I bought Heidi knowing she had an issue with bucking at the canter. I figured it was caused by being out of shape. Cantering is uncomfortable for a horse that is unbalanced and unprepared physically to do what’s being asked. It’s like asking an overweight, couch potato to sprint. It sucks.
Turns out Heidi also bucks at the trot. And the walk. And as soon as you sit on her.
So I decided to completely restart her and get to the root of whatever is causing her to buck. If it’s pain, the long and low work on the lunge will build her topline and get her fit enough to be ridden without pain. If it’s simply an attitude issue and she’s learned that bucking gets her out of working, then I have to address that as well. In my experience, bucking is usually a combination of attitude and physical discomfort. You’re crabby too when you’re in pain.
I started going through the routine in the picture below every night with Heidi. While she was standing in the barn aisle eating hay, I started rubbing her all over, swinging my leg over and laying my body over her back. I did this from both sides. At first she pinned her ears, backed up, and arched her back upward like she was going to buck. I would back off a little and then try again. She realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t a big deal, that I wasn’t going to hurt her. After about a week I could get on her from either side with no issues. She stayed relaxed the whole time.
I’ve got a neighbor kid, a friend of my daughter’s, who comes to the barn with me all the time because she’s horse crazy. Once I could sit on Heidi with no issues, I let Neighbor Kid try. Heidi didn’t mind her at all, probably because she weighs so little.
The next step was to lead Neighbor Kid around bareback on Heidi out in the yard by the barn. We did that for a few days until she was used to it. Then we moved to the little arena and did the same thing. Next we put a saddle and bridle on her and got on and off in the arena and walked around a little. Heidi accepted all of this with no attitude.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten with the ridden work. I’m not going to ride her much until she gets in better shape and has more topline, but it’s good to get her used to having someone on her.
I realize she’s not a wild mustang and this is probably a little overcautious, but I want to solve this bucking issue and nip it in the bud. I don’t want to wonder whether or not she’s going to buck. I want to be able to trust her. That comes slowly by building a good, solid foundation. I’m approaching every part of the process like it’s brand new, going slowly and reassuring her that nothing bad is going to happen and no one is going to hurt her.
The trick is to keep it short and not ask too much. Once she accepts one thing, we move on to the next thing. And she always gets treats after! This girl loves to eat and the treats make it seem like there’s something in it for her.
As long as I go slowly, she takes everything in stride. If I try and jump ahead and skip steps, that’s when the problems start.