Horse Won't Move, Then Bucks!


I have a young friend who's x-endurance gelding Island refuses to move forward when asked . If you use a crop not that I advicate using whips he just buck's and bucks and I am afraid my young friend is loosing interest in riding this horse Please can you advise any methods we can use to get him to move forward without a fight . I am not sure of the history but I do know that this horse was in poor condition when he got him.


The problem you describe is not that uncommon in horses and can be very frustrating to solve. A horse uses his body to communicate - either with other horses or with people. As a prey animal, he has two reactions when faced with what he percieves to be a problem that could cause injury or loss of life - fight or flight! If he is not able to flee, which is always option one, horse will either use defensive body posturing or he will attack if he thinks he can win. Bucking is a defense mechanism that the horse will use to protect himself. (As opposed to something like biting or striking out with the front feet, which is an attack.) This horse might have had a raw deal in the past and has learned that humans are not completely to be trusted. In his opinion he is being put into a vulnerable situation and is trying to tell you so, as well as show his objection to what is bothering him. Most horses will put in a buck somewhere along the line, often when in high spirits or feeling good, but in this case it is being used in a different way.
The biggest problem with a buck when used as a defense mechanism is that often it starts out because of a legitimate problem - like pain, ill fitting tack or a poor rider. Unfortunately, the horse can quickly realise that it is a great way of frightening a rider into ending a work session or into going where the horse wants to go or intimidating the rider, and can become a nasty habit that is tricky to break.
By refusing to move, this horse is telling you that he is not comfortable with what you are asking, and when tapped with the whip, which he sees as an attack by you, he defends himself with a buck.
Your most important thing to do at this stage is to go right back to basics with some type of lock on exercise to make him understand you are to be trusted and establish yourself as a clear leader that he should take cues from. He needs to be checked for a physical problem and that includes having the tack and his back and teeth checked by a qualified person. (Use a specialist saddle fitter, an equine dentist and a Vet please - these are qualified people!) Once pain has been ruled out as a contributing factor, I would then implement a VERY good lunging program where you will teach him how to move forward on command and re-establish the aids.
Trust exercises such as little obstacle courses, stroking him all over with strange objects like bags, feather dusters and whatever else you can come up with, will also help build trust. Rub him slowly all over with your crop. It will desensitise him to the crop and make him understand that a light tap with the crop means "go forward" not - "I am going to beat you now"! The lunging should reinforce this. Never lose your temper with him and never ask him to do something that will break trust. (For instance, if you ask him to walk up a very slippery bank and he refuses but you insist until he goes up but he slips and falls down, he will be much less likely to trust you the second time around!)
Also I would suggest a few lessons with a qualified instructor. This will rule out problems such as poor riding, too strong bits and other issues that may be contributing. Often when a horse refuses to move forward and the rider insists, the horse will suddenly move forward a step and the rider gets left behind. That may lead to a pull in the mouth or a left behind rider and makes the problem even worse the next time around because the horse now knows that he is justified in not wanting to move as pain and discomfort will follow!
This is going to take patience and lots of work to fix, but I believe if you take a rational approach and get some help, you should be able to help him.

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