horse putting head down...bucking or submission? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 02-05-2011, 09:17 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy horse putting head down...bucking or submission?

I was riding an Arabian mare today, 12 years old, good amount of training, that hadn't been ridden in over two weeks, so she was a little frisky.

Anyway, we were trotting, and she was arching her neck and "bumping" her hind end a little, like horses do when they are thinking of bucking. I kept her trotting and gave her a vocal discipline every time she "bumped". I thought she was over it, so I asked for a lope. She went into it real nice and easy, but after a lap or so around the arena, she started putting her neck down again, arching it like she had been. I didn't know if this was her trying to "submit". I know when horses are relaxed and thinking and listening to what you want, they will often put their head down as submission. So I wasn't doing anything about it and she started bucking. I pulled her around in a tight circle and kept her going. A trainer that happened to be watching was kind enough to roundpen her, after which she settled down. We didn't do any loping after she was roundpenned, just some slow poles and trail work, so I don't know if she would have loped fine after.

The question I really have is this- is there a way to tell if they are putting their head down like "Ok, I'll do whatever you want", or if they are putting thier head down to buck? Is it possible that she was having pain, maybe in her back? Thanks!

I thought I had horses all figured out...Then I got a Shetland Pony.
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post #2 of 9 Old 02-05-2011, 09:55 PM
Green Broke
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Was this the first time you'd ridden the mare?
I know when i bought my Arabian (she was 14 at the time) she bucked every time we started to run. If i pulled her up & let her out at a run again she was usually OK but she had to get her bucks in first.
I switched saddles 3 times thinking it might be the gear but nothing changed. After about 10 rides during which we ran & she bucked she all of a sudden just quit.
I've owned her for 2 1/2 years now & she's only bucked on my twice since those first few rides. I havent changed her tack at all.
What i figure is that she was testing me. Most likely because it had worked so many times with her previous owners.
The people who had her before me only owned her for a year & hardly rode her. All they said when they sold her to me was that she wasn't good for their discipline (english & jumping) & that she didnt like the contact.
I personally think they didn't like her bucking lol. Before that she was used as a pet/lesson horse for an elderly lady who was timid around horses so i doubt she ran her much.

As for determining if they're submitting or bucking you can usually feel it. I've never known an Arab to run with its head real low like some QH's do but if she wants to buck, her head will go down (usually forcefully and she may tuck her chin in), her body will tense and you can usually feel the tell-tale hump forming in their backs. Her stride might even slow or get shorter.
If you're nervous/think she may buck, just turn her.

"If a horse fails to do something that is because he was not trained to do it. If a horse fails to do something properly that is because he was not trained properly."
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post #3 of 9 Old 02-05-2011, 10:10 PM
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Ears pinned signals aggression. I find if they're not pinned or showing other signs of aggression, its probably collection/submission. Or happy bucks. Which aren't fantastic either!
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post #4 of 9 Old 02-05-2011, 10:15 PM
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It depends on how it feels.
Does she feel tensed/stressed? Or does she feel relaxed and supple? Is it hard to control her? Or does she respond instantly and willingly?
Also, is she "curling up" (bringing her nose to her chest) or just lowering her head?
Most Arabians I've known weren't ones to go around with their heads near the ground.

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post #5 of 9 Old 02-05-2011, 10:16 PM
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I agree. Arabians don't normally have their head down except to buck, or the ground/footing is questionable. If she was dropping her head in submission, her neck should be straight. There is a different feel to the horse also. If the horse feels tight or tense, the back rounds up or the rear goes under, it will more than likely buck. If she is loose and relaxed, no buck.

I went through the same thing with our appy/qh. When I was training him, he liked to buck. As we transitioned to riding outside, I learned he just liked to keep his nose close to the ground as we went. I kept 'correcting' him because I thought he was going to buck. I finally decided to let him have his head down and correct him if he bucked. There wasn't a buck and he just wanted to have his head down.
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post #6 of 9 Old 02-05-2011, 10:24 PM
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You should have put her back into a canter after her warm-upin the RP. She talked you into pulling her up and getting off. So, she will do it again. She was probably feeling good and testing her position in your pecking order. She could be a little more bold next ride.

A good steady head position that does not change unless you want it to comes from a rider not accepting any other position. This means that you 'bump' them with the reins when they carry their head too low. A good bump for dropping her head and a strong push forward would have corrected it unless she really wanted to be a bronc. Sounds more like a little crow-hop than a real buck-fest. If you judge it wrong, it can be a wreck, though.
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post #7 of 9 Old 02-06-2011, 03:13 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone! lots of good advice. It was not the first time I had ridden her, but I probably haven't ridden her in six months or so. She's actually a lesson horse, so she is ridden by a lot of people of differing abilities. I know I should have loped her after the roundpenning. The think that confused me was that she was actually arching her neck and her ears weren't pinned.

I thought I had horses all figured out...Then I got a Shetland Pony.
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post #8 of 9 Old 02-06-2011, 09:51 PM
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Lots of horses won't pin their ears before/during a buck. Don't use that as a guideline. As Usandpets wrote, it is important to feel the muscles of the horse for signals. Also, if you are concerned at all about a buck, just don't let her put her head down that low. Wither height is fine. Any lower and just pull her up a bit and push forward.
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post #9 of 9 Old 02-07-2011, 12:12 PM
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I've never had a horse put their head down while riding as a sign that they are submitting. A horse should respond to your rein cues by moving their head and neck position, but I don't think they should drop their head to say they are OK with the fact that you are cueing them. A horse should demonstrate that they are submitting to a cue by following the command that is asked of them.
Horses being ridden should not have their poll below their wither line unless they are on a trail and need to check out the footing or sniff an obstacle. Or if you are asking them to stretch out long and low on the bit. If a horse ever puts their head down low when we are going at a fast pace I assume they are either going to buck or are trying to evade the bit. Either one means I get their head up ASAP.
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