Just got back from a ride on the beach with Hero and Nala. Yesterday was sunny, today was overcast and cooler; better for riding since there were less people out - it rained a bit this morning.
There was not a lot of hard sand, and Hero did a lot of bucking today. I really don't feel his stifles slip anymore, or his back legs drop out or feel him struggle down hills. So I've come to the conclusion that he just likes bucking.
In the past I believed that horses did not like bucking over and over, except for maybe throwing in one when exuberant or upset once in awhile. But it takes so much energy, that what I experienced was that horses stopped doing it as a frequent behavior if you fixed their saddle, or back pain, or anxiety, or etc. But not every horse always wants to do what is easiest, and sometimes they have reasons to do things that are more work.
I suppose I should have understood this sooner, since there are many horses that you can't use work as a reprimand, which is a common practice used by some trainers. Some horses enjoy working, and running in circles around the horse trailer won't encourage them to give up and get in. Hero often likes to stop and think, and is not a constant mover like some. Yet like many Arabs and TBs, if his mind gets active he will tap into endless energy. In that state, when he feels very energetic, he likes to buck.
On the way down the beach, we started in deep sand and I ended up just trotting Hero since he kept bucking at the canter. The beach widened out, the sand got more firm, and we had a good stretch of nice cantering. Then we trotted for awhile, went in the waves, and the horses seemed to be working pretty hard so we turned around after several miles.
That was when I tried to be nice and put Hero on the hard sand, while Nala went up in the deeper stuff. But he kept bucking until finally I decided if he had that much energy, he might as well get a workout, so I put him up in the deep sand too. He bucked for awhile, until he got sweated enough and then it was too much work finally and he settled down and cantered and trotted for me.
I'm developing the correct equitation for bucking. It is somewhat similar to jumping, but with some differences. Just like with jumping, you can either be in two point, or you can sit and then rise up into two point when the back rises, and stay there when it drops out from under you. That can be helpful if you're trying to push through into a canter.
It sounds funny but I'm learning to use a gentle hand to ask him to keep his head up if he wants to put it down too much. Similar to this rider. Judging by her equitation, this horse enjoys bucking a lot also. It is important to keep the leg forward and upper body back in this portion of the buck.
This rider's hands are way too high. Much less ideal.
When the horse does put the neck down, your hands should be down on the horse's neck or pommel of the saddle. Bucking is a little different from jumping because the stirrups can end up trying to orient in different positions as the rider ends up high above the saddle. I've begun finding it helpful to do as this rider does, and curl the toe around the stirrup at the height of the back elevation, which helps it remain oriented around the foot when the back end comes down. It should be done without pivoting around the knee - the weight still goes down inside back of the leg.
This is what I've learned so far about practical bucking equitation.