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When to call it quits?

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  • When to call it quits?

    I have a 4 year old Hanoverian gelding who is extremely athletic and agile. This has resulted in my being bucked off 3 times. Everything external (saddle fit, tack, teeth, back) have all been checked and are fine. After the first incident he was basically restarted and rebroke. All of that went very well. He has good ground manners, follows my body language, is not being overfed, is exercised regularly and ridden 2-3 times per week, long lines and drives. He does have a pushy, bossy attitude I think came from being gelded at 2 yrs of age.
    When he bucks, he is like a bronc and leaps in the air with his head between his knees, sometimes kicking back up in the air. I am not a new, bad or unconfident rider so I doubt most folks could stay on him. He doesn't quit, either, until I am on the ground.
    The lastest bucking incident came after he tripped, went down to his knees and came up bucking. There is no way to turn his head or neck when he's broncing and a western saddle made no difference.
    You see, I have tried everything I can think of and listened to others' advice and I think I just have an ornery horse. I don't know if this is a baby thing but I can't see myself trusting him to behave.
    When should I quit?

  • #2
    Well, he is 4. But you can't get killed getting him to 5, or 10 or whatever.

    I wouldn't quit until I had sent him to a good cowboy. In your shoes, I'd want two things:

    First, I'd want the cowboy's opinion about why this horse was bothering to go balls-to-the-wall broncing. That's a lot of work for a horse. Reread the part about the cowboy being good-- really getting inside the horse's head, not just getting submission.

    Second, I'd want the guy to develop the kind of program that did work for the gelding. This might be a "You WILL die if you bronc" type discussion, or it may look like keeping his mind busy, or 5-6 days a week of honest work.

    You should be able to go watch and then ride whatever horse the dude creates for you. In order to trust your gelding, you must go home with a horse and a program you understand well. You may have to give him mini-refreshers so it's important you have some tools. When those work, you'll have a basis for trusting your gelding.

    Short of this, or prior, you can try some versions at home. You might try by really tightening up the rules on the ground. IMO, the horse who is badly on the muscle under saddle typically is helped to get there by not feeling he has met the edge of the envelope on the ground. In this kind of "boot camp" think of your ride as starting when you open the stall door. He should face you and say "Yes ma'am"-- all else builds from a rather military insistence that he does just what you ask from that moment until you take the halter off and step out of the stall.

    Have you tried more work? Less?

    Most important: Is he honest about why and when he bucks in the sense that you can see it coming? Does he generally respect "No" and also his body (not getting hurt on his own)?

    The two kinds of horses I will quit with are the ones that I can't read and the ones who will hurt themselves in order to make a point.

    Hope this helps.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


    • #3
      Well, in the first place being ridden 2-3 times a week is not enough for many horses and certain types of horses (those bred for sport, speed, long distance riding, endurance).

      Who broke him? You? Or someone else?

      What triggered his first bucking incident?

      Besides "not being overfed", what are you ACTUALLY feeding him?

      What type of bit are you using, and what is your riding background, training and experience up to now?


      • #4
        Quit when you begin to fear for your safety. Only you can decide if you have reached that point. There are horses out there who are extremely athletic and agile who also have willing attitudes, they are way more fun. Take a few days to decide, did you have a bad day or is this just not getting any better. Best of luck.


        • #5
          Nice post mvp


          • #6
            Before I would send him to a cowboy or someone to ride him through it, I would have radiographs taken of his spine. I might even do a bone scan. It may sound like a long shot, but I do know of cases where there was a slight fracture of the wither or an impinging spinal process that caused very bad bucking.

            Me, I would quit riding him and leave it to someone braver and better.


            • #7
              Been there!

              I think once they get you off they know...and then they try pretty hard after that to do it again. I bought a couple 2 yr olds to back and get going and one ended up getting into doing what yours is. Super easy going guy but full of energy and very typical gelding in that he doesn't want to do more than he has to. He got into the bronc bucking with the head between the front legs when I would try and get more forward whilst being round.

              I had a friend who is a very experienced young horse trainer (and a strong guy) get on him. He kept the reins uber short and just kicked him through it. The horse tried pretty hard to get his head to be able to buck on more than a few occassions but to no avail and is now going really super and I have ridden him with no issues. I did keep him in training with this guy as I think with young horses even 6 months is a short period of time.

              I think the key is having someone really super strong who can just keep him on a very short rein and make him work through it.He needs to learn that he won't be able to get out of the work by bucking.... I feel for you though!

              "Simple: Breeding,Training, Riding". Wolfram Wittig.


              • #8
                With the help of one of those good cowboys I recommended above, I did create a program for an older has-hurt-people-bad type bucker.

                I'll give you details if you want, but let me just say that points about impending death and avoiding it can be made on long-lines. I won't risk my body to fix a horse who simply has yet to realize that he might have to risk his, too.

                Among other things-- a source of pain he can bear for only so long or a kind of intermittent pain that just surprises him, or being young, or some combo of the above-- it may just be that he hasn't realized there's any real reason not to do what it takes to tell you to get the eff off. Your fault for hanging on, I suppose. No wait, your fault for making him have a damned job in the damned first place.

                It is hard for the young, big-egoed ones. They really don't know that they shouldn't bronc if they can and see the need.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks for the advice, everyone. To answer a few questions, no, he is very dishonest about when and why he bucks. Not once did he indicate what he was about to do and all 3 times the broncing was in response to me asking him forward.
                  Medically, he is sound, nutritionally, he is fed to his needs and a lean body weight, he gets out of the stall for exercise and turnout 6 days a week and ridden 2-3 times a week.
                  I don't think his response to me is related to my riding experience, I just feel he is kind of a bully and doesn't like to do what is asked of him or take no for an answer. I am very strict with him on the ground, have done the rope halter stuff, have used a stud chain to get his attention, etc.
                  He is not careful about my body or his own (good question), in fact, he is rather accident prone.
                  MVP, your response confirmed what I was thinking. There is a good cowboy around here who can have a "come to Jesus" meeting with him.


                  • #10
                    Not to be a nosy nelly, but have you had radiographs taken of his neck/spine? The part in your post when you say he tripped and went down to his knees and then got up bucking raises my suspicions. I would get some taken if you have not before sending him to the cowboy. If there is something amiss in there a come to Jesus meeting may turn it into permanent damage. If you are 100% sure about his physical state, then I'd send him to the cowboy for sure. Bucking is just too dangerous to be allowed.


                    • #11
                      I third (fourth?) the notion of xraying from withers to and including SI if you can.

                      The fact that there is no rhyme or reason to the bucks can be very indicative of something suddenly pinching.
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                      • #12
                        My 14 yr old tripped and fell to his knees the other day. I flipped over his head and took a couple of seconds to get back up but when I did he was running around the arena very upset. I don't know if it was because he tripped or I fell off. But I can see why a young horse would buck after falling to his knees. My guy is a big very athletic warmblood who loves to buck when I free lunge him. I can't imagine trying to sit through it. I do try to chase him around the arena a day or two a week so he can get those bucks out.


                        • #13
                          I don't think any horse is worth getting crippled over.

                          Sell the boy and get one without the bucking solution to his problems.

                          Life's too short and you break...I've had a few buckers and one very determined rearer...got rid of all of them.
                          "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


                          • #14
                            My 4yo developed a bit of an attitude after I came off of a buck. He got annoyed about the lead change after a jump and leapt in the air and I went sailing.

                            For about a month he had an attitude about it and would threaten to buck and get stroppy to the whip or leg.
                            I did a lot of legyielding so I could "put him in a box" better, and deliberately add pressure but where I could control his reaction better. Even at the walk, "Step over when I ask, if you are a little lazy I will tap you and you are just going to have to get over it."

                            Then a month later he was trying to bully me around in a leadchange again and trying to take a rein away from me, so I gave him a little "Pop!" with the rein.
                            Homenoy got PISSED.
                            He leapt four feet in the air, bucked hard, landed, did it again, and we galloped top speed down the entire long side romping at an average elevation of four feet. I had serious doubts that we were going to stay in the arena. Finally by the time we were halfway around the short side (having made the turn to my great relief), he responded to a "Whoa" and halted.
                            I took a second to regain my stirrups and immediately asked for a quiet canter again (since that is what we were doing when he exploded) and he has not bucked huge since.

                            I think a combination of training him to accept pressure and corrections better in the more controlled exercises AND staying on on the big mother explosion and then just matter of factly carrying on did the trick.

                            I do believe he learned he could get a rider off with a buck and he held it in his mind as an option until another big explosion that was a 'waste of effort' on his part. I did NOT punish him or make a big deal. Just got my stirrups back and carried on immediately.

                            Psychologically I rode the horse by simply accepting that I would fall off of him a couple more times. Somehow that helped me NOT ride defensively.
                            And, it turns out, I didn't fall off anymore, but I have to say I stayed on that last little trip down the longside through some sort of divine intervention for sure.

                            I think rather than sending him to a cowboy I would send him to a trainer who can put "working pressure" on him and insist that he accepts leg yields, the connection, etc etc IN THE CONTEXT OF REGULAR SCHOOLING, and then sit out any explosions when he tries to get out of it or make a big statement of his opinion.

                            It is not an easy thing to fix, and I think part of the reason mine got over it was that I was simply lucky enough to stay on the second time he tried the behavior.
                            The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                            Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                            The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


                            • #15
                              I think he's absolutely not being worked enough. Does he lunge? I would start with lunging before riding (with the lunge sessions being longer than the actual ride) and start working him 6 days per week.

                              How much turnout does he get? And when was he actually started under saddle?
                              Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**


                              • #16
                                Can you sell a horse in this market that has a bucking problem?


                                • #17
                                  He is not careful about my body or his own (good question), in fact, he is rather accident prone.
                                  This is often one of the first symptoms I see in neurological horses or horses with spinal cord issues. Tripping and going down to the knees is another. Has the vet done a neuro exam?

                                  That said, there's no real excuse for human hurting behavior. I would have have the spine examined, and if it is ok, then send off to training for a year, if you can afford it. Plan on a year but work in three month increments. If there's no progress or he kills a cowboy in the first three months, it's time to call it quits.


                                  • #18
                                    I would turn him out 24/7 with another horse who would absolutely dominate him. I own a horse who will make another horse move a gozillion times a day and it is fantastic, no human is as relentless and consistent as he is. After a few weeks of that I'd bring him in and I'd work him in hand as if he were at bootcamp. Go, stop. Go, stop. Put him back out. Then when I got back on him I'd shorten the reins and go.. And stop. No dressage per say, just go.. And stop. If at any time he sucked back, I'd go after him with my whip, using the same verbal cues I used on the ground. If you feel uncomfortable with this send Him to a good cowboy and then sell him, and have learned your lesson about four year olds and forward.

                                    You should indeed check him for some sort of obvious pain issue but also don't forget what MVP is alluding to - that learning to go on even when the horse is not thrilled about it has to be taught and learned. What a four year old does is not much... They just have to go... And stop... You aren't asking him to piaffe.
                                    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                                    • #19
                                      no expert here, but...

                                      I'd hate to be in the position of selling a horse that has an unresolved bucking issue. What are your goals ultimately? Are you a pro-level rider? It seems like when I read about talented horses who have made it to the top, a good number of them bucked off their riders routinely.

                                      I'm NOT suggesting *you* continue to get bucked off, but maybe a western saddle and cowboy approach is in order, esp. if he is otherwise your dream horse.

                                      As to spending money to diagnose a spine issue? I don't know, at his age I don't know how likely that is or what could be done about it. These sensitive tests can find things that are ultimately red herrings. I'd probably find a cowboy...

                                      Dressage, riding, sport horse blog
                                      Unique browbands for dressage and hunter riders


                                      • #20
                                        Most of the time, Eq trainer's advice will work. However, I turned such a horse out with the nastiest mares possible, 24 hour turnout in the field. It worked for about a week. Then, he turned the tides and started dominating even those nasty old birds. He became the relentless one. It actually gave him more confidence and he got even bossier with people.