What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.




Bucking with a rider in the saddle is a dangerous habit that needs to be resolved. By nature, some horses naturally do tend to buck more than others.

Many young, unhandled horses buck as a natural initial response to a saddle and rider on their back. If ground training is appropriate though, there should be minimal bucking with a rider up. If the right cues are given by the rider, most of the horses that do buck quickly abandon the behavior.

Horses are also taught to buck or continue to buck in the same way they are taught to engage in many other unwanted behaviors. They perceive the behavior to be easier and more rewarding than alternative (desirable) behaviors.

Like many evasive habits, bucking can also be a response to pain. A variety of physical problems may cause a horse to buck including mouth problems (loose wolf tooth, mouth wound, a snaffle that pinches the corner of the mouth), ill-fitting saddles, back pain, irritation under the saddle pad, or lameness due to an undiagnosed injury. A stimulus like a bee sting can cause a horse to uncharacteristically buck. Your vet can help you determine whether bucking is a result of physical pain.

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    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.
    • If this has happened more than once and you do not know why.

your role


What To Do

If a physical cause is ruled out, look to yourself, your own riding technique and others who have handled your horse as both the cause of the problem and the solution. Engage a trainer who knows how to stop this behavior. Do not ride the horse yourself unless you have the confidence and ability to solve the problem.

It is important that the rider stay in the saddle when the horse bucks. Bucking the rider off is a release for a bucking horse. Once a horse becomes accustomed to bucking the rider off, they will work harder and harder to achieve this. Of course, staying in the saddle is easier said than done in some cases!

What Not To Do

Do not get back on the horse until you are confident physical issues have been ruled out and you have the confidence to work through the problem from a training standpoint.

your vet's role

Your vet evaluates the horses general health, their back, and tack fit. They will want to rule out lameness. They may need to evaluate the horse with an experienced, confident rider up to better understand the causes of the behavior.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • How much has your horse been ridden?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Have you found any physical reason for the behavior?
  • When did you first notice this behavior?
  • Do saddle fit, girth and tack look OK?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Has the saddle or pad changed?
  • Are bit and bridle of appropriate fit, type and are they adjusted properly?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP