family that had kids and they where thrown they gave him to the missionary to give away. He gave Bucky to me and I had a lot of trouble with him throwing me, my Father and my brothers, note: we had never owned a horse before. I have a friend, a pro horse trainer, she has helped me sooo much and I thank her for it, I had to work with him and I learned ALOT! I have had him for three years now and he still crow hops a little bit When I ask him to canter but now I have had enough experience and I know him well enough that i can tell when it’s coming and I can stop it or let him run through it. Other than that he has been a great pet and friend and now he has a new friend that he has attached himself to, a Quarter horse mare named Bella 😀 If they ever separate they both freak out. lol 🙂 I could never ask for a better horse 🙂

  5. jen on January 15, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    I was trying out a “green broke” mare this summer and had her at my place for a couple of weeks. I finally decided it was time to ride, ( I’m not a trainer, and do not pretend to be 🙂 ) My husband went with to the round pen, along with our 3 year old granddaughter. He was taking video with my phone, and all of a sudden the mare started to buck. I couldn’t get a handle on her, and eventually baled. She kept bucking and bucking and finally got her leg caught in the reins and stopped.

    I was so banged and bruised up that I could barely walk the next day, but nothing broken. Our little cowgirl granddaughter was so fired up watching the whole thing that she accidentally deleted the video! (I I really would have loved to see the whole thing)

    Needless to say, I didn’t purchase the mare. She was so sweet. I could put a tarp over her whole body and lead her around. It was that launch mechanism that just didn’t work for me. 🙂

  6. Madeline C. on January 7, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    When I was first starting to ride my horse I had the same thing, “Just get on” “Get a cowboy on him” “He just needs to get the bucks out.” First time I got him, he bolted and got the bucks out and me off. I worked a lot with him on the ground (without professional help…no $$) and finally we got on him, no issues. But there was a lot missing out of his foundation and I knew better but listened too much to the people around me and next thing you know we’re cantering around the ring, going on trails, and having a grand ol’ time… Until he bucked off my friend and almost broke her leg. Well he spooked! I kept riding… Then he threw me… I took 20 steps forward, skipping some in between, and was worse off than I was. Lesson learned. After some help from a local friend/trainer, for the 1st month of riding, it was a 10-step mounting procedure before I even got on. We’re now a stronger team than I could ever hope for, but still learning, step-by-step.

  7. Marjie Lewis on January 7, 2014 at 6:06 am

    Always good to have an equine chiropractor (a really good one!) look at a horse who bucks or kicks out when saddled… sometimes it is a pain issue. We acquired a 14-year old paint mare who fiercely bucked off 3 trainers and could NOT be ridden — she could have been a rodeo bronc! Took her through natural horsemanship respect training and she did not buck past 2 days of training. Within 2 months, our kids were riding her on trails. 6 months later, she was safe to ride bareback. We sold her to a 14 year old girl who began riding her English, doing jumping, etc. 🙂

  8. Nancy Farber on January 6, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Stacy, Is there a way you could put all of the Jacs training videos in one place in chronological order? i watched the first 5 and loved them but now it has been so long I don’t know where to find them all. Thanks in advance.

    • Stacy on January 7, 2014 at 8:59 am

      Nancy, My YouTube channel is the easiest place, https://www.youtube.com/user/StacyLWestfall, or this should be a link to the Jac playlist,

      Let me know if you still have trouble finding them, I am also doing a DVD! Not ready yet though….

  9. Felicia on January 6, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    I had a Quarter Horse stud that anyone could ride. I gave riding lessons on him, women and little kids that had never ridden would always be put on him! When I needed a mount for a difficult exercise, it would always be him. But every time my significant other got on him, no matter how tired he was, that stud would buck four to six times! It was a game, just to remind that man to pay attention! RIP Scooter.

  10. Nikole on January 6, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Sometimes I am embarrassed to be a horse person…some of the comments above are so out of context…horses are horses and they all buck for a different reason, this video was a vivid demonstration of lack of preparedness…That Stacey is talking about.
    My horse took to bucking from discomfort and until it was determined what was causing it she didn’t look like a horse anyone wanted to ride except me. I knew it wasn’t her temperament and we got things ironed out.
    How about a horse that is not matched well to the riders experience…they will figure out in a hurry that little piece of fun will make there work day a lot shorter…I could go on and on!

  11. Lee on January 6, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    The first horse i trained bucked randomly but mostly when i would try to get her to lope. I took her to a lesson with a well known instructor in our area and after the lesson she mentioned she had a horse chiropractor stopping by later that night and it might be worth having him give my horse a treatment. The next next day I showed up for my lesson and my horse move more freely and she loped without trying to dump me and she never bucked since! Now all my horses receive chiropractor sessions at least once a year. Since i was 12 at the time my parents had considered selling my horse because they didn’t want me to get seriously hurt but after the horse chiropractor treated her they changed their minds and I would recommend giving a horse chiropractor a try if you are having problems with a horse that bucks for seemingly no reason.

    • Stacy on January 6, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      Lee-I also use the chiropractor both for the horses and myself. I agree; I have seen amazing results with it.

    • Kyrah on February 26, 2015 at 11:48 am

      ITA with you Lee. I honestly believe 90% of the bucking issues have to do with misalignment or tight muscles. The extra weight in a canter movement is very different than walk-trot. Chiropractic, regular massage, & warming up their back muscles by backing them up 15-20 feet, then walking forward, backing up again, walking forward again, *before* putting the saddle on if it’s a heavy one, or at least before tightening the girth, are all important.

  12. J. on January 6, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Oh my, that video was really something! That poor horse!

  13. Lynn Foster on January 6, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    You could see that on those last kicks the horse hit his hind right and hurt himself…great riding cowboy..and whats with the dogs in the round pen??? what a mess….!!!

  14. Flo on January 6, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    What do you think of putting a second rope, like you do when you desensitize to girth pressure, but let the rope slide back around the flanks? The idea being to provoke a buck so you can then teach them how to stop bucking. Putting a stop buck cue on… Showing horse when he gets upset, the answer is to look to you for direction. If I”m explaining it so it makes sense….

    • Flo on January 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      An old cowboy friend of mine does it that way. He does all the groundwork, but does that, too which I haven’t yet seen anyone else do.

    • Stacy on January 6, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Flo-yep, I do that with mine. You are correct that you can teach them not to buck even though the ‘natural’ response would be to buck. Did you watch Episode 13 of the Jac videos?

      I do also wiggle the rope so it moves back to the back cinch area and then to the flanks. I don’t pull hard when it is really far back but I will move it there and put light pressure.

      • Flo on January 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm

        Ok good to hear. I have a yearling filly I’m training and I’m pretty much following your methods. I have no problem taking my time and getting a solid foundation on one before I ride.

  15. Ange on January 6, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    I have a Quarter horse who has been intimidated not to go forward, So as soon as you put your leg on and he responds then he panics and bucks with a twist, I can stop him straight away and he is fine. His ground work is great he is really responsive to free lunge he watches me all the time he enjoys to please and he thinks he is very cleaver. I have turned him out to just be a horse and I intend on riding him this year taking it very slow Just walking and no pressure to gain his trust on his back . He is not nasty in any way just frightened. It is not his fault that he has had this happen to him he is very sensitive it is so unfair. I will be over the moon when I gain his trust to be able to ride him will be an amazing thing . Thank You so much for sharing your expertise It is extremely helpful and I am truly grateful .

  16. Fiona Anderson on January 6, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    I would say this guy forgot a few steps! I’ve been there on a horse like that and it was not fun, I can tell you! Never want to do it again!

  17. Kara Faith on January 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Good stuff to know =) My mare Sable bucks quite a bit, we’re working on it but keeping her head turned seems to do her a lot of good (she’s super green). Love your blog!

  18. Mickey Sandridge on January 6, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Some years ago, I had a horse who bucked every time I got on, but only a few bucks each time. An “old-timer” said my horse was “cold-backed” and recommended tightening the girth as tight as possible, then lunging him in both directions for 5-10 minutes before getting on. That solved the problem.

  19. Teresa on January 6, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    oh my, what a terrible terrible video. That poor horse! My now 13 horse used to buck whenever he got excited or felt too pressured. I can see a lot of how I contributed to it. but it did teach me two things- how to sit a buck, and more importantly how to feel when a buck might be coming and head it off before it even happened.

    • Stacy on January 6, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      Lol, Teresa, that is a good point. You do quickly learn to feel it coming!

  20. Karla on January 6, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you so much for this Stacy. My situation is that the horses I’ve had to buck were fine at a walk and trot get them into a canter and hang on to your hat you were goin for a ride. I had a beautiful Appaloosa one time I showed him in walk trot was very successful then chose to ride him on the grounds bare back, my mom told me to canter him. I was about 10 years old. I did and he went from a trot to hard buck. I’m sure the day he died he had scars in his neck where I dug my fingers in scared to death. My first bucking horse. He went to several trainers and none of them could get that buck out of him. Course this was before natural horsemanship. Fast forward, 20 years, my current mare I was riding her again walk, trot fine get her out of a trot and hang on to your hat. Only this time I think the saddle may not have been comfortable for her. I have gotten a new saddle for her, but afraid to get her out of a trot. When she threw me I broke my tail bone. I do want to ride her at all three paces and do more with her she has great personality and my kids ride her at a walk.

    Thanks for this. I will look at my steps and see if I have missed something with her and go back

    • Stacey Venditti on February 26, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      I had the exact same issue with my mare. Always pinned ears and bucked into the canter, did this for a year in the western saddle until I realized she never did in in her english saddle….the saddle turned out to be the culprit!

  21. melody on January 6, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    I see an accident waiting to happen with this. OMG it was hard to watch. I know they used to break horses that way maybe…but dang I could so see that horse going into the fencing or over just had bad thoughts all the way around. Stacy YOU WILL RIDE JAC and your training methods work.

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