Cold back horses

Cold back horses

July 21, 2020 2 Comments

How to fix a cold back horse - Don Jessop

In case you don't know what "cold back" means... It means your horse likes to buck with the saddle every day before a ride or during the warm-up. "Cold back" also means your horse isn't safe to ride unless you like a bronc ride to start your day. So how do you fix a "cold back" horse?

If you want a video supporting the theory below, comment in the comment section and I'll be sure to make one for you. The more comments I get the sooner I get it to you. 

With everything horse related, there are no rules. Drill that into your head. If I say to do something, you can be sure there are one hundred other ways to do it, so please open minded and positive with each other in our fragile horse/human relationships.   

Here we go...

Generally, when a horse bucks with the saddle it's because of these four factors.

1: It's new... This should be expected, but should also cease after the novelty wears off in a few minutes and cease altogether in a few days.

2: It hurts... The novelty wears off and your horse is still bucking, maybe you should look into the quality of consistency of your saddle's underside and cinches.

3: It pinches... This should be expected at first but day by day, the pinching feeling from the cinch shouldn't be a surprise anymore.

4: It spooks... The visual movement of the stirrups or leathers make for a spooky sight for some horses. But again, the novelty should wear off.

But most of those reasons above are novelty related or easily fixed by changing saddles. If the horse continues to buck day by day with what we call a "cold back" you have a different reason to consider. 

The horse at this point isn't scared, isn't hurting, isn't a newbie anymore. The horse at this point is what we call "patterned." It's odd but true. Some horses learn to buck in the warm up. Or put more clearly... don't learn not to.

That leaves us with an ingeniously simply solution. Don't allow them to buck anymore. 

This means stopping them when they try, then asking them to warm up without bucking. They still must warm up. It's not worth the risk getting on a bottled up horse that hasn't been allowed to let off steam. But just consider the fact that your horse might be "patterned." Meaning they might think they have to let off steam every single day. But they can learn a new pattern. One where they don't have to let it off. They can let it go.

It looks like this. Instead of pushing my horse through a bucking episode (which doesn't always work), I demand they stop in their tracks, stop the bucking, and look at me. After a moment of collecting ourselves, I ask them to finish the warm up. My warm up includes walk, trot, and canter on the circle, so the likelihood of them bucking again is quite high. Meaning... I get more opportunities to interrupt the pattern again. Hurray for us!

The point is, since he has to canter, and he isn't allowed to buck, he learns how to canter without bucking. If he aces the test I know I can ride him. If he still looks tense, I know I need more warm up. But at least he's not bucking anymore. After several days, maybe weeks in some cases, you will find out he or she just doesn't buck anymore.

Comment below, share your stories. Be positive!

2 Responses


July 22, 2020

My mare has never bucked with me in the saddle but is incredibly tense when I put her saddle on & the girth done up. If she gets away from me she will buck & buck but I try to defuse it before this happens. I stretch her front legs foreward and ask her to move forwards and backwards. Even tense, she will move in to position so that I can mount and once I’m on she is totall yfine and loves going out.


July 22, 2020

Just a few more reasons for bucking – I had a horse who bucked because he wasn’t moving in balance for what I was asking. Another reason a horse may buck is from physical pain other than poor saddle fit. If someone has exhausted all the “typical” bucking reasons an atypical skeletal issue, muscle issue maybe the culprit. C6/C7 or spinal abnormalities are just one example that may cause “bad” behavior. Thank you for your many insightful articles

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