Why is my trail horse all of a sudden bucking after he spooks?

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  • Shadow1991 Original Poster Shadow1991
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 19

    I have a 9 1/2 y.o. QH gelding, owned him since he was 7 months. I had him started at 2 1/2 y.o. I have ridden him off and on since he was started. He can be a little ornery but for the most part is a great horse. Some years he’s better than others, doesn’t seem to change due to how much he is or isn’t ridden. I have let all level riders ride him on trails and never have had an issue. This spring, his first time out since Feb. I took him on our usual trails, he was so mellow and slow for the first 45 min. As we were coming out of the timber something spooked him (he’s not a spooky horse) and he lunged to his right. I was not expecting such a lunge and came up out of the saddle, did not have a tight rein on him and it seemed like once he caught me out of the corner of his eye the bucking began, like a bull! Needless to say I hit the ground hard. Once I collected myself and was able to get back on I rode him back to camp. He was perfectly fine like nothing had happened. This was in mid May. I have ridden him since then with no problems. 2 weeks ago I was riding him on the trails everything was good and as we were heading down a hill there was a rock coming out of the ground. I steared him over to the side to miss it and noticed a tiny tree growing and figured it’d brush up against him well I think it went under his belly and poked him, again the huge lunge in the air and then the bucking began on the hill. I somehow landed face first sliding down the hill behind him. This time I was really hurting, my legs ached so bad and I was covered in road rash. After about 30 mins I got myself back on and made it back to camp, barely ๐Ÿ˜‰ The first time he did it I figured it was just a fluke, now that he did it again I am concerned anytime something spooks him his he is going to react this way every time. I can handle a spook but the huge lunging and then the bronco bucking is a killer. Any suggestions? Some of my friends/family say sell him but that is not an option. I love this horse to death and I will never sell him. He has never reacted like this, I have not changed anything from his saddle, pad, bridle etc. so I know its not anything to do with his tack. I have been riding in a little S hack which isn’t severe at all, so I plan on putting him back into a bit. Another friend recommended using a Quick stop bit on him so I’d have more control if I didn’t have a tight rein when the bucking started.

    GHFrider GHFrider
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 32

    I’m not an expert, but I did go through a similar time with one of my horses. You may be over-thinking it. First, my guy went through what we fondly call his “rodeo year” for no apparent reason when he was between 3 and 4. He was an idiot. Sorry, but that’s the truth. I can say that because I owned his mother, I was in the stall when he was born, and he was an idiot then, too. At 3, he discovered he could buck, and he tested his new talent at odd moments when least expected.

    We got through that without much damage to life and limb (other than his, as he managed to throw himself to the ground bucking in the pasture on muddy dirt), and all was well until I had a “moment” where my winter boot velcro strap caught on a fence insulator. We were just walking along, already done with our work, and there I was with my leg pulled around till my boot touched his butt. I couldn’t get it undone fast enough (horses walk faster than it appears), and he got spooked and gave out three good bucks till I came off on my head. Smashed my helmet to bits! After that it was kind of catch-as-catch-can with the random bucking again.

    I hate to admit it, but the solution that time was just plain anger on my part. He got me off, but I landed mostly on my feet (rare!) and popped back up and just yelled at him and smacked him in the chest with my crop. Just once. I didn’t beat him, much as I might have felt like it. That was the last time he bucked with me on him. He’s old now, and he could care less about moving his body to that extent. We have a fine time together.

    So you could be caught between novelty and habit as I was. Don’t be too wary on the trail. Looking at every rock and twig makes you tense up and he feels that. Try to relax, even if it means only hacking out for a few minutes at a time. There are no rules that aren’t meant to be broken. Carry a belt bag with treats and a clicker. That also helped with some of my guys’ issues. I spent days walking my spooky mare out on the trail on foot, father each time, and each time giving her praise and a treat for not freaking out and dragging me along. We worked up to walking out a mile, then riding back. She wound up being so solid I used her to pony new horses out on the trail, and she did 5 miles all alone in a rain storm to rescue another rider whose horse refused to get on the trailer.

    Just know it will eventually be okay. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Good luck to you!

    joannemfriedman.blogspot.com
    Horses In the Yard

    Shadow1991 Original Poster Shadow1991
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 19

    GHF Rider,

    Thanks for your thoughts, makes me feel better. He has really played a number on my confindence. IF I could of managed to stay on or not have gotten hurt so bad I would of gotten on him for doing it, a good slap telling him to knock it off. Unfortunately both times it took awhile to even function. My aunt that I ride with refuses to ride with me again if I take Romeo. She has ridden Romeo too so she is familiar with him. He’s not a bad horse, unless you ask my husband he says he’s not even a horse. I swear he is human sometimes ๐Ÿ˜‰ He loves going out to ride, first at the gate, sticks his nose right in the halter. I’m just now feeling better from our last incident so I will have to get him out and work him. Thanks so much for the ideas, and reassurance I really appreciate it.

    Amy

    conservator
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 5

    Usuing a stronger bit only confuses and punishes a horse for a reaction that is not his fault.,that is a reaction born into him ment to keep him safe…Ask yourself what have I changed in his life…Bucking can be caused by many reasons,but the easiest reason is one we never think about…It’s our butts..that is right think about it our horse gets scared and needs our assurence,instead our butts start slamming up and down on their backs something they have never felt before.They only know it hurts..so it must be a new form of punishment…and scares them even more.I am a distance rider. A bucking horse needs another way to tell you he is scared.Back off the trail rides on his back…Lead him on a trail, and when he starts to tell you he needs your support..start talking to him, stroke him,and make him know your are a team and together you can both face anything

    Shadow1991 Original Poster Shadow1991
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 19

    Concervator,

    Thanks for your input. I have never used a severe bit on them and agree that it could make it worse. That was just a thought a friend recommended to keep his head up. I’m the type of person with light hands, I never seem to have a tight rein which may of not helped my situation. The weird thing is he is not a spooky horse at all, believe me I have one of those and he is nothing like her. He’s never a nervous, which when he has done this it takes me by complete surprise cause I have no warning it is coming. I thought the bucking the first time he did it to me was caused by him catching me out of the corner of his eye and not knowing what I was just that he wanted/needed to get away so I didn’t think anything of it. Then when he did it again a few weeks ago, again I know what caused him to lunge before the buck. I just needed to get his head back so he couldn’t get it down to buck so hard. Going down a hill wasn’t helping my situation. Usually on trails that is his safe place, if I ride him out in the open field at home he will try to be ornery if he’s in the mood and crow hop or just be a brat, never has he bucked like this and I’ve been riding him for 7 years. The first time I took him out after our first incident when we got to that exact spot he instantly perked up and I think he remembered, so I did get off him and walk him around in that area. At that spot your coming off a road in the tree’s and they have the road blocked with a log on top of two little end post, the log has rubber covering the edge and then I noticed a reflector on some of the wood, I thought maybe he caught the reflection off it when he spooked that time so I credited it to him spooking over that then the buck was caused by me losing my seat and him being scared of me and wanting away. I just now have a hard time getting on without having that tense feeling which is the worse thing I could do for him.

    jg
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    Here is somthing to try. Teach your horse to do a one rain stop. This can be very helpful if done correctly. It is important to teach it to your horse and yourself and practice it before ever going on a ride. You need to practice so that you do not need to think you just react or it will not work. TIP.. get the horse’s head around and wait for his feet to stop moving and he gives to the pressure before you let him out of the one rien stop. If the horse moves once you let him out of the one rien stop just put him in the one rien stop again, It may take a few of these one rien stops in a row .but untill you feel safe, keep doing it (it takes the power off the hindquarters and will make it very hard for the horse to buck).
    TRAINNING
    1. On the ground stand near your horses’ shoulder on the left side have a halter and lead rope on him.
    2. Ask the horse to flex his head around to his side. To do this apply light pressure on the lead out in around is the motion bring your hand to the horses side near but not over the spine (about were you would be sitting in the the saddle if you were on the horse) as soon as the horse gives even just a little to the pressure give back by releasing the pressure on the lead (back like it was burning your hand ). Goal is to get him to touch his side near the grith with the less amount of pressure from you .It may happen like this he gives his head but only a few inches to start that s ok be patient and repeat the steps untill his nose touches his side near the grith area. Once he gets it then repeat it ten times .
    3. Do this on the left side as well, but be sure to do this at less ten times each side everyday for five days.
    After the five days and only if he understands and is responding well you can start him with a headstall still on the ground put the headstall on and do the same as above on each side use very light pressure with your fingers ask him to flex. Try doing this for a few days if he does well and will flex his head off of a lille pressure you can move to the next step.
    Once you have the horse flexing well on the ground you can tack up in a safe area (fence- in – area like a round pen)sit on the horse do not ask the horse to move just sit on him ask him to flex his head to the right five times then to the left five times . TIp,, when you are sitting on the horse slide your hand along the rein and lightly pull out and around follow the seam of you paints and bring your hand up to your hip then give back the rein when the horse gives to the pressure and the horse’s nose touches the grith area. Goal =nose needs to touch the grith area with very little presure from the rein.
    EVERYTIME FROM NOW ON THAT YOU GET ON YOUR HORSE FLEX HIM FIVE TIMES EACH SIDE BEFORE ASKING HIM TO MOVE!
    Now ask for a walk along the fence line go two fence post links ask for a one rein stop do this on each side for five days . Once he is good at a walk you do same thing at a trot then at a lope. Now you can take your new tool out on the trail! Good Luck ! Happy Trails!

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 11 months ago by  jg. Reason: Spelling mistakes
    Shadow1991 Original Poster Shadow1991
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 19

    JG,

    Thanks for all the information. I will definately work on flexing with him. I have heard of the one rein stop before and believe if I could get him use to it I would of saved me a lot of pain ๐Ÿ™‚

    Too bad your not close by me, you sound like you could teach him some things!!

    Thanks!
    Amy

    jg
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    You are very welcome! I teach all my horses this and it has worked for me in the past. JG.

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    Might seem far-fetched but could he possibly have tweaked himself the first time and it only bothers him if he moves in a dramatic, over extended way (such as a spook, energetic lunge)? If possible to arrange, a chiropractic adjustment and/or a good massage might shed some light.

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    Shadow1991 Original Poster Shadow1991
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 19

    I thought about that too but I rode him three days before this in the same state park and rode for almost three hours on rough trails and he was great. I know that the small tree is what originally made him react with the lunging forward and am guessing maybe once I fly out of the saddle it causes him to buck til he gets away from me. Since he naturally isn’t a spooky horse it surprises me he reacts the way he does when he spooks. I can handle a quick jump to the side but when he decides to buck like a bronco before I have time to get my reins tight I am on the ground. I did get a little 2 y.o. POA this past April and him and Romeo are constantly rearing and messing around so not sure if that has anything to do with it as far as being out in the back. I just think if he was I’d notice other signs of discomfort. My mare last year wouldn’t buck but I could tell something was driving her crazy and she didn’t know what to do with herself. The first 30 mins of our ride she was fine and then boom, you could tell something was irritating her, she’d shake her whole body, would try to lay down and roll while I was on her. I’d get to the top of a hill which normally she goes down carefully and straight and she’d turn completely sideways or refuse to go down with me on her. I did have a chiropractor out and she adjusted her and she was fine after that, she never did try to buck me, you could just tell something was bugging her and she didn’t know what to do with herself. Maybe I’ll try to get ahold of that gal and see if she can work on him maybe that does have something to do with it. Thanks for replying, I appreciate it!

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    Most welcome, Shadow : ) From what you write, it DOES sound inspired moreso than behavioural. SOUNDS. A horse that shows pain also displays his vulnerability and many horses are unwilling by instinct and laws of survival to be seen as vulnerable in any way. By the time we humans get a bead on “something’s not right”, the issue can be fairly pronounced within the horse. I really do hope you are able to solve this issue without too much trial and errour and continue on with a good rehab plan and a full future with your boy : ) Injuries and health issues are a PIA for all involved. Good on YOU for looking at it from all angles!

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    GHFrider GHFrider
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 32

    It’s got to be really disheartening if even your best riding companion won’t go out with you if Romeo is involved. I hope you can get this under control. Meanwhile, remember that he can’t buck with his head up, so the minute he starts to spook, lift his head as much as you can. It might seem counterproductive in mid-spook when he’s already sort of wild-eyed and crazy, but if you let him get that head down between his front legs, he’s below the bit and you’ve lost the ability to control him. Turn him sharply to either side. That, too, will prevent him from getting into position as he can’t buck with his neck bent. If you do the one-rein stop training as suggested above, that would also include strong sideways flexing of his neck.

    Give it time! And if you start feeling down on yourself, I recommend the book Healing Shine: A Spiritual Assignment by Michael Johnson. That single book did more for me in solving pretty much all of my horse-related problems than any other of the hundred or so I’ve read. I got the audio version as I like to listen in the car.

    joannemfriedman.blogspot.com
    Horses In the Yard

    Shadow1991 Original Poster Shadow1991
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 19

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts and trying to help me figure out what is going on with Romeo. It is bad when my riding buddy won’t ride if I take Romeo. Unfortunately she was there both times I got thrown. Luckily my daughters friend who is 23 LOVES Romeo and rode him quite a bit last year so she will go with me. It’s really upsetting that my friend and family that know how much he means to me would even suggest to me I need to get rid of him. I would never sell a problem horse to anyone, and I wouldn’t give up on him ever for what has happened. He is not doing it to be nasty, he is a great horse and has been good to me for years. I just need to figure out what is going on with him. I did notice this year he does seem more concerned with normal things he has always encountered no the trails. Even a bright/different colored plant he’ll look at like wth is that but not spook over it but just not like him. Think he could use a little decentising work would probably help also. I’ve always had compliments on him on the trails and have had several people offer to buy him over the years. I’ve also had quite a few fat jokes thrown his way. I say he’s just stocky ๐Ÿ™‚ He reminds me of a little elephant ๐Ÿ™‚

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    The most difficult thing to diagnose in a horse is visual acuity but it might also be that his vision is changing. He is not that old a pony, I don’t consider a horse old until they act it : ) but his ability to focus quickly or to adjust to changing light intensities could be a factour.
    I have one mare that can’t see a thing in hazy light but is fine otherwise (uveitis), another can’t adjust normally from bright to dark light so sees best in haze. Having had older horses as well as rehabs and rescues most of my life, I have grown accustomed to the odd, less obvious details that many won’t think about. I hope I can be of help because of this tendency : )
    Of course, this would be associated with his spooking, the bucking, I still wonder, is tweak-related.

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    GHFrider GHFrider
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 32

    Pheets may be on to something. Have you had a vet look into his eyes? You can do it yourself. You know that little tongue-shaped thing (corpora nigra) you see when you look into the iris? Well, in some horses it can get big enough to actually be visible to him and cause him distress as it waggles within his field of vision.

    As Pheets says, however, that would only explain his spooking, not the bucking he’s associating with it, which is, I contend, a learned behavior either because it’s fun or because he might have had a pain issue and is simply recalling that. Remembered pain is my big Paint gelding’s stock in trade, and it’s been a long haul getting him past it.

    joannemfriedman.blogspot.com
    Horses In the Yard

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