why do horses buck

Why Do Horses Buck?

Have you ever wondered why horses buck? For some people, it may seem frightening to see or experience a horse bucking. It could also be dangerous for both the rider and the horse.

If a horse bows its head to the ground, it could be followed by moving forward while raising its back legs. It happens quite fluidly and quickly, but this is what is referred to as bucking.

And if you are on a horse ride when its head bows and those powerful hindquarters lift high in the air, you could experience the spine-chilling fear that you are about to be thrown to the ground.

As much as it’s a natural action, when a horse bucks, there is always a reason for its actions. Let’s explore these reasons so you can safeguard yourself from falling or being kicked. At the same time, you can keep your horse happy and its back legs safely on the ground.

The Causes Behind Bucking Horses

Natural response

When a horse bucks, it’s often just a natural response to a perceived predator or invasive presence. The horse’s defences kick in, and the horse’s bucking action can scare off any threats. Thus, it’s always best to have calm, confident movements when you are around horses. Also, don’t make any sudden moves that can spook your horse.

A Happy Buck

Equines can also buck when they feel anticipation and excitement. These, though, are happy bucks. For example, if the horse enjoys a canter around a meadow and you lead it to the same place every time, it will anticipate a fun canter, feel in high spirits, and buck to display its pleasure.

To avoid this, you can change the pace before entering the meadow, keeping your horse at a slow trot or changing the pace to a full gallop at different places each time.


Young horses are quite playful and will often buck while they’re playing. There is no real danger here, as they are just playing and getting rid of some of the excess energy that youngsters always seem to have in abundance.

Pain or discomfort

A horse’s bucking can be attributed to discomfort, or it could be pain-related. The horse will buck when it is in distress to try to remove the irritant.

Horse’s tack

It’s imperative that any tack is properly fitted to reduce the risk of discomfort. For example, if a saddle is too loose, it will rub against the horse’s coat, making the animal uncomfortable. If the saddle is too tight, it will make it difficult for the horse to breathe easily. An ill-fitting saddle is one of the biggest reasons that horses buck. The same principles apply to all horse tack, including the bridle and bit.

A horse rider faces danger if their horse bucks while the rider is in the saddle. The horse’s bucking action could cause the rider to be thrown or to fall.

When in the company of other horses

When other horses are nearby, it can cause excitement, which could make your horse buck.

Confusion, anxiety or rough handling

If a rider gives unclear instructions to the horse, the animal may be confused, feel anxious and start bucking as a result. Always give clear, consistent signals to your horse.

Learned behaviour

If the horse has successfully averted work or a saddle placed upon its back, it may have learned that this is the best way to avoid an unwanted situation or presence. The former success that it felt could become a habit, causing an increase in the horse’s bucking.

Health-Related Conditions

In a recently published article, author Sue Dyson wrote a citation on bucking horses. She describes different types of bucking. To quote, “Bucking often occurs as a series of such leaps and different manifestations include ‘pronking’, ‘bronking’ and ‘fly bucking’.”

Dyson goes on to list reasons why a horse would buck. She says, “Specific causes of pain include an ill‐fitting saddle or girth, thoracolumbar pain, girth region pain, sternal or rib injury, neuropathic pain, sacroiliac joint region pain, referred pain and primary hindlimb lameness.”

Here are a few more health-related matters to consider:

Kissing spines

Overriding dorsal spinous processes (ORDSP), also known as kissing spines, happen when adjacent spinous processes in the lumbar spine rub against each other. When a rider climbs atop the horse, the additional weight starts causing pain, which could cause the horse to buck.

It’s important to note that while bucking is the most obvious sign of pain, sometimes a horse could express their discomfort by tensing up, swishing their tail, or biting. Always be aware of these sorts of telltale signs because late diagnosis and prolonged pain can cause permanent damage. If you pick up on the signals early enough, then it’s easier to treat kissing spines.

Gastric ulcers

If your horse has gastric ulcers, back pain, or even if their teeth hurt, they could start bucking. It’s advised to seek veterinary treatment if your horse bucks due to health- or pain-related issues.


Muscle strains, sprains, tendonitis, and cracked hooves can make horses buck. Sometimes the injuries aren’t immediately obvious, but when the horse moves into a certain position, they feel the pain and start bucking. This is their way of communicating their pain to you.

Riding A Horse That Bucks

If your horse doesn’t want to be ridden, it could buck. This could happen at any time when you are on a horse ride, even if you are taking the horse on a canter or trying to jump a hedge. Riders always need to be extra observant, especially if their horses have started acting out recently.

Don’t be scared to ride your horse. Just ensure you don’t transfer your fear or hesitation to the horse, because then it will likely buck.

Riding needs to be comfortable for both the horse and the rider, so ensure that there is nothing too loose or too tight that could cause discomfort. If you have ridden this horse before, you probably know how to handle it. And the more time you spend riding it, the better the bond and communication will be.

Tips For Preventing Bucking

  • Harsh punishment doesn’t work for a bucking horse. This could just worsen its reaction. Always be calm and patient with your horse.
  • Teach your horse from an early age that bucking is not always a good thing, especially if it has a rider on its back. Teach your horse that it won’t get its own way by bucking just to get out of being saddled.
  • Ensure that the tack fits properly and isn’t causing pain or discomfort.
  • Understand the reasons behind the bucking to address the problem and the behaviour.
  • If you have ruled out the obvious reasons for bucking, then it’s time to speak to a trainer or veterinarian.
  • Spend time bonding with the horse to build trust and understanding on both sides.
  • Avoid situations that could spook your horse and cause anxiety and bucking.

Final Thoughts

While horse bucking can be indicative of both positive and negative points, getting to the root of the situation is important. From a few bucks of happiness to physical discomfort, there is always a reason for the behaviour.

By addressing the bucking, you could avoid potential hazards for both the horse and rider. It may take some time, but with proper care, consistency, a lot of patience and understanding, riders will experience less horseback bucking and more pleasurable horseback time.


What should I do for horse bucking due to health reasons?

Take preventative and proactive measures, such as adjusting the saddle and using a horse blanket. You can change training routines to help reduce any pain. Also, speak to a vet about pain management to help make your horse more comfortable.

Should I stop riding a horse if it is bucking?

A horse bucking while you ride may seem frightening. However, riders should never stop riding their horses. Show your horse that you are calm and confident, and be patient.

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