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Horsemanship How-to: Ride Through a Rear

What should you do when your horse rears, and how do you stop it from becoming a habit?

By Cindy Hale | July 2011

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Rearing Horse
If your horse gets in the habit of rearing, it can become a very dangerous habit.
It’s not unusual to see a horse rear. A frisky horse cavorting with a pasture mate may stand on its hind legs as a playful expression. Rearing is also a defensive posture that feral horses use to fend off predators. But when rearing occurs under saddle it’s because the horse has absolutely refused to go forward. Once learned, this behavior can become a dangerous vice. Here’s how to ride through a rear and tips on how to prevent it from happening again.

  1. The moment your horse begins to rear, loosen the reins by pushing your hands toward your horse’s mouth. Resist the urge to pull back on the reins. That won’t stop the rear and it could flip the horse over.

  2. Remain centered in the saddle. Don’t lean off to one side or you could tumble off over your horse’s shoulder. Do, however, tip your upper body slightly forward, into your horse’s neck. This will help your body stay in synch with the motion of your horse.

  3. If you need some extra security, grab hold of the mane, saddle horn or pommel.

  4. Once your horse places his front feet on the ground, urge him forward by squeezing with your legs.

  5. If your horse balks and threatens to rear again, use one rein, held out to the side, to lead him into a turn or half-circle. Then, if he does attempt to rear again, it’ll be less powerful; most of his energy will be directed laterally rather than upward.

  6. Once you’ve defused the situation, investigate why your horse reared. Are you using a bit that’s too severe? A harsh bit bumping a tender mouth can incite a rear. Could your hands be the culprit? If you’re kicking the horse forward with your heels, yet also hanging onto the reins for support, then your horse could rear out of frustration.

  7. Despite what may pass for sage advice, never punish your horse for rearing by hitting him between the ears (on the poll) or intentionally pulling him to the ground. Not only could this end in tragedy, but it doesn’t address why the horse reared in the first place.

Anyone who has been astride a rearing horse knows that it’s an intimidating experience. But it is a behavior that can be fixed. If your horse continues to rear, enlist the help of a professional trainer who can help you and your horse work through this problem.

Further Reading
Handling Bad Behavior

See more Horsemanship How-tos >>

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Horsemanship How-to: Ride Through a Rear

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Reader Comments

Kathleen    Erda, UT

3/2/2015 1:00:47 PM

Had a young stallion rear and flip over on me. I was lucky and came out of the saddle. He came down across my knees and tore my mcl. It could have been much worse.

Judy    Byron, IL

3/2/2015 12:43:19 PM

I respectfully disagree with the "tip your upper body slightly forward, into your horse’s neck. This will help your body stay in sync with the motion of your horse"statement. If a horse, young or old, is of a mind to stand on his hind legs the most critical thing to do is to go as far forward as possible even putting your arms around his neck even if your body is slightly to one side. Otherwise your weight and the bulk of your body is still tipping back with him. A good position is standing in your stirrups with straight knees and kissing his ears. Also when he comes down and begins again, the one rein pull around (stop) can tip him over onto his opposite shoulder and your leg with considerable pressure. There is little you can do to correct a horse' habit of rearing without riding it through and letting him know he accomplishes nothing.

Sandy    Opelousas, LA

3/2/2015 11:59:48 AM

While I agree with the bulk of this article, I disagree with the advice not to lean to the side. If you stay exactly centered, you risk getting hit in the face with the horse's head or neck when he comes up. This can easily knock you out or stun you long enough that you can't get off him if he flips over. While you should not lean way over, you should move your head and shoulder slightly to the side. I also would advise against holding on. It's better to be thrown clear if you can't stay with the horse than to be clinging to him if he should go over backwards. Falling off is painful, but falling and having a horse land on you is much, much more dangerous.

Carolyn Breza    Ft Lauderdale, FL

8/21/2014 4:57:56 AM

excellent Article. no nonsense, just great information

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