Riding Tips

Crow Hopping Horses: How to Fix Frisky Behavior

crow hopping horse
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Written by Nancy G.

The Causes of Crow Hopping and How to Deal With It

Crow-hopping is a milder form of bucking where your horse’s back arches and all four feet leave the ground in a “hopping” motion. Bucking is more extreme and involves the horse putting his head between his legs (or close) and kicking upwards, hard. 

Crow-hopping can be caused by physical pain or it can be a behavioral issue driven by a resistance to work. If you’ve ruled out pain, consider working with a trainer to put a stop to this behavior.

While unpleasant to ride, this behavior doesn’t have to become a permanent part of your riding routine.

Crow Hopping – What Is It?

Like any undesirable behavior, crow-hopping stems from either physical pain or resistance to work.

Crow-Hopping

Crow-hopping is when a horse rounds his back and all four legs come off the ground in a “hopping” motion. 

Bucking

Bucking is a more extreme behavior. To buck, a horse lowers his head and lifts his hindquarters, kicking out high and hard. All four legs can leave the ground (picture a bucking horse at a rodeo).

Other Negative Behaviors:

  • Rearing – A horse lifts its front legs off the ground and appears to be “standing”
  • Kicking – A horse lifts and strikes out with one leg (usually a hind leg)

What is the difference between crow hopping and bucking?

Crow-hopping is milder while bucking is more active (and more dangerous).

horse bucking in snow

source: canva

What does it look like when a horse crow hops?

It can look like a horse is “hopping” around like a bunny, with a rounded back and straight legs.

The Root Cause of Crow Hopping

Horses typically crow-hop due to physical or behavioral issues.

What causes crow hopping?

Crow-hopping can be caused by an ill-fitted saddle, a sore back (or other physical pains), or laziness.

Physical Pain

The urge to crow-hop may stem from a physical problem. It’s always important to rule out any physical causes first!

  • Poor-fitting tack – Check with your trainer or saddle fitter to ensure your tack fits properly.
  • Pain in the horse’s back end – Consult your vet to rule out physical causes of crow hopping.

An equine chiropractor may also be helpful!

Behavior

Cantering is hard for horses. It requires them to round their backs and move in a more athletic way. Sometimes, a horse crow-hops to get out of such work.

Of course, sometimes it may be that they just have some pent-up energy!

How To Ride a Buck

Sit back, push the horse forward, and keep the horse’s head up! If you feel a buck coming on, do a hard, one-rein stop, then push the horse forward into work, keeping his head up.

Wear. Your. Helmet.

Bucking is dangerous, even for cowboys. Always wear a helmet, especially if you know your horse has a habit of bucking.

How To Fix a Crow-Hopping Horse

There are several ways you can stop a horse from crow-hopping (once you’ve ruled out physical pain as the cause).

Consult a Trainer

If your horse is crow-hopping out of laziness, the answer is usually to push the horse forward.

This can be scary to do, and it can help to have a trainer on hand to either help or ride through the issue for you.

Ground Work

You can also start correcting the problem with lunge work. This is certainly a safer option!

Lunging can also help your horse build up his fitness level and make cantering easier.

Common Mistakes

NEVER pull back or let the horse walk or halt if they start to crow-hop. This teaches him that crow-hopping is a great way to get out of work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why does my horse crow hop after he jumps?

Crow-hopping can result from pain, so make sure your tack fits and rule out physical issues. If your horse is young or green, it could be exuberance. A horse also may do this to avoid work.

Q: How do you stop a horse from bucking on the lunge line?

The best way is to redirect his energy. Push him forward, change directions, work on transitions from trot to canter, etc.

Q: Why does my horse buck when I ask him to trot?

It’s less about the trot and more about being asked to move forward. Your horse could be bored or have developed an aversion to work. Try to change-up his routine and give him new things to do.

Q: Why is my horse bucking all of the sudden?

When a normally well-behaved horse starts bucking, call your vet. It’s possible your horse is dealing with pain.

Parting Thoughts

Crow-hopping can stem from several root causes, like pain, an ill-fitting saddle, or laziness. Take the time to figure out why your horse has started this behavior to have your best chance at stopping it.

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:

Further Reading:

No Bucking Broncos!

Bucking Horse – How To Stop A Horse Bucking

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About the author

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Nancy G.

Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!

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