So here is the deal, I have a young hunter that I have pulled from the field because he kicks. I am looking for advice on how to go about dealing with him now, whether I write him off entirely or try to hash it out...
Here are the details. Bought him this spring, he is a gorgeous horse, 50% TB, quarter WB, quarter Draft, stunning markings, good mover, very coordinated and good on his feet, balanced, big horse (4yrs old and 17hh) but all around he is a nice boy, go anywhere, do anything type that you can throw the reins at and he will figure it out. His stable manners are good, though he occassionally tried to push, but respects when you correct him, bought him with a solid base on the flat, started him lightly over fences, mostly XC and shows definit potential. Started him hill topping in the spring right after buying him, he was great. Absolute star. Then he started to get fitter and keener, and started to give me a buck here and there. I didn't worry too much. Then he started to kick out when he bucked. He seemed like he would wait till no one was behind us, let out a big buck and kick, but never if anyone was actually close enough behind him to get kicked...worried now but figured I would ask for a rider I knew to stay behind us and 'guard his bum', she knew what was happening, and was on a good horse that she could easily stop without running up on us. Did this for a few hunts, getting worse. He is bucking and kicking out once or twice each hunt. Spring season ended. Hacked him at home, schooled occassionally XC, horse is going great, and I am just crossing my fingers that he doesn't start back up with the bucking/kicking (he would occassionally buck and kick out at home if I pissed him off, even bucked me off one day, but rarely and always because he was mad at me, never because he was trying to kick something...).
So going into the fall season, we take him to a hunter pace and another fellow rode him, who I didn't know until that day, likes to hold tight on a horse's face. The young horse doesn't like that, bucks and kicks out, tapping the toe of a fellow hunt member. I am now very fearful of taking the horse hunting again. I take him cubbing twice, once was ok, kept him at the back of the first field, and he was much better than hill topping. I know now that he bucks when you hold him back, so if he gets to go a bit with the first field, he is better then being stuck with the hill toppers at w/t. Second time cubbing one of our members insisted I go infront of him, rather than my usual spot at the back, and while I am trying to convince him to come up and pass me, the horse bucks and kicks out. While I can't be sure of it, I think he was actually trying to kick that time, not just buck. Member moved up after that, and remainder of hunt was uneventful.
So I know he hates being held back, and never kicks without bucking. He LOVES hounds, really and truly, understands that you are supposed to follow them. Hacks great in a group, but once his blood gets up and I have to hold him in, the bucking/kicking out starts again. Usually its only one big one at a time. I have tried punishing him for it at home, one day he bucked while I was schooling him dressage, so I laid my whip on his arse, and we did a lovely lap of buck-hit-buck-hit around the arena until he gave in. I continued to tap him with the dressage whip any given chance (but never undeserved) and he pinned his ears, but stopped bucking. I am afraid to really punish him in the hunt field (I was giving him a smack with my crop, but never really getting into it) since I am under the impression that the hunt field is not the place to have a fight.
So what do you guys think? He is only 4, and so well suited in every other way to the hunt field that it would be a shame to just cut him loose. But how would you go about solving this?
Oh and it is definitly an attitude issue, not pain or physical. Saddle fits, back is not sore, no lameness issues or irregular growth, vet gave him the all clear to hunt, including a check up a few months after we bought him, and he bucks the same in a fat eggbutt or in a three ring elevator, doesn't seem to matter.
So any stories about horses coming around? Or do I just give up and sell him? He is a nice horse, I could sell I'm sure, but it seems such a shame. Took him to a hunter schooling show and put him in the hack division for exposure, he was a saint! Never tried to kick, he was forward in his gaits, but didn't get strong or buck in the ring (he bucked once in warmup, but that was just a baby thing, nothing big or mean). So what do I do with him?
Well- 4 is awfully young to give up on, in my opinion.
But, to me, your issue is not a hunting issue, it's a training issue. The well mannered horse does not buck or kick out under saddle. Period. So- if he were mine, he'd be read the riot act for each and every buck, every time, and I'd consider lots of miles cross country, with a group of friends, 'simulating' hunting where you can absolutely make clear to him that bucking and kicking out are unacceptable, each and every time it happens.
Like the guy said, wet saddle pads make good horses. My now- 6 yo had a couple of exuberant bucks on a cold hunting morning when he hadn't been ridden for a week- and at the end of the third consecutive day of hunting he certainly wanted those bucks back, having figured out that a Real Hunter conserves effort and energy because you don't know how far or how fast you'll need to go that day. Again- yours is awfully young to do a whole lot of pounding- but that's the lesson that needs to be learned.
Yes wet saddle pads do make good horses, but there still can be a pain issue. My boy has been adjusted by chiros and his ribs and all the supportive tissues around them were quite twisted. He was quite sore from being that way. When the guy was working on him, he moved away much like he did when under saddle--quite explosively. As his ribs and surrounding tissues started relaxing and being fixed so did his attitude of leaving the scene. I am not saying it isn't due to training, but just not to rule out pain just yet. My boy's entire rib area was so sore and being collected just made his mid-section totally spaz and crawl out of his skin. I would say hang in there.
I agree w/ Beverly. I was always taught to send a bucking horse forward - this would be hard to do in the hunt field especially when you say he does it when you rate him/ hold him a bit. Solve it in simulated outings with good friends. Unfortunately sounds like it's a "habit". I would read the riot act on one that does this. Granted he's 4 but he has to know it's unacceptable.
I have a good friend who is a comfirmed prelim event rider. She has brought a number of horses to the prelim level shows there for a couple of years sells (usually for a profit) and sharts the process over. She had a lovely chestnut TBx that had a "playful" buck after a good fence. She never felt it was intended to get her off, it was one buck, usually each warm up or jump session and always after a really good, square knee, hunter bascule sort of a fense, so they proceeded from Novice to Training to Prelim with this little "quirk". This was a lovely horse. Scored well in the dressage, clean cross country and stadium and a quiet easy temperament on the ground. She is not the type of rider/owner to accept any less. So we are standing around the warm up. She is on the buckle under a shade tree. They start to warm up, all is going well and then the good jump, the happy buck andout of the blue, he puts his head between his knees and put in 3 bone jarring bronc bucks. She lasted through the first 2, he sent her sailing and he headed to the barn. She was wisked away in an ambulance (I don't want to exagurate - I don't remember that her back was broken, but there was back and neck damage and a pretty serious concussion)
It was a crisp fall day, many horses had the wind up their skirts AND another horse had come off the jump beside him after crashing the pole and galloped away rather exubrantly and awkwardly. All of this played into the accident. She took full responsibility and said that she had allowed that playful buck to be part of the routine and she was not in a safe or secure place when he lost it because she "trusted" the playful buck.
This has become routine for your horse. He sounds lovely otherwise. Sort it our as quickly and as consistantly as you can. I would discuss the situation with my field master. My hunt would allow some latitude for "training" in the field as long as you are not endangering other people, horses or hounds espacially while we are still cubbing. Everyone is working some sort of kink out these days - lol. Whatever resolution you get in schooling would have to be backed up in the field.
All the best. I hope he comes around as he seems siuted to the job based on your description.
Think of it from his perspective - you've never given him any repercussions for bucking, nor kicking so he doesn't really know it's not allowed.
You need to make bucking unpleasant enough that he thinks twice about trying it. Usually one VERY strong yank in the mouth - one rein only- when he bucks is sufficient notice. Sometimes yank yank is needed but you don't ever go overboard. If he kicked at his mama she'd set him right in an instant. You need to be mama and teach him it's not OK.
Four is very young for giving up on and he sounds otherwise really lovely.
My current horse is a STRONG, opinionated QH who doesn't like to jump from a long spot. If we take the long spot, he would come off the fence, throw his head down, crack his back and throw in a couple of crow hops for good measure. He never really kicked up or out, but popped his back enough to throw off my balance. Like I said, he is STRONG and has been known to ingore the aids. Now he goes is a slow twist snaffle. If we get the long spot and he TRIES to throw his head down, he gets a HARD tug from me. And I TUG HARD and KICK HIM FORWARD until he picks up his head and canters away quietly. Works like a charm.
Does look like a bit of a consensus eh? I had already planned to take him out hacking, set him up to buck, then beat the snot out of him, but I was looking for any other ideas or suggestions. And ideas on how exactly to punish him so he learns the fastest, hopefully without hurting me along the way.
Carolinagirl, what you say is true, I have always ridden a bucking horse forward, kicked/smacked them up into the bridle, but since he bucks when I rate him, its a bit of a problem.
So when I hack him in company, have to rate him and he bucks, would the best bet be to send him forwards, past the horse infront of us if necessary, laying into him and chasing him forwards, or do I haul him up, like others have said, using the bridle as punishment?
Under usual circumstances I would not use a bridle/bit as punishment, ever. I was always taught that the only way you solve issues it by going forward, not backwards. That and you can seriously hurt more than just their egos. Is this a common method of punishing a bucker? I am young enough to know that I don't know everything, but old enough to know that its not always a good idea to try just anything, so I would love to hear both sides of this case.
I worry that if I send him forward along with his punishment (I am leaning towards a dressage whip and spurs so I can keep both hands on the reins) that he will learn to blow past the horse infront of him. But is this the lesser of the evils either way?
And Beverly, you are dead on. Its not a hunting issue at all, its just an issue that tends to surface in the hunt field. He has been punished, but not nearly hard enough, and its time it ends, one way or the other. I just don't want him to get me off and make the problem worse, or me get hurt.
Thanks for the feedback guys, please keep the ideas/opinions coming!
I don't think it's pain- if it was pain he would do it all the time not just hunting.
I think it;s disciplinary. When he bucks and kicks do you punish him? If not, there is your problem. A trainer said that horses have all the time they want to buck and be stupid in their pasture NEVER on their backs. So first time I get a buck for something like cantering up a hill- they learn thats a no. And kicking is WAY more serious in my opinion as well. Thats not only dangerous to you (if its a buck/kick) but he could hurt someone else really badly.
Sounds like he has gotten away with it quite a bit, which is a shame because now he thinks its ok to do that.
So no, I don't think hunting is over for him, but he really must learn that those behaviors are unacceptable
Corky, my approach to correcting such behavior really depends on the situation I'm working in. If I can set it up right, with cooperative friends- I'd go to a place where yes, I can boot on through the buck and have a good gallop of at least a mile- rule of thumb, pushing on a good minute or so AFTER the horse says, gee, sorry, can we stop now? If I don't have that luxury, an equally effective approach is, boot on forward while snatching that head up HARD with one rein, typically you're talking only a few strides here- and THEN pull one rein or the other back behind your knee and let Mr. Playful spin on himself (active legs here!) a good dozen times or more (don't get dizzy, mind you) and as with aforementioned gallop, keep on booting and turning for a good half dozen more turns after he's cried uncle. Then FORWARD out of that circle. Either way- the very clear message is that doing the wrong thing results in more work than doing the right thing.
We haven't chatted diet yet- but I would observe that sometimes this behavior is exacerbated by Too Many Groceries- a horse is just full of himself and it does disrupt the functionality of the brain waves- so again, when I'm working with one, first thing I consider is losing any grain the horse might be getting and going hay only for a couple of weeks to note any differences in attitude. Currently I have a little mare who is one of those 'air and water' types- and the all-alfalfa diet she was on briefly last winter was Too Much. She's absolutely divine on mostly grass hay with one flake of alfalfa.
A friend of mine had a TB with a wicked buck. He knew he could get most riders off and took advantage of it. Isn't it funny how you can fall off most horses and they look at you at the ground and wonder how you got there. Then you get one that looks at you on the ground and thinks, I put you there.
I watched a pro work him and she had good success with the one rein stop.
Ultimately, she ended up giving him away to an eventer who subscribed to the wet saddle pad theory. That -- along with a rider who sticks like velcro -- seems to be doing the trick. It was a shame. This was a nice horse who developed a bad habit, injured his rider (broken wrist/sprained ankle) and then scared the crap out of her. He's lucky that she found someone who could deal with him.
Well I can't cut back his groceries any more without risking him loosing weight, or just looking like a gawky 4yr old. Right now he looks just right, not fat but not ribby either, and he only gets about 2cups Fat and Fibre, morning and night, with a top dress of soy/flax mix and a half bale of hay over night, plus two flakes in the morning, of simple grass hay. Then out all day on pasture, which is pretty much grazed down now, but it keeps him busy. When he was hunting regularly, I did try a little oats, but found it was too much for him. I don't feed anything sweetfeed, and I don't even buy beet pulp with molasses in it, so not a sugar issue. They get mostly carrots and apples as treats, usually nothing processed.
I have been keeping him going the whole time, just working more on dressage lately, asking him to develop more work ethic in the ring and hoping this will also help transfer to the field. Also hoping that if he gets used to being ridden forward into a stronger contact in the ring, that he will better accept it in the field. Now I just have to wait for the ground to dry up a little, its aweful greasy out there right now so I think I am going to wait till it itsn't so slick before I dawn my body protector and take him to the fields! We have a by-day on the fixture in a few weeks, so I am going to talk to the masters and see if I could take him out that day, with schooling in mind.
I'd still double check saddle fit. My quarter horse would only buck when ridden in company. Ridden alone he was fine. I switched to a Duet and the bucking stopped for the most part. (It's still is resistance of choice, so if he gets really pissed off at you, he'll try it, but not like he used to).