11-05-2009, 10:28 PM
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Well, for me personally, I usually examine the elements. In my experience, stall kept horses are much more prone to kicking up their heels, usually when asked for the canter. If it's just a little buck or two at the beginning and then they settle into work, I pass it off as feeling good.
A lot of people think horses only buck from discomfort, and I disagree completely with that. Watch a herd of horses in the pasture - when the herd starts running out of play, almost every horse will buck and jump and kick and spin and every other crazy manoveur. Haha, there's been a few times I've taken my Arab mare for a good gallop, and partway through she just gives this big buck into the air. It's obvious to me it's a feel good buck, it's not an angry humping of the back, it's a head in the air, ears perked, sunfish kick to the side. If she pulled rodeo, I'd be off in a split second wondering what the heck was wrong.
If nothing has changed about your tack, and your horse hasn't suffered a recent injury, I'm prone to put it off as a feel good buck. I would never immediately quit working the horse unless he went bronc on me (a blatantly well trained horse that wasn't ever prone to such behavior). I'd ride the buck or two out, continue at a canter and see how he feels. Does he settle into his normal pace? Is he relaxed over his topline, are his ears pricked or listening to you as usual, is there any tension or champing of the bit or trying to bolt or act up further?
If a horse is trying to "get out of work" or doesn't feel like working, in my experience, he won't neccesarily be tense but he will be very spooky. Spooky is not typically (that I've ever seen) a trait that surfaces out of pain. They're feeling goofy, silly and completely unfocused and just don't feel like listening today. So generally it's up to the rider to push through it, or admit he's having an off day and let it go. Some horses you can do this with, some you can't.
Hope that helps a bit!