One of the most common stories I hear goes something like this:

“Well, I was out just riding my horse along on the trail the other day, and a branch fell out of the tree (or a squirrel ran by, or the other horses started going faster, or there was a sudden loud noise, etc., etc.) and my horse just all of the sudden bolted off and started bucking. He’s never done that before, and I just don’t know what could have caused it.”

Although there can be multiple reasons why a horse bucks, there are a FEW that are the MOST common.

#1. The horse has never been taught how to be LOOSE in his feet. If a horse is not loose in his feet, it’s like riding on top of a pressure cooker. The energy builds and builds until it gets to the point that it explodes. You MUST train your horse to be just as confident while he’s walking, trotting or loping. Many of the people I talk with rarely ever get their horse up into a lope. So the horse is only comfortable walking and trotting. When something “exciting” happens -and he’s not used to being freed up in his feet- he bolts, bucks, etc.

#2. The horse’s mind has never been trained to handle increased pressure. The reason soldiers are sent to boot camp is to be trained to handle the pressure of an intense situation. Your horse’s mind must be able to do that, too. This also has a lot to do with your horse’s confidence in himself and in you. If he trusts you as the herd leader and as someone who is looking out for him, he can remain relaxed and not freak out in high pressure situations.

#3. The horse is not comfortable with someone being ABOVE him. A horse can perceive a rider on his back as a predator. To the horse, a human being on their back is entirely different than that human being beside them on the ground. Just because you can get on your horse without him bolting or bucking doesn’t mean he likes you being up there. Once you get your horse comfortable with you being above him, he’ll actually LIKE you being on his back instead of just putting up with it. Big difference.

#4. The horse is looking for relief from some kind of pressure and doesn’t know where to find it. Without proper rein management, the horse is getting mixed signals and it is impossible for him to understand HOW to find the way out of the pressure he’s feeling. If you’re pulling (adding pressure) and not releasing at the right time, then you’re sending your horse mixed signals. Proper timing of pressure and release and proper rein management are essential to making your horse understand what you want them to do.

(Learn how to fix all 4 of these items on the Colt Starting series from Horse.TV. Click here to get a free 7 day trial to Horse.TV and watch the entire series!)

So, in conclusion, can you…

  • Get and keep your horse’s attention on YOU?
  • Put your saddled horse in an arena with no one on his back, flag him around to increase the speed and pressure, and he handles it both mentally and physically?
  • Transition him easily into different speeds – slow walk, fast walk, slow trot, extended trot, slow lope, fast lope?
  • Roll him up into a lope and maintain a controlled speed on a loose rein?
  • Sit on a fence and bring your horse underneath you?
  • Ask your horse to go, go, go without putting a ‘wall’ in front of him at the same time?

The answers to these questions can reveal the ROOT CAUSE of WHY a horse bucks.


Carson James
Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship. For the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. He was often in situations where he either had to figure out how to help the horse understand, or it could easily turn into a life or death situation. Carson now travels the country putting on training clinics teaching people the fundamentals of Horsemanship. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.