What is your tolerance for “playing” under saddle?

I've never seen Curly buck under saddle but she sure likes to kick up her heels in turnout.

I have always had a zero tolerance policy for shenanigans under saddle. Bucking in particular is something I have always nipped in the bud. At the first sign of bucking he goes into a one rein stop.

Mostly, it’s a self-preservation move: Freedom is such an athlete that I’m sure he could get me off if he tried and I’d prefer that he never figure out how precariously I’m perched up there. I don’t want to be taken by surprise and turned into a lawn dart.

I do tolerate bouncing — when he feels good he often gets that way — but that’s mostly because I find the quickest way to work him through it is to ignore it. That doesn’t always work. I distinctly remember one three hour ride where he didn’t walk once. He either bounced or cantered. He can canter very, very slowly.

One of my riding friends gets a real kick out of her horse’s high spirits. It’s hard to reprimand your horse for bucking when you’re laughing that hard. I understand wanting to enjoy the exuberance. Just not enough to let the genie out of the bottle.

How about you? Do you let your horse play a bit under saddle? or is it straight to work?

9 thoughts on “What is your tolerance for “playing” under saddle?

  1. It would depend on which horse I was riding. My 14.1hh Highland Pony Kippen could do cartwheels and it would just be interesting fun. He has previously given me his impression of airs above the ground. I easily sat it, not because I’m a great rider but because I was holding a huge handful of mane. These types of shenanigans are rare but never scary at all.

  2. To be honest, it depends on the day of the week, the phase of the moon and how I feel. Pissy, cranky behavior gets corrected every time. Yahoo – I feel good behavior I’m a little more tolerant of. And if they legitimately got set off by something, as long as it is just a little lapse…

  3. Zero tolerance for acting out. Lots of room for a horse that “asks” me if they can use all this great energy they have, “can we canter/gallop?” etc. Fine with a show of “I feel GOOD” that doesn’t go beyond prancing and slight skittering.

    Bucking, not okay under saddle. Fine on the lunge.

    The owner of one of my former catch rides was extremely ‘tolerant’ of ‘happy’ behavior. I loved this horse. He became difficult and ultimately dangerous to her, because it wasn’t just play, he was figuring out the hierarchy through play. In that sense, I guess it does depend on the specific horses personality?

  4. My current horse is the only horse with whom I’ve ever accepted any shenanigans. He is a massive tryer… who also has a lot of energy. If there are any shenanigans going on, there’s either pain (we had one sore hind quadriceps issue and bucking on canter transitions) or so much energy he can’t contain himself, in which case he’s getting turnout when we’re done if the arenas aren’t so wet he can’t get any (like right now.) This horse tries very hard to ensure whoever is on his back stays on his back, so shenanigans never result from ill intentions, and after he does something goofy, if he causes any unbalance he is exceptionally well-behaved afterward because he wants to ensure his rider stays on.

  5. If the horse is simply excited and having fun…. and I can stay on…. then I am happy to let them be happy and enjoy the ride!
    I never reprimand a horse if I think they are doing something out of pure joy. Of course, with overly-exuberant horses, this can sometimes land you in the mud! The best thing is to SIT UP, keep your heels down, and keep moving them forward. They should be allowed to have fun as long as it doesn’t completely distract them from their job!

  6. Best BHS advice I got was that once the saddle goes on the horse MUST behave at all times. They can show their fun in their own way when out in the fields in their own time. The safety of the rider (and horse) is paramount.
    They can still have fun without the dangers, cant they?

  7. I’d love to be able to correct – and eliminate – bucking in my guy. He doesn’t do it often, but when he does it comes out of nowhere. I’ll be happily cantering along, he’ll seem fine and kaboom! he’ll do one power buck. He’s gotten me off twice this way. No time for one rein stop. I would live to know how to stop that.

  8. I have to agree with Val. Once the human appears on the scene then all anti predator behaviour such as rearing, bucking, head tossing, freezing, jogging, reefing etc must stop. Joie de vivre does not come into it – the horse must be under stimulus control because if the horse gets to practice behaviours that are not part of the rider/horse dyad repertoire then they quickly become habits. Research suggests 3 – 5 repetitions is sufficient to permanently establish the neurological circuitary. Too many people (and horses) get hurt out there to ignore this simple mammalian learning principle. Google “Equitation Science” if you are interested in this stuff.

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