Pain or Behaviourial – What’s Wrong with Coco?

-So once again myself and Coco have been a bit AWOL. We’ve recently encountered a new problem that literally came out of nowhere!

After our recent trip to the beach, I ended up giving Coco the following week off because I wasn’t well. The first day I rode her after she had her time off she went fantastic. It was the most positive ride I had on her in months. Given this, I thought it was time to start getting out and doing a bit more after our very quiet winter so I decided to bring her to Darielle’s yard that weekend for a light jumping session.


Where it started…

The minute she walked into the arena, she immediately began taking the piss bucking, diving, cat-leaping and just being a general nuisance. I cantered her for a solid 20 minutes in an attempt to settle her but every time I brought her back to walk and then asked her to work again it was like starting the session all over again. She was WIRED! I’m used to Coco’s freshness but usually it goes away after she’s been worked for a while..but not today. I put her over trot poles before trotting her into a small cross pole. After every jump she would buck and buck, she just wouldn’t give up. I had pulled a muscle in my back earlier in the week so about half an hour into the session my back went into a full on spasm which I ignored until I couldn’t anymore so eventually I called it a day.

The next time I rode her was two days later. I gave her a little lunge before hopping up but I quickly found that a habit seemed to have lingered from Saturday’s session. Every time I asked for canter, Coco would buck and then buck again and again sporadically throughout the canter. I pushed her on through it as I normally would when she acted up but she just seemed to get more and more pissed off. Her walk and trot work was perfect, but she really didn’t want to be cantering. I figured she was having an off day so I finished up. Unfortunately the next day was the same story so I found myself asking, once again, what the f*** is wrong with Coco?

Pain or Behavioural?

I think this is one question that nearly every horse owner will ask themselves at least once. Is my horse in pain or is she acting up? When asking this question of myself, I usually go for the pain side and start to rule the usual things out:

  • Check her Saddle her saddle had been fitted to her only 5 months ago so unlikely this was a cause
  • Check her Back she had her back done only 2 months ago so again, unlikely there was something here
  • Check her Teeth this was the only one that was due to be done but wouldn’t usually be considered a cause of bucking, regardless I arranged for a dentist to come out


Considering all of the above, I thought it was very possible that she was just acting up so I asked someone who is used to dealing with young horses/horses with behaviour problems to sit up on her and tell me what she thought. On her first ride, she couldn’t pin point what she thought the problem was so she decided to take Coco for another few days to see if she could figure it out. Unfortunately they didn’t get very far and she advised it might be best to just start ruling out the above. She also suggested putting Coco on Comfort Gut on the off chance she might have stomach ulcers, something I hadn’t thought of. I had two 5-day trial tubs so I decided it would do her no harm to put her on it and see how she responded. 

bucking gif

I gave her a few days off to give the comfort gut time to take effect, after this I started doing some light lunging with her and saw no obvious difference in her attitude. In the meantime Darielle had mentioned my problem to Jer who had helped her out when Dante was going through his problematic youngster phase. He reckoned it sounded like she was just being a wagon so offered to sit up on her if I wanted. After seeing how much he had helped Darielle with Dante, I decided it would be worth giving it a go, for the sake of one more day (and my bank account), before going and getting a full evaluation done on her. 

So we shipped out to Darielle’s yard once more…

take off

I have to say I was a bit nervous the morning we brought Coco over. I knew Jer was going to take her on and not take any shit from her so a part of me was worried that by the end of it I was going to be told that the only reason for her behaviour was that something was hurting her. Thankfully however, this was not the case.  As soon as Jer hopped up Coco instantly began taking the piss but it seemed all it took was a bit of a firm hand and she quickly started behaving herself. Within 15 minutes she settled and didn’t try bucking once, she even jumped everything she was put in front of. Jer quickly confirmed, that there was nothing wrong with her, she was just being a bully trying to get her own way. 

I honestly didn’t know how to feel after this a part of me was delighted that I didn’t need to go through the rigmarole (and cost) of getting her physically evaluated but another part of me was dreading the fight I suddenly had ahead of me. But that’s young horses for you it’s time for me to balls up and show my horse that she is not the boss.


I’ll be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about telling this story. The route I went down to discover what was wrong with Coco isn’t the most popular option. Everyone always says to rule out any pain triggers first before heading down the behavioural route. I discussed Coco’s issue with A LOT of people before making the decisions I did. I was completely stumped and honestly, after a very tight January it would have been another few weeks before I could get a full medical work-up done on her. Hopefully after a few weeks of focussed work we’ll be back on track and ready to get out and get some experience.

Thanks for reading


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