First things first we think we have this pretty well licked - Mum and I have BOTH worked with and fixed buckers before - just wanted some more thoughts because he's so bad. We've only dealt with horses that buck 3-4 times in succession at most, this guy will do LAPS of the round pen!
Mum's getting a new horse. We went and saw him today, and there were so many red flags... he's a tad underweight, not skinny just could stand to gain a few pounds. So right off the bat we were thinking he would be a bit pricey to feed. His feet are dreadful with long toes and low heels [same as EVERY OTHER HORSE at the barn so it's the barn farrier, won't be a problem to fix]. He had quite a pronounced diffuse lump on his back. We talked to the BO and BO, with a very concerned look on his face, was all, "are you a good rider?"... we asked why, what does he do, and we were told he bucks.
Asked the owner how he is to ride. "Oh, he's a bit nervous, but if you keep your leg on and don't hang off his mouth he's usually ok."
Mum worked out some soreness in his back, and the diffuse lump nearly disappeared. I noticed he has hunter's bump and thought, sacro-iliac soreness might explain bucking, because sacro issues make every step painful. But Mum worked on his hind end and found no soreness. Plus, he doesn't move like a horse with sacro issues - THEY tend to move strung out, flat and on the forehand, and don't want to engage their hind end, because that hurts. HE moves like a trained dressage horse.
He was so sweet and so pretty and well put-together that I talked her into seeing how he goes under saddle first. His owner had an operation months ago where they broke a bunch of bones in her leg so she couldn't ride first, and didn't have a rider to show him off for us.
Tacked him up and he was fine, so I got on [in the round pen] after some dancing around... he is DEFINITELY nervous. Walked him a while, he chilled out, so I asked him to trot.
Off he went, a few strides lovely and relaxed, then started rushing, then started bucking. I rode it out and pulled him up, walked him some more, then trotted him for just a few strides and pulled him up again. Worked like that for a while until we could do a few laps at the trot in each direction. He chilled out, so Mum went to get her helmet, and meanwhile I thought I'd pop him into a canter just so that I'd put him through his paces before she got on... I bounce, at 46 she breaks.
OH MY GOD. I have never ridden a horse that bucked like that. I swear to god I have no idea how I stayed on but I did, I rode out his bucks and kept him forward until he settled into a reasonable canter then asked him back to a trot, then a walk. Tried again. Bucking. Rode him out until he settled, then back down to walk.
It continued like that for a while [an hour or more]... then I got off and free-lunged him for a while to see if it was the fact that he had a rider, or something to do with the saddle. Turned out it was a bit of both, without me on board he wasn't bucking as much but he WAS bucking bigger. He wanted that saddle OFF. I just worked him until he settled then let Mum take over.
Oddly enough, exhausted and with a rider twice my weight, he was an angel. So we're thinking we'll continue like that, just work him through it and keep on top of any soreness. A few soaked saddle pads never did anybody any harm. His bucking is, I believe, a combination of nerves and behavioural issues created by the fact that his owner is a beginner, so working him through it seems to be the best solution at this stage.
Honestly the only reason, after all the red flags, that we took him on, is because he is SO nice. That right there is a future dressage horse. He's big enough [16.2] and built strong enough that he can handle Mum's weight, he's really sweet, and he's only 9 so his mind is malleable enough to accept training easily. His natural way of going is uphill with an engaged hindquarter, he has amazing hock and knee action, and he has a tendency to want to carry himself round, when he is able to relax [so, without a rider, at this point in time; he just needs more miles and he'll be ok]. His conformation lends him towards collection AND extension, and my god can he MOVE. He is more than worth the money it would cost to send him to a trainer but with 32 years experience between us Mum and I feel like we're capable of working him through this ourselves.
At this stage, we are basically leasing him. We only need him for two years while Mum's pony matures, and we offered his owner the opportunity to take him back at the end of that period. The agreement is that if she isn't able to, or doesn't want to, he will then become ours to do with what we will. In which case Mum intends to sell him, and she was drawn to him because he will have good onsale value when he has some education. But he's SO nice, I have a feeling he won't be going anywhere if his owner doesn't want him back.
I am totally in love with this guy and I'm the one he was broncing for! If Mum does end up selling him, I swear to god I'm buying him.
A CLEAN SLATE FOR THE FUTURE