Looking for the “Buck Switch”

Tips, tricks, and techniques are only consistently effective when used on a solid foundation; when fundamentals are in place.

Recently, a forum member on GaryNorth.com wrote:

“Okay, you have 2 types of people who will respond to posts. The first type are people who give you specific answer…The second type will give you high level responses and may not help you much. Please search this forum on…You will find very directed responses to your specific situation. The others are high level information. I am having trouble with these other responses and I suspect are bullshit. You need to decide whose advise is more pertinent to your situation.” [Sic]

Many years ago, I participated in an equine-oriented Internet forum based in the UK. This forum included many thousands of members from all parts of the globe; and all age groups, although predominately younger age groups. The forum served many purposes, but chiefly as a mechanism to share knowledge about horses, riding skills, and training horses.

Horse behavior problems were a constant theme in the forums. People were having many, many behavior problems with their horses, and in the extreme, the horse bucking with rider was a major issue.

Month in and month out, many members sought help in curing bucking in their horses; it was a wide-spread recurring problem. Invariably, those members seeking help asked for tips, tricks, or techniques to cure the horse of bucking.

My response each and every time was to advise a return to fundamentals, to build a behavioral foundation in the horse so that the horse never got to a mental place where it felt it had to buck. This approach was based upon the knowledge that the unwanted behavior was the end result of a long process of ignoring the warning signs building in the horse; warning signs that something is wrong in the horse, and unless that something is corrected, the horse is getting more and more uncomfortable. The bucking is the result of that final straw on the camel’s back; and is only an indicator of much more serious issues.

This return to fundamentals means much repetitive work to (re-)train the horse, from the beginning; building it back up, based on fundamentals, with the intent of building a solid behavioral foundation. My posts reflected the amount of work in that they were long, step-by-step procedures, which also explained the whys and wherefores each step of the way. As a result, the posts contained lots of “high-level information.”

But, this advice was not wanted. With few exceptions, the members wanted a “specific answer” to stop the bucking; forever. My “high level responses” reflected work they did not want to do. They wanted the quick fix. They wanted to address the indicator: bucking, not the underlying problems. In other words, they were looking for a “Buck Switch” – that tip, trick, or technique to turn off the bucking, in the event.

But, there’s a problem: horses, like people, are not machines; they don’t come with switches controlling behavior. They have no Buck Switches. But, they do have behavior foundations.

Tips, tricks, and techniques are only consistently effective when used on a solid foundation; when fundamentals are in place. But, if the foundation is not solid, tips, tricks, and techniques can at best, result in temporal and fleeting success. Then, the horse bucks again.

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