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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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Reader Comments

Carolyn Breza    Ft Lauderdale, FL

8/21/2014 4:57:56 AM

excellent Article. no nonsense, just great information

HappyAppy    Spotsville, KS

7/14/2011 1:57:29 PM

Hillary I like your thinking.

jockeygirl!    hORSELAND, IL

7/14/2011 9:11:13 AM

The key of helping a horse through his or her rearing habit, is to use your brain! some times the weirdest things causes these habits.But never ever hurt or punish a horse for doing what there instinct tells them to do! to many times at shows i see people hurting there horses! thats bad horsemanship!! that is only going to make it worse! Also try to be understanding! horses will love it! Think like a trainer and use nice training options! Not whiping a horse between the ears to make him fear rearing! Be understanding and help your horse! Nicely! please.

Hillary    River Falls, WI

7/14/2011 7:07:09 AM

My young POA mare started rearing a few years back. I stopped riding her out of fear for our safety. I had ruled out all causes for it. It wasn't her teeth, the bit, saddle fit, my riding, or anything else. Then, I realized she was bored. I took her out to the arena and went on an involved trail ride with another horse. When she actually had scenery to look at and had to think about where to go and dodge trees and climb hills, she went from grumpy and rearing to happy and eager. If all else fails, give your horse a different job.

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