Sudden Bucking With No Explanation - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 07-11-2019, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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Question HELP! Sudden Bucking With No Explanation

Hello everyone,
This is my first time on this forum and also my first time with an issue I just really do not know how to approach. Sorry for the long post but I want to make sure I get it all.

So here is the story: A friend of mine had a horse donated to her for her non-profit therapy program. She has 35+ years of experience and rode the horse two times with no signs of him being aced and no issues at all (she has seen it all believe me). He is an 18 year old 16.2 hand QH cross. He came from a ranch in Montana where he was supposedly a great trail horse. He was in a 12x12 pen surrounded by other horses. He had a crabby demeanor in his pen but once you pulled him out he was relaxed and content but alert. She rode him in a pen by himself and with another horse both times and he did great.

Fast forward to a week after she got him to Arizona. Also just a note this is not the desert part of Arizona everyone pictures. This is the mountains (7000 feet above sea level), cool weather, very similar to Montana. He was no longer crabby in his pen and was consistently the same cool, relaxed horse that he was when you took him out of his pen. She had not had a chance to ride him yet so she asked me to take him on a trail ride with my husband on one of his new penmates.

I have 20+ years of experience and have had many the difficult horse so just to be safe I rode him in the arena for 20-30 minutes. He did awesome! Very responsive to rein and leg cues, very quiet and comfortable walk and trot, no obvious behavioral issues. Also he had very basic tack on, nothing severe. So we go out on the trail.

Now I realize that I probably should have just stuck to arena work but I made the mistake of thinking no one would donate a horse with severe behavioral issues as a therapy horse, if he had severe issues he would have shown some sign of them by now, my friend had ridden him twice with no problems, and he was a trail horse back in Montana. I assumed any issues he had would be minor and manageable, especially since he was not alone and with a buddy. Well... I was incredibly wrong!

Ten minutes into the ride he was doing all the "normal" things (whinnying back home and to any other horses we passed, stopping occasionally but easy to start back up, gently trying to turn around, etc.). We stop because my husband had to tighten his cinch a little and I figured I might as well check mine too, which definitely needed some tightening but it was still a comfortable fit. I go to get back on and before my butt hits the saddle he immediately turned to go back home so I try to gain my balance and correct like I did several times and suddenly he goes straight into the air and bronc bucks. Needless to say bronc riding is not a career path for me. He bucks all the way back home and I send my husband on his horse to make sure that he makes it back since he had only been here a week and I walk/run back.

Now back at the house, I lunge him for 15-20 minutes until he joins up multiple times easily. No bucks or anything the entire time he was lunging and again he is very responsive to my body language. He isn't whinnying anymore to the other horses and he seems to be back to the horse that he was when I rode in the arena the first time. So I go to get back on and again before my butt hits the saddle he is spinning and up in the air and I am back on the ground. I repeat the lunge and remount one more time, this time with my husband holding him, and same results (i.e. insanity). At this point I decided I was lucky bruises were all I was walking away with so a bruised pride was going to have to be the final blow. I ended by doing ground work with him, which again he was an angel for.

Results: My friend cannot keep him for insurance purposes and the woman who donated him does not want him back and does not care what happens to him (her words). So she has to sell him or give him away.

Now I think he could be a great horse and I would like to work on this issue now if someone does not take him for a while (which is a likely case). I am trying to see what people might think about this situation and maybe what the next steps could be. I am no pro trainer but I have training experience and would like to help in some way to get this horse to a better position for his next owner. Some things to note:

-My first thought was saddle fit because it happened after I tightened the girth. I checked his back after the incident and no sore spots anywhere, not even minor ones, but to be safe the next time, if i get the chance, I will use a different saddle.
-He just had a veterinary check when she bought him and he is "healthy as a horse"
-He could be barn or buddy sour but I figured he would have done these things the entire time in the pen and not just the last 30 minutes and it would not have been just when I was on him.
-I am not nervous to get back on him at all even after taking three beatings, but I also do not want to make the behavior worse or push my luck and end up severely injured.

I am open to any suggestions because I think he would be a horse worth putting the time into. If I could afford to "fix" him and buy him I absolutely would. Thanks!!
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Last edited by MackenCore; 07-11-2019 at 05:50 PM. Reason: Update Title
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post #2 of 16 Old 07-11-2019, 07:03 PM
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Have you checked the saddle itself? Loose bolts, nail, cracks, ect? Might not be enough to make his back sore without the saddle, but with the weight of mounting after being ridden for a bit it would have been sore if something was poking him.

You could try laying across him sideways bareback to see if it's the mounting process or saddle or what. Sideways you have an easy off if he gets rowdy.

He sounds like he's otherwise a solid citizen...
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post #3 of 16 Old 07-11-2019, 07:14 PM
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Hi,

Of course, this horse could have learned this from past experiences. He could also have some physical prob, or the saddle hurt him or some such.

But as he was apparently good at home *in his comfort zone*, went out for you anyway despite being obviously upset about it, it's also very possible he had no bucking issues previously, that this was a first for him.

IOW you weren't necessarily wrong at all in your assumption that he had no issues & that any that did crop up would be minor & easily dealt with *assuming the right approach*. He is a horse though, and they have brains & emotions, can't think rationally. He has just found himself in a totally new situation. So let's assume he is a star horse with no prior 'issues'...

I wouldn't at all say that was 'no explanation' bucking. Sounded like he was telling you, loud & clear, from the time you started out that he was worried about leaving his new place of security, going out in a strange place with a strange horse & strange humans. But sounds like you kept just ignoring his worries & asking him to turn round & continue. Then, I'd guess getting off & tightening the girth was the final straw for him.

And since it worked, he of course tried it again. And it worked again. He's on the way to it being a confirmed behaviour for him now.

I dont believe running him in circles at home to make him submit('join up') to you in that situation is helpful. If you instead let him know you will be considerate, listen to him, look out for him, not put him in danger, this will start to develop a good relationship & trust from him. So that you can then ask him to do stuff that he is a little uncomfortable with, and he will not feel the need to blow up to look after his own hide.

So... what I would have done, after checking him out at home, would be to have gone out for just a few minutes - or however long he was not bad about, then turned around before he got too bothered. Rinse & repeat. Soon he will learn a)it's not bad going out here and b)you won't drop him in a 'sink or swim' situation.

Now he's learned to buck & get you off, he will try this again, and try harder if it doesn't work the first time. So I wouldn't advise anyone attempt to get on him again, unless they're sure they can stay on & ride him through any bucking. Once he has had lots of practice at it never working, he may not try it again when you go to ride next.
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Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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post #4 of 16 Old 07-11-2019, 07:20 PM
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I want to start out by saying I do not have years and years of experience. But I do have a horse who came from a rescue situation and was fine for a few months then had similar actions. Lunged fine. Lunged with saddle fine. Could lay across his back and put some weight on with/without saddle and was fine. Took of broncing soon as he was sat on.


Chiropractor. Lots of adjusting. I do believe it fixed the issue, however, he came down with an abscess the same day Chiro visited and wasn't ridden for a week after the adjustment. The abscess and broncing where not related. So I can not be conclusive it was the Chiro that 'fixed' it, but I'm convinced myself it is.


His saddle fit wasn't great either, but with a REALLY nice pad its fine now. It could have just been the saddle fit, but the Chiro did so much and you could physically see his back was better after it along with his pole.


I'm wondering also if a week was enough of an adjustment after a big move to go out on the trail. That's more of a question than a statement. But then you said it happened in the arena so likely not the issue.


The Chiro we had out also used to be a vet so that was helpful. She thinks it was both the saddle fit and the adjustment that helped him. He's got really high withers but a small horse so its hard to fit. She actually suggested for him to become just under obese for the best saddle fit in his case. That that will end up being most beneficial to him. Not obese, but on the big side will be okay.


Edit: It was suggested to try bareback by the Chiro to rule out the fit. Granted we didn't want to try it on this horse but its a good idea.

Last edited by BeckyFletcher; 07-11-2019 at 07:21 PM. Reason: addition
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post #5 of 16 Old 07-11-2019, 08:38 PM
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My first question is whether the saddle you were using on him has a back cinch. Some people are so used to riding with a back cinch that they just assume horses come used to them, but the first exposure to one can make some horses buck.

My best guess would be it is the saddle. Especially since the horse started bucking right after you tightened the cinch. Possibly the fit was tolerable until you made it tighter, at which point it caused pain. If it is pinching or too far forward over the shoulders, or touching the withers, those would be possibilities.

A third possibility is that the cinch itself is a problem, or the horse has a new sting/sore underneath.

I would strongly suspect it is the saddle because the horse acted fine except for when you were mounting. The horse also could have a new back injury. I'd try palpating hard along his spine and back muscles to see if you can induce any flinching.

I've mounted a very well trained, sweet horse that reared straight up in the air when I sat in the saddle. The saddle pinched him and I did not try getting on him in that saddle again. He also did not ever have that problem again.
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post #6 of 16 Old 07-11-2019, 08:48 PM
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I'd suspect a combination of pain somewhere and a learned behavioral issue that's worked for him before. Quite possibly he'd be just fine in an arena he's used to, but doesn't act the same away from home or in a new situation.

How long have you had him? If it's somewhere around the 30-day mark, I'd be leery of drugging. I can't remember the name off-hand but there's a medication out there that will keep a horse nice and mellow for right about 30 days...
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post #7 of 16 Old 07-11-2019, 10:00 PM
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Could be behavioral, could be physical. Probably the reason why he was given away & the woman didn't want him back. We can all guess as to what the problem is, but the horse is there with you and you have to be the detective if you care to do so. In the meantime, be careful.
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post #8 of 16 Old 07-12-2019, 10:51 AM
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I'm gonna say it's a pain issue...horses usually don't buck for no reason at all. Getting the vet/chiro out was a good idea, because it could very well be the saddle. Maybe it just needs some shimming/padding, or maybe it doesn't fit at all. Or the back pain could stem from something else. Something to keep a watch on for sure.
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post #9 of 16 Old 07-12-2019, 11:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MackenCore View Post
the woman who donated him does not want him back and does not care what happens to him (her words).



Based on this alone, I think there was a reason why this horse was donated. People are shady and often try to dump their problem horses on others.



Quote:
Originally Posted by MackenCore View Post
Ten minutes into the ride he was doing all the "normal" things (whinnying back home and to any other horses we passed, stopping occasionally but easy to start back up, gently trying to turn around, etc.). We stop because my husband had to tighten his cinch a little and I figured I might as well check mine too, which definitely needed some tightening but it was still a comfortable fit. I go to get back on and before my butt hits the saddle he immediately turned to go back home so I try to gain my balance and correct like I did several times and suddenly he goes straight into the air and bronc bucks. Needless to say bronc riding is not a career path for me. He bucks all the way back home and I send my husband on his horse to make sure that he makes it back since he had only been here a week and I walk/run back.

Now back at the house, I lunge him for 15-20 minutes until he joins up multiple times easily. No bucks or anything the entire time he was lunging and again he is very responsive to my body language. He isn't whinnying anymore to the other horses and he seems to be back to the horse that he was when I rode in the arena the first time. So I go to get back on and again before my butt hits the saddle he is spinning and up in the air and I am back on the ground. I repeat the lunge and remount one more time, this time with my husband holding him, and same results (i.e. insanity). At this point I decided I was lucky bruises were all I was walking away with so a bruised pride was going to have to be the final blow. I ended by doing ground work with him, which again he was an angel for.

Maybe he's cold backed and needs some "time" after you tightened the saddle on the trail.
Maybe when you got back into the arena, he knew he got you off the first time and so he did it again.



Quote:
Originally Posted by MackenCore View Post
-My first thought was saddle fit because it happened after I tightened the girth. I checked his back after the incident and no sore spots anywhere, not even minor ones, but to be safe the next time, if i get the chance, I will use a different saddle.
-He just had a veterinary check when she bought him and he is "healthy as a horse"
-He could be barn or buddy sour

While I agree these are things to be mindful of to make sure the horse is comfortable, I also believe these are NOT excuses for the horse and he should still NOT be exhibiting this behavior.



What exactly did the vet check, actually check? If it was just a quick check of vitals and not an actual lameness exam, you could start with a lameness exam and see if anything shows up. Checking for lameness when you have a known problem like this, I think, lets you know if there are any pain issues that need to be addressed before working on it as a behavioral issue.


If he passes the lameness side of things, if you feel like you can "stick" his bucks, then try again, keep his nose turned to you as you get on (maybe have a helper) and be ready for him to take off. Once you get some control over him, then work his @$$ off. I absolutely do NOT tolerate bucking, especially bad bucking like this, and I am not afraid to show to the horse that I am displeased with them and they made a very, very poor choice.

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post #10 of 16 Old 07-12-2019, 12:05 PM
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I'm with @beau159 on the bucking thing. I never tolerate it from a horse. If they need to tell me something there are plenty of other ways they can communicate it instead of bucking. If I get a horse in that has a default setting of trying to buck and it isn't easily trained out of them I will sell them for dog food at the meat sale down in Missoula. I have no problem doing this with buckers. There are way too many good horses out there that need great homes than to waste time messing with a bad horse. I had one in last year that would work for about 3 - 4 hours and then blow up when he felt he was tired and wanted to go home. I had a friend who rides saddle broncs for a living ride out his buck for me several times and make him work until the day was done. He still kept doing it even after a week of being bucked out daily so he went to the meat sale and I have no remorse about it. Yes, this was behavior that the former owner had trained into the horse by letting it quit working when it got broncy. I gave it a week's worth of chances to realize there are other ways to deal with being tired(we were by no means wearing him out) and bucking won't get you what you want. He still did it anyway so some dog somewhere is having a healthy meal of broncy horse and the horses I have now all do a days work with no complaint.

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