How do I get my horse to stop bucking?
Check the tack carefully. We once had a saddle with a construction error, where a screw went through the tree and could poke into the horse's back. We also had a Liverpool driving bit that pinched the corners of my horse's mouth, and she complained. Changing to a solid cheek instead of a swivel cheek fixed the problem. I really think that "something hurts" but you have not yet identified it.
Horses buck for all sorts of reasons. Pain from equipment, body, bit in mouth, ill fitting shoes or something as simple as being excitable. It sounds to me like maybe he's just a bit full of himself and getting excited. But without seeing the horse I can't offer much, sorry.
Lots of luck. You have a nice spirited animal there. He likes to buck. Enjoy. Just ride it out. It's not difficult.
Jen, bucking is a pain response in most cases. You should quit riding this horse until you've had your vet out and had him evaluated for medical problems that could be causing this behavior. Because if you don't, the behavior will escalate and you're going to get hurt, or get him hurt, or both. If he checks out medically(as in no hock, back, or leg problems, and no infections like Lyme disease which could be causing his problem) then the next thing to look at is the fit of your tack, especially your saddle. When was the last time you had a professional saddler come and assess the fit of your tack, Jen? If it has been a while, or this is something you've never had done, I'd start there and get it done. And by professional saddler, I DON'T mean your trainer. I'm talking about a master craftsman who builds saddles for a LIVING, and thus is qualified to judge whether or not your saddle fits the horse correctly and comfortably. It may be that the saddle is pinching your horse in some way, or perhaps it needs to be restuffed or reflocked. Only a professional will be able to tell you for sure. Another thing you need to pay attention to is the condition of your horse's mouth. Believe it or not, dental problems can contribute to vices like bucking. A horse without a healthy mouth is a horse whose body isn't going to be healthy either. So I'd get your horse's mouth looked at by your vet or by the dentist. Finally, one of the things you need to ask yourself is whether or not your horse may be over faced, or if you may be doing something riding wise that he isn't responding to well. If the former is true, you can get past this by slowing down your pace and going back to small fences until you're both comfortable and confident. But if it's the latter, you need to work with your trainer on whatever issue is going on until you resolve it. This may mean you need to take lessons on another horse for a while. Good luck, and let us know how you get along.
Judy and the Beast
Usually, a horse who has not bucked before, but starts, does so for a reason. And, if it is more than just a random once a year thing, I think you should investigate. My horse bucks after facing a very scary or challenging situation. As if to say "whew, glad that is behind me take that you nasty lake that I don't like to step in... you are horrid, just horrid". Other horses buck to cow their rider to halt them or get off their backs and put them away. But you tapped him with the crop, which is the right response, and make him go forward. Don't halt your horse when he bucks unless you are in danger yourself and it's the only thing you can do. Halting is a reward for bucking. MOST of the time, a horse bucks due to soreness. Soreness can be from badly fitting tack or because the horse has an injury or a chronic thing going wrong. I would start on his back. Press firmly with your thumb and middle finger on each side of the wither so your fingers really indent/gouge into his back. Gouged your finger/thumb all the way down to his tail on either side of the spine. A horse with a healthy back will not mind very firm pressure and will just stand. If he twitches his muscles or his mane, sucks his back away, threatens to kick/bite in a defensive move, or shakes his head, he hurts. A body worker may be able to help him or pinpoint where the issue is so you can treat it or rest him. It is super common for a horse to injure or strain their backs a bit at least once a year. Other horses buck because their stomach hurts due to nerves and ulcers or the stress of a new barn mate or new routine. There are just so many different reasons. Bucking is certainly a sign your horse is displeased about something and being as "vocal" as he can be to you. For now I would give him a few days off and just hand walk or ground school him to give his back time to get healthy. I would bet money he hurt himself in turnout. It happens. Add - it is rare for horses to buck routinely for "feeling good". I have seen it only a few times. And, regardless of the reason, if you want it to stop and it is a behavioral reason he is bucking, you have to discipline him more than you have been. Use a dressage whip, not a crop and give him ONE all out whack on his butt each time he bucks. The harder you whack him, the fewer times you will need to do this. If done right and within a second or two of the buck, he should only need telling once or twice. Don't be afraid to hit him hard. It is not abuse. It is a correction.