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Franklin Levinson's

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"The Buck Stops Here"

Dear Franklin,

I have a beautiful 12 year old QHX gelding that has been one of the most pleasant mounts I have ever had. I have been riding for 40+ years. This gelding has been ridden by me on numerous long trail rides, arena work, round pen, etc., and I have never had any problems with him, until last week. Fifteen minutes into a trail ride, he started to crow hop. I obtained forward momentum and when he was settled, I got off and lunged him immediately. He settled down, I fully checked his tack for anything causing discomfort and re-mounted. He immediately went into a full buck, all fours off the ground, until he actually bucked me off. He took himself back to the pasture, where I lunged him again, and did basic ground work with him. Got back on, and he went into a buck. The next day, I put him in the round pen to free lunge him, first with no tack, and then with his saddle. BUCK, BUCK, BUCK!

The vet has checked him, farrier has checked him, and neither can find any problems. It was as though a time bomb went off in his head. He still hooks up everyday when I go into the pasture. Comes right up and follows me around like a puppy dog. Ground ties to be groomed, etc., but starts crow hopping and bucking when mounted.

Any ideas what might be going on? Saddle fit has been checked, flank cinch taken off and then back on, nothing seems to work. I love this horse and want to be able to solve this problem. HELP please.


Hi Christine,

HHHmmm. the big buck. Well, the 'buck' stops here, hopefully. What sort of bit/bridle are you using? Seems he is well vetted, but when were his teeth done last? Feet are 100% too, is that correect? If you saddle him up, girth him up fairly snug and round pen him, does he buck? I might try putting the flank girth on him as well and snug it up. Then round pen him encouraging him to buck. If he does, he'll want to stop before too long. Once he absolutely cannot be pushed to bucking with the flank girth snugged, take off all tack and put the horse away as the big reward. You do not need to make the horse run around much. You just want to encourage his bucking for this exercise. Have hold of a 20 foot line in the round pen so you can sort of guide the horse's direction should he get really upset.

When I first mount a horse that has real potential to buck I do not ask for a step forward first off. Rather I lift one rein and then the other, flexing the horse's neck to either side while standing still. I may then ask the horse to lower its head and bend at the poll just a bit. All this standing in one spot. Then, when I feel ready to take a step, I lift one rein straight up and ask for a step to one side tightly. If I get even one proper step I give a moments rest and a Good Boy. Then I ask for another step to the side. I may ask a horse to do several rotations in both directions before I ask for a step forward. I will practice legs yields (yielding the hind quarters in both directions) before I ask for a step forward. If I am really aware of a horse's potential to buck I will do these tight leg yields for 15 minutes before I ask for a step forward. I ask for the first step straight forward while coming out of a turn, not from a standing start. I want to make certain my leg pressure will not set off a bucking spree, so I want to get him used to feeling my legs and the safest way to do that is tight leg yields. A horse cannnot buck with doing tight circles with his head bent to one side. Hold one rein mostly and hold it straight up and very slightly to the side you want the horse to go. You will not be able to keep the horse's head up with two hands. You will be able to with one hand. Even if you do not take a step forward for several rides, but rather reward smooth tight circles by putting the horse away, it is a win for you. Anytime you are on the horse and there is no bucking it is good. Even if you stand still it is a win for you. Your horse has been rewarded for bucking and now you need to change what you reward for to be not bucking. Do you understand? Let me know how it goes.......

Sincerely, Franklin

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