How to Stop your Horse from Rearing and what to do
if he does it Unexpectedly
There is a dangerous problem that horse owners should be very
aware of. It’s when a horse stands up on his back legs. It’s
called “rearing.” This problem can be quite dangerous and cause
severe injuries to the rider and/or horse.
Rearing is perhaps a horse’s most effective defense against the
rider. It is dangerous in that the horse can fall over backward
onto its rider. Because of a horse’s enormous weight this can
cripple and even kill the rider. Thus, it is good to know why, if
possible, a horse rears. But even more importantly, how to stop it.
If your horse ever does rear with you on him, there isn’t much
you can do. If he rears suddenly, he could lose his balance and
fall or he could rear so explosively that he can throw himself
back to the ground with the rider under him. If you’re on him
while this is happening and you use the reins to pull on to keep
from falling, you’re likely to pull the horse over.
Although it’s not one hundred percent infallible, the best way to
protect yourself when a horse rears with you is to lean forward
immediately and put your hands forward so you have loose reins.
If you have to, you could even put your arms around his neck, let
go of the reins and slide off. For my money, there aren’t any
other safer ways to deal with a horse if he suddenly rears.
Why do horses rear? There are several reasons why. Here are some
I’ve read where a rider was on an obedient horse while trail
riding. They came upon cows and it scared the horse because the
horse was not used to cows. The rider tried to get the horse to
go toward the cows to get it to learn that cows are not spooky.
The horse obeyed and went forward but finally became so
frightened that it reared up, lost balance, and fell on its
rider. The rider suffered numerous broken bones.
The rider later understood the horse felt trapped. The horse
obediently went forward even though it was frightened. As it got
closer, fear overpowered the horse and it had nowhere to go but
Some horses rear because as colts they were too young to be
ridden. Another reason rearing happens is because training may
confuse the horse. The horse may be asked to do too much at one
time and not know what to do.
Sometimes a horse will rear if it is forced to yield to the bit.
Other horses may rear if you try to get them to put out more
energy than they can. On the opposite end, some horses may rear
because they want to go and you don’t let them.
So how do you stop a horse from rearing?
First, let’s take a look at the anatomy of a horse while it
rears. A horse cannot rear while running. A horse must stop (or
be barely moving) to be able to rear. If a rider has had enough
experience on a horse he can feel when the horse gets light in
the front. In a way, it would be a bit like sitting in the middle
of a teeter-totter where you can feel one side getting light.
So, if a horse has to stop to rear up then it makes sense to keep
the horse moving so it cannot rear up. Thus, if you feel your
horse getting light in the front then you move him forward and do
it with meaning. Not just a patient “cluck” from your mouth. Do
it like you mean it. And it’s also important he has a place to go
forward – don’t have him blocked in by anything.
If your horse rears up and you weren’t ready for it then lean
forward and give your horse loose reins. As soon as your horse’s
feet are almost back to the ground then make your horse go
forward. Let the horse know, with no doubt whatsoever, to go
forward. Boot the horse “hard” into going forward. When your
horse has gone forward a little ways then double him and drive
him forward out of the double. Then double him the other way and
drive him forward from it also. Then bring your horse to a stop.
What does it mean to “double” your horse? Essentially, you will
pull his head back one way towards his hind quarters. The moment
he is committed to the turn then boot him forward. This impresses
upon your horses mind that you can control him.
Other so-called “schools of thought” to stop rearing are to hit a
horse over the head with a two-by-four when he rears up. I’ve
even read where people break beer bottles over the horse’s head.
Some people use the handle end of a riding crop. Not only are
these inhumane ways to stop rearing, they are rarely, if ever,
effective. They don’t teach a horse anything except to fear the
rider. Hitting a horse over the head when you are trying to build
a trust relationship will destroy all you’ve worked for.
As is almost always the case, the best way to get a horse to do
what you want is to use psychology of the horse. Get him to move
and you can accomplish miracles.
Andy Curry is a nationally known horse trainer and author of
several best selling horse training and horse care books. For
information visit his website at www.horsetrainingandtips.com. He
is also the leading expert on Jesse Beery's horse training
methods which can be seen at
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