Jitterbug’s Guide To Bucking

Jul 4, 2014 - 4:28 AM
You can practice all of these bucking moves out in your paddock. Photo by Dark Horse Photography

As we all know, being a biped trainer requires a lot of sacrifice. My Human doesn’t appreciate it, but I spend an inordinate amount of time exercising my core muscles so that I can cultivate hers. (Though personally, I’m beginning to think her core muscles weren’t installed under that doughy midsection. )

My favorite method for doing this is well-timed bucking. Bucking is a controversial treatment, but I believe that some situations call for extreme measures, such as arrogant or impertinent behavior from the Human.

Or anticipated arrogant or impertinent behavior.

Or prior arrogant/impertinent behavior.

Or if you need a good back stretch.

Bucking teaches the Human to stop hanging feebly on your mouth and to rock back onto her haunches—or it teaches her how to safely fall from a height of 10-12 feet.

I had a great deal of difficulty writing this piece—I had detailed my preferred application and form for each of my individual varietals of bucks and came out with a tidy 6,000-word column. I decided to go back to basics. Remember, you can build on any of these and tailor them to the situation.

The Polite Threat

Always give your Human an opportunity to correct her balance or her attitude before escalating the situation. I like to offer her a transition from walk/trot/canter to gallop, accompanied by one firm but short buck, placed opportunely in the transition. This reminds her that I am, after all, the expert here, and am unfazed by her “aids.”

Sometimes of course, she doesn’t stay in the saddle for this initial, harmless maneuver. This is what I consider a “her” problem, not a “me” problem.

The Twist ‘n’ Shout

So many of my students have come to me asking, “Jitterbug (O Wise and Glorious One), I’ve thrown my heels as high as they will go and the person just doesn’t seem to get my message. What am I doing wrong?”

Remember that torque is your best friend in the world when disciplining a Human in most any situation. The addition of just a slight twist of the hips will multiply the force you’re using exponentially (trust me, I hold a master’s in physics). This is a useful sort of ‘Eject’ button if your Human responds disrespectfully to your balance lesson (i.e., applying spurs, harsh bits, crops, or screams that pierce your eardrum).

Remember to balance your force fields: if you’re dropping your left shoulder, twisting your left hip in midair is going to send the Human mixed signals. Dropping the left shoulder and raising your right hip clarifies the message.

And that message is: Flight attendants, prepare for turbulence.

The Classic Bronc

Although it’s true that I am an expert in most (read: all) elements of life, I am happy to defer to those with more experience.

That’s how I crafted my bronco buck. You don’t have to spend hours on YouTube watching professional rodeo, but it helps. The Classic Bronc is a great way to give your haunches a break after a series of other moves, and to teach your Human to embrace the unknown. The last thing the trembling mass of biped will expect is for a bucking, joyful romp to turn into a straight-up-and-down hop.

It is critical to keep your head as far down as you can during this move—remember that intermediate-level Humans will take any opportunity they can to haul your head up and stop the fun—er, lesson. As always, play to your strengths: my neck is a bit short for this move but it’s quite strong, so I’ve found bracing the muscles from my shoulders to my nose will quickly kill any hope my Human has of recovery.

The Mike Tyson

One round, and they’re down.

You should develop your own personal Mike Tyson, according to your strengths, for use when the Twist ‘n’ Shout seems inadequate. Smaller-statured trainers should think about throwing turns and flying changes into your bucking routine. If you have excellent balance, try adding some two-legged ballet poses in the mix.

If you have a strong forehand, you might consider combining a buck with a sliding stop. I call this variation the Red Bull: It gives them wings!

The Bovine

Many equids make the mistake of assuming that bucking is only effective while the Human is mounted. On the contrary, I like to use The Bovine to discourage overuse of clucking (or worse, the Lunge Whip) during ground work.

The Bovine is a combination of a cowkick and a hop in which I swing my hips toward the offending person, usually as I’m about to comply with a request they’ve made. Getting impatient with me during our lunge session? That’s OK. I’ll reward that impatient “CanTER” with a flying foot.

I’ve found the average Human tends to close her mouth when a hoof is coming at it.

Jitterbug is a Michigan-bred Professional Draft Cross who skillfully avoided saddles until age 5. Since then, she has been lauded for her talent in successfully managing humans while training herself to one day achieve eventing greatness. Jitter and her human live in central Kentucky.
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Photo by Dark Horse Photography.


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