Q: When going up a gear to canter – usually when we’re out on a hack – my horse, who used to be kept on working livery, sometimes throws in a buck. Why is this?
Minette Rice Edwards answers:
There can be several reasons for horses bucking when you ask for a transition to canter. First and foremost, do you have your saddle checked regularly and when was the last time you had your horse’s back checked by a vet?
Back pain may well cause bucking, but assuming that your horse’s back is in good order, you then need to make sure that his feed ration is suitable for the amount of work he is doing. If you are not certain, your vet would be able to advise. Overfeeding can make horses badly behaved and over-exuberant, but he might just be getting very excited when out in an open space with a bunch of friends!
Try asking the others to hold back, allowing you to canter on first. Go into a slow canter, and make sure that you sit up and be quick to keep his head up, maintaining a firm feel on the reins. If he dives onto one shoulder (say the left), then lift your left hand higher to straighten him.
As his problems may have started when he was on working livery, it is worth reschooling him. He may have been ridden clumsily or held too tight and become very stiff, so he bucked because he could not move freely forward. I’d start him off on the lunge, with carefully fitted (not tight) side-reins, on a 20m circle – long-reining is also excellent, but you may need help with this. Ask him to work with his hindlegs engaged underneath him, without rushing and in balance through upward and downward transitions. Continue this for about
10-15 minutes each time before you hack.
When you see an improvement in his balance and suppleness, ride some upward and downward transitions on a circle. Always slow, balance, engage and collect the trot before you ask for the canter – never let him rush and throw weight onto his forehand. Then if possible, progress to asking for canter from walk.