Why do horses buck?

Bill is a regular contributor to the Barrel Racers National 4D newspaper. Below is the response to a recent question.

Hello Bill,

I have a question for you. Recently Mike Beers was showing a dead broke head horse to a 75 year old gentleman. When he went to rope a steer after the horse had been warmed up for over an hour, the horse broke in two and bucked Mike off. So what do you do with a horse like this to prevent it from happening again? They could not find any reason for the horse to do this. Mike had roped off the horse the day before, and Bobby Mote rode the horse the day after, even instigating it to buck, and it did not. What can you do to prevent it from happening again and how do you develop a trust in this horse now?

Thank you,

Jodi, what a great question! The only difficulty with this is not having seen it, all I can do is make a best guess. Why do horses buck? I feel that there are four reasons that can cause horses to buck. We will see if any of them could have caused Mike to get bucked off. They are:

1. The horse does not understand what is being asked of them.

2. They get mad.

3. They are afraid.

4. They hurt.

5. I forgot about this one - they are bay with two white hinds and Kessler bred them!

The most that we can do at this point is go through the reasons that we are aware of and make a best guess. This will not help Mike at this point but maybe someone else will face a similar situation and it can help them.

1. I suspect that this horse totally understands his job and knows what is expected of him. It sounds like this is a seasoned horse, and it is unlikely that the answer to our question will be found here, so let's go to number two.

2. Did this horse get angry? Without having seen the event, it is tough to say. Does this horse get really wound up in the rope box? Doubtful, from what you said in your message. If this should be the case, we could go back to my seven things (see the 7 Principles of Ground Training article) and make sure that he gives well to the rein, that we can back him well, and that he is gentle to me and my toys, which include the rope box. If the horse has these skills the box should not be a big deal.

3. Did he become afraid? Doubtful, if this is his job and he is broke to death and good at it. Not knowing the horse I could be wrong on this one, but I would bet not.

4. Did something hurt him and cause the reaction? With what I know about this situation, this is where I would put my money. We have several spots we check every horse every day, and I will include a few photos to try to show everyone what we do. Quite often, a particular move will hit a pain trigger point and you can get the type of reaction that Mike experienced. Most pain that I have seen that will cause horses to buck will be in the withers, the loin, or in the ribs. I would check the withers first. I would check them by starting at the front of the withers and giving a firm squeeze and look for any reaction. The most common would be the horse flinching, dropping it's withers or back, moving away from the pressure, or trying to bite or kick you!

For the ribs, we will go about a hands width behind the elbow and just push with our thumb. You may get no reaction (this is good!), or your horse may bend pretty strongly away the pressure by caving it's ribcage away from you, jumping away, or again, trying to bite or kick you.

Finally, we would check the loin area by running the back of our thumb up the area between the last rib and the pelvis towards the spine. You do not need to use a lot of pressure - about the amount that you would use to strike a match will do. If the horse dips it's back, moves away, etc. we have a problem. I would check my saddle fit, have my horse treated by a knowledgeable chiropractor, and then check him daily for soreness to try to avoid future episodes.

My final reason for leaning this direction is Mike having the advantage of having Bobby available to check out the horse (boy could we use him around here!) and getting no response. The typical roper will stand in the stirrup which puts a lot of pressure on the horses withers and shoulders, whereas a good bronc rider would avoid that position at all costs.

5. Ok, this one was a joke, not many of us would buy a "born to buck" horse for our saddle horse.

Jodi, I am not saying at all that this is what happened, but it is sure a possibility. In all of our clinics we address saddle fit, soreness in the horse, and how rider position affects the horse and his performance. This was fun for me. Thanks for the question.


Angie Reitmeier & Bill Basham
1068 Fiddlers Ridge Loop
Potlatch, ID 83855
(208) 874-3026

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