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My lovely new horse bucks when cantering


I have just bought a new horse and for the last 8 weeks he has been living out in the field with a little hard feed but no Hay. I was able to take delivery of him this Saturday (11th) but during this 8 wks I have been over and ridden him 4 times but only to go on a gentle hack out around country lanes at no faster than a trot. The dealer also rode him 3 times a week, she was doing much the same type of ride with him. I wanted to get him settled in before riding him in his new home and spent the last 4 days grooming, getting him used to my presence in his stable and building a relationship with him - he has seemed a little stressed but not too bad. So it was not until this Wednesday, 4 days after delivery, that I decided to saddle him and ride him. In his new home he is in at night and out all day, he is fed 1/2 chaff & 1/2 Mix twice a day and has 2 hay nets at night when he comes in.

When I rode this Wednesday I chose the outdoor school and as it was 7pm and starting to get dark we were in a floodlit outdoor school. I rode round in walk and trot for about 20 mins before asking for canter and when I did he just kept speeding up in trot as appose to making the transition to canter. I slowed him down and asked again - I repeated this 2 times before he bucked me off without a stride of canter. As I did not want to encourage this I chose not to ask for canter again in this lesson but I did get back on and walk around slowly and asked for trot again so I could go round steadily but he refused to move into trot at this point and indicated he would buck again, so I dismounted after some more walking and untacked.

My question's are: Why the reluctance to move into canter? Why the buck?

I am nervous about asking for canter now and feel like my confidence has been knocked slightly which is upsetting me as I really want to build a relationship with my horse, gain trust and make this work.

Please help!

Hi Kate,

Sounds like you are in the UK. I have just completed a three week road tour here doing quite a few seminars and demonstrations. Sorry I did not get to meet you.

I have come to find that folks here in the UK actually do not do a lot of in hand cantering. It is relatively brief when it does happen. Also, it sounds like not enough exercise has happened for the horse to really be 'ready' for the canter. As well, it can take weeks for a horse to get accomstumed to a new environment, slightly different feed and a new owner (maybe even longer).

Be that as it may, I would suggest a lot more ground play to establish more trust with your horse. Consider letting go of your agenda of riding for a bit and only let your goal be the establishing of a trusting and strong bond between you and your new horse. This will build the confidence and trust of both of you for each other. Additiaonally, horses that have not been cantered or exercised a lot and regularly are like humans who have been sitting on the sofa watching TV for an extended time and have only done a little or no regular strenous exercise. This creates a real unwillingness to do quite active and somewhat strenous movement (like running or cantering). Bucking is to be expected in this situation. I would do more ground games first to establish yourself as the trusted leader, then a lot of trotting. After a few weeks or more of this, in all the areas of the horse's new home, I would trot in a 20 or thirty foot circle until you 'feel' the horse has settled nicely into a relaxed trot and then gradually ask for the canter. Ride it as expertly as you can from your seat and legs (using as light a hand as you can muster), avoiding any kicking into the side of the horse. If you approach it this way, I think success can be guaranteed unless there is something organically wrong such as pain in the horses back, teeth, legs, feet, etc. Always look for some pain somewhere first. Eight out of ten horses I have seen here have pain in their bodies which makes it hard for them to want to move. That is what to look for first.

Thank you for your question and I hope I have offered some useful suggestions. Please keep me posted as to how it all goes. I have been to the UK two times within the past four months and shall return in the Spring. Perhaps we shall meet then. Good Luck......

Sincerely, Franklin

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