Don't let 'em buck! - Mastery Horsemanship
Don't let 'em buck!

Don't let 'em buck!

August 14, 2018 2 Comments

Don't Let 'em Buck. Written by Don Jessop

Do you know someone who has a horse that bucks? Would you like to know how to help stop the bucking issue? It's simple but not always easy. Here is the solution!

Don't let them buck! It's that simple. 

I've spent most of my professional career teaching natural horsemanship. In natural horsemanship there is a tendency to allow the horse to buck, rear, strike, push, just a bit more than one should. There really does need to be boundaries set. So when I have a horse that bucks, or tries to buck... I don't let them. Of course you can't always stop a horse mid-buck. And sometimes a young horse is just playing and I don't want to ruin their play drive, but when it comes to preparing for safe riding, I don't let them buck. Read on.

There is more than one way to not allow bucking. The first is simple. On the ground (preferably not riding), ask your horse to back up, go forward, go sideways, or any other thing other than buck, when you see him trying to buck. Maybe the first time they buck, I don't do anything about it, because it may not become a bad habit. But by the fourth time, it's already becoming a bad habit. One worth correcting for your safety and sanity. Another great way to stop a bucking behavior is to allow it, but don't reward it. Then cycle through the problem until the horse realizes it doesn't get him anywhere. In other words... let him buck, start over, let him buck, then start over and let him buck until he decides it's not worth it. 

I'm reminded of a Tom Dorrance story. Tom was a true father of natural horsemanship and is no longer with us, but his stories last forever in the natural community. He once told the story of a childhood horse he and his brother Bill owned. The horse would buck every time they put the saddle on. They tried everything they knew to stop the behavior and nothing really ever worked, until... Tom decided to saddle the horse dozens of times in one single day. He allowed the horse to buck, but waited till he stopped bucking, then took the saddle off, then put it back on, then allowed the bucking, then took it off, then put it on, then allowed more bucking, then took it off, then put it on, over and over and over, until the horse just said "ENOUGH! I'm sick of bucking. It gets me nowhere!" On the second day, the horse didn't buck at all. And from that day forward, the bucking problem (related to the saddle) ceased to exist. 

What Tom and his brother Bill did was simple. The didn't let him keep bucking by exhausting his behavior and then rewarded the behavior they really wanted. The trick to good behavior modification is persistence, coupled with big rewards. That's what really counts in Mastery Horsemanship. He didn't allow the horse to buck in the end by allowing the horse to buck until the horse didn't want to anymore. Then repeating the process until the horse was sick and tired of it. This technique is a version of what we call "Flooding." It's very effective in behavior modification. You can learn all about it in my book "Leadership and Horses."

The moral of the story, in my opinion is... when horses do what we don't want them to do, DON'T LET THEM DO IT! Be creative about dis-allowing it. Maybe you act like Tom and cycle through the problem quickly and often until there is no problem. Or maybe you act like my friend Kalley, who also got creative. Every time her horse bucked, she backed her up quickly to interrupt the pattern. After a few days, her horse stopped bucking. Or you could act like my friend Martin Black. Every time his horse bucked, he caused the horse to leap forward, into a gallop. You have to be brave to solve bucking issues and it's usually safer on the ground. In my mastery courses I teach all about safety and setting things up for success! I give you dozens of techniques so you find the one that works best for your skill level and situation. 

I always try to get people to understand, there is more than one way to do anything. Some ways make more sense in certain situations, but what makes a master trainer masterful, is the ability to be flexible and make the reward equal to the challenge. And make the problem, painlessly, undesirable.  

I thank you for your time reading my blog posts. Please share and comment below

2 Responses

Traceylynn Hommel
Traceylynn Hommel

August 15, 2018

Thank you Don! I liked the Natural Horsemanship ideas presented in this article for bucking and received some new pointers too. I also appreciated the comment from Sam.


August 15, 2018

PLEASE inform ppl about the issues horses might have WHT they are bucking… :

BUCKING IS a way of telling that there’s sth wrong
And sometimes they learn to buck bc of pain… See the “bucking trigger point” when using too long saddles…
This is very important, many horse people don’t know it and…
Seems you have a good platform to spread the word… ;-)

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