What does it mean when a horse starts bucking

What does it Mean When a Horse is Bucking?

One such behavior that horses are known to exhibit is bucking. So, what does it mean when a horse is bucking? For horses and other animals in general, we rely on observing their behaviors to understand what they’re going through.

Bucking is a behavior observed in horses whereby they lower their head, plant their two front feet firmly on the ground, and raise their hindquarters while kicking out with their hind legs.

While it may be just one way for a horse to express or communicate something, it’s a dangerous behavior that shouldn’t be allowed to develop and continue happening.

Throughout this article, we’re going to highlight and discuss a few aspects of bucking to help you better understand this behavior.

Signs a Horse is about to Start Bucking

Learning how to read your horse’s body language is a must-have skill for any equestrian. Doing so will always ensure you can easily read your horse and react to the signals it’s giving off appropriately.

In this case, looking out for signs of tension on your horse can help you gauge whether a buck is coming. A few of these signs you can look out for include:

  • Stiffness in the horse’s ears.
  • Eyes are wide open, almost to the point of seeing the white part of the eye.
  • The lower lip exhibits signs of stiffness.
  • If you’re riding the horse, its body may start feeling stiff and feel like it’s swelling a little.
  • The horse starts to hump its back. This action is in preparation for the bucking stance.

What would make a Horse to start Bucking?

Bucking is essentially a reactionary movement made by the horse in response to something. Below we highlight a few of the common reasons that would make a horse buck:

Fear or Intimidation

When a horse feels it’s in danger, bucking is one of the common ways it reacts to an impending threat.

While in the bucking stance, the horse can deliver strong kicks to whatever or whoever the aggressor is. The movement when bucking is also intimidating enough to some animals to keep them from attacking the horse.

The bottom line is, when a horse is bucking, it could be in an aggressive mood and should be handled with caution.

State of Health

When a horse is sick, infected, or suffering from an injury, its overall sense of well-being lowers.

For instance, imagine a horse has a back problem, and the owner isn’t aware of it. They’d end up saddling up the horse and attempt to ride it, as usual, only to be met with an episode of bucking!

The pain felt when a rider attempts to mount it in such a scenario would make it buck. Infections, on the other hand, could weaken the horse and make it feel lethargic. The lethargy could then in turn cause a similar reaction when mounting is attempted.

Remember, just like people, horses get irritable when they’re sick or injured, which would make them buck.

Inconsistent Riding Aids

As horses grow and mature, they are taught riding aids throughout their training. Learning these aids is crucial for enabling smooth communication between it and the rider. That said, the rider’s use of these riding aids needs to be clear and precise.

If a rider’s instructions end up being confusing for the horse, it could react by bucking. This would be because it’s feeling apprehensive of its rider not being able to communicate adequately. As a rider, you must learn how to execute riding aids precisely to avoid such a scenario.

Poorly Fit Equipment

A horse’s tack needs to have all its pieces be well-fitting for the horse. Having a saddle that isn’t the correct size, for instance, could make the horse uncomfortable. The bits are also an important part of horse riding equipment that has to fit the horse properly to avoid discomfort.

If a horse happens to feel any discomfort because of some of the equipment, like the saddle and bits, it could react by bucking.


We tend to keep horses in stables for our convenience, but their DNA from when they were out in the wild never stops speaking to them.

When they stay in the stables for long periods, they build up a lot of stress and energy. This accumulated stress and energy needs to be released at some point.

So, when a horse eventually gets to spend time out in the open, they tend to buck as a means to release this piled-up energy and stress. They feel freer than when out in the open compared to when they’re in the stables, and this gives them a chance to relax.

In some instances, the bucking may be a gesture of playfulness between horses. They buck around together, releasing the excess energy and having fun at the same time!

Bad Riding Technique

A properly trained horse demands that its rider be just as well trained. The complementary nature of both parties being well-trained makes the riding experience smoother.

On the other hand, a poorly trained rider can irritate the horse. Actions such as improper saddle placement or poor mounting technique, for instance, can make the horse uncomfortable, forcing it to react by bucking.

Eating Habits

Pets have a special place in our hearts, and that makes us spoil them from time to time. In this scenario, we’re talking in the sense of overfeeding your horse.

Horses have a set dietary guideline that ensures they get the required amount of food and consequently, have enough energy for their activities.

If they feed on more than they should, they end up with a lot of extra energy. This energy can then end up being released in the form of the horse bucking.

It’s used to the Behavior

Sometimes a horse may come from an environment that was lenient towards the behavior of bucking.

If so, it would have learned that it can use bucking to get out of a riding session or other duties it’s required to perform. Such horses should be handled with caution until they’re taught to desist from bucking.

What you can do to Prevent Bucking

For a horse owner to avoid having to deal with a bucking horse, there are several measures one can take. Some of them include:

Early Training

Training your horse against bucking should be part of its training from the get-go. Immediately it starts bucking or showing signs of bucking, reinforce the fact that that behavior is not acceptable.

Consulting professional horse handlers might be the best way to go about this option.

Maintain a Healthy Horse

Conduct regular medical check-ups for your horse to ensure it’s always in good shape. Some diseases or injuries start slow and end up as big problems if not caught early. When they’re allowed to progress, they can be a reason why your horse can start bucking.

Proper Diet

Make sure your horse feeds on the appropriate amount of food. Doing so ensures the horse has just enough energy for whatever it has to do.

Time Outside the Stables

Stables don’t allow horses the kind of freedom and maneuverability they can enjoy while out in a field. As such, letting it enjoy time outside running around and socializing with other horses can be of help.

It allows it to relieve pent-up stress and energy, reducing the urge to buck when called upon for service.

Proper Equipment

Ensure that the equipment you use on your horse is appropriate. We’ve discussed how ill-fitting saddles can create discomfort in a horse, causing it to buck.

Equipment that is well-fitted and positioned on the horse goes a long way in avoiding bucking episodes.

Origins of Bucking

Looking at horses from a biological perspective, they have always been prey animals. That means they had to have ways to ward off attackers and escape in the event of attacks.

As is the case with other animals, they have an ingrained fight-or-flight response system within them. Bucking could then have simply been one of the products of this response system.

The act of bucking is enough to intimidate some potential attackers to back off. In the event it isn’t enough, it has the potential to allow the horse to land a hit and gain enough time to flee its attacker.

With the way horses are structured, bucking also makes sense since there are only so many other ways they can move around their limbs.

Bronc Riding

Though much of this post has described bucking as a menace, there are some equestrian circles that value it greatly.

Bronc riding is a rodeo event (a type of equestrian sport practiced in parts of the Americas). It involves a rider riding a bucking horse with the aim of staying mounted for a specified period.

The performance is graded on the abilities of both the rider and the horse.

Stopping the Buck

Hopefully, you have managed to learn a few details about horse bucking from this post. Though it can be a menace, there are ways to remedy this behavior in your horse.

Remember to always pay attention to your horse when you interact with it so you can catch the early signs that some training is necessary. Happy riding!