Trainer Brad Barkemeyer offers advice for retraining a horse that bucks or lurches into lope transitions.
QAlmost every time I ask my horse to pick up a lope in either direction, he bucks. Sometimes it’s just a small lurch forward, and other times he really gets a good buck in. I’m an experienced rider, and I feel I can work through this with him. How would you handle the problem if he were your horse? training solutions are similar. Before you do anything else, be sure to check with your veterinarian to rule out physical problems. Soreness can cause both of these behaviors. Also check your tack. A poorly fitting saddle could also be to blame.
I’ll offer you three ways to address your horse’s behavior so you can get back to enjoyable riding, and he can learn that bucking and rushing aren’t acceptable answers when asked to lope.
Solution #1: Part Ways?
I’ll be blunt: Bucking is a dangerous behavior. If you’re not an experienced rider, sticking with this horse could crush your confidence and lead to injury. If you don’t have the skills and confidence to work through the problem, it might be best to part ways with this horse and find one that better suits your abilities and skill level. This could mean selling the horse to a more experienced rider or sending the horse out to a trainer who can work past the horse’s urge to buck and lurch when asked to lope.
There’s no shame in admitting when a horse is too much for your riding level. In fact, it usually ends up with both of you in better situations. You
in a fearful position, ready to hang on if he tries to leave you, makes your horse anxious. He’ll begin to associate your fearful position with his lurching and bucking.
If your horse lopes off smoothly, travel a few strides, then quietly stop him and offer praise. Repeat the cue from a standstill, walk, and trot to build your confidence and reinforce his response to your cue.
If he rushes forward or bucks, immediately pull his head to the left or right by bringing that rein hand back to your hip. Use a steady pull, not a jerk, to circle your horse down to a stop. Gather your wits, then ask again for a lope. Repeat the request until he departs without incident. Lope a few strides, then stop and praise him.
This requires patience, persistence, and repetition, but you can overcome this behavior so you and your horse can enjoy your rides more.