Bucking & The Flank Rope. Old Technique ~ New Way.

Ok I’m going to vent here! And propose a solution. Let's do it. 

You know what really bothers me? When good ideas are delivered badly and it affects horses' well being. I see this more nowadays in young horse training as online videos spread the ineffective use of this technique. It is getting done by so many and then subsequently done poorly by folks that don’t know any better. 

When flank ropes are applied by an unskilled person, meaning they apply the rope, pull on it until the horse gets to bucking, then releasing when they stop, actually teaches them to buck first to get a release after. This can hurt their back and cause unnecessary trauma to the horse or get someone kicked in the head. Added to that, this is typically being done in a single session and not in a progressive manner over several training sessions. Many people try the flank rope method because they have an issue with a horse that is bucking under saddle. It is often seen as a way to “fix” a horse and get them to stop bucking.  

There is a better way, using the flank rope in a progressive, safe manner. 

Take a step back. Horses generally buck with a saddle or rider for one of two reasons and sometimes both (aside from any care issues, of course).  

  1. They feel the constriction of the cinch around their body. 
  2. They are afraid of the placement of the saddle or rider and the horse sees something tied to their back and they want it OFF.

In the circumstance of it being a constriction issue and sensitivity about a cinch, the 22’ ring rope can be a good method if used correctly. Its real value is that it isolates one problem for a horse to learn and accept, the single rope. And the rope itself can loosen once pressure is released because of the ring. Contrast this with multiple problems at once; a cinch, a saddle and possibly a rider and we end up reducing the horse's capacity to learn.

Let’s look at a better way, a slow progressive way, to do this so that it works first and foremost for the horse's benefit. It begins with isolating each part of the training process to help the horse learn one thing at a time. It must be done slowly and incrementally with a primary goal of teaching the horse to yield. First, they just need to pack the rope on their body while it’s nice and loose on them. Then, ask them to be led by it with supporting tension on the halter to guide them. 


In this photo I’m helping Zues, a green, Andalusian gelding, with some fear issues around his belly. He avoids the saddle and gets very tense with a rider partly due to the worry he has on his rib cage area. Early in our session, he is just learning to pack the rope on his body with no reaction.

Here, I am asking him to lead with it, to start yielding to the pressure while the rope is more forward (near his girth).

 As we progress, Zues, is packing the rope with some tension on it and I prepare to ask him to yield (disengage) to give to the pressure or go forward, depending on my ask.

 Success! Zues is learning to carry the rope and eventually yield to it, learning to replace his fear with a willing yield.


So, what if my horse bucks when he/she feels the rope? Firstly, start way up on their barrel right where a front cinch goes - keep it very loose and allow a horse to just have it there, loosely, for several sessions. Slowly increase the pressure and release. If they get sticky and want to hump-up, ask them to go forward and as soon as they do release it to slack. 

KEY principle: It replaces the fear of ‘WHAT IS THIS ON MY BELLY ‘ (and I should buck it off) with ‘I CAN YIELD TO THAT’  (and speed up and slow down calmly). The ultimate goal here is that we replace the fear based reaction the horse has with their own ability to think through a problem. So when the saddle and cinch go on, they have already learned to think their way through it and be led forward or stepped off without the tension that leads to future bucking. 

One step at a time, get each step right, then add to it. That's the progressive way.


Want to give this a try? Learn it Here:  The (re) Start is Everything Series DVD or online streaming.

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