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Causes of Horse Rearing - Part Two

By Jeffrey Rolo

In the first article of this two-part series we looked at some common causes for horse rearing. Now we're ready to look at the remaining causes and take home some final notes before we move on to learning how to stop a horse from rearing.

Overworking your horse and boredom

Just as too much energy can lead to rearing, overworking your horse can lead to that dangerous behavior also. When your horse runs out of steam he may become belligerent and resist, so try not to work him beyond his breaking point.

On a similar note, boredom is also a contributor to horse rearing. Try to vary your lessons regularly so that his mind remains engaged and he doesn't dread his work sessions.

Rebellion and defiance

Rebellion can be one of the hardest, or one of the easiest, causes to resolve depending on your skill set and corrective actions. The downside of this cause is that your horse doesn't respect you as a leader – he's trying to show you who the boss is in a very dramatic fashion. My advice is to "fight" him on your terms until you've re-established yourself as the alpha leader. Dismount, bring him into a round pen and start with the basics until his defiance is melted away.

This can take days or weeks depending on your skill and his stubbornness. Expect a longer "battle" of wills with an experienced old coot that's reared on his riders for years. Curing ingrained behaviors is always the most difficult.

Poor riding practices

This isn't a direct cause of rearing, but when a rider doesn't know how to react to an impending rear a horse can get away with rearing. When you detect that your horse is becoming apprehensive or naughty in a riding arena, if you can't get off you want to do the exact opposite: move the horse forward. A horse that is moving forward cannot rear; they must come to a near stop to gain the leverage to rise from the ground.

All too often an inexperienced (and in some cases even a fairly experienced) rider will slow the horse down to a stop when they feel they are losing control. Natural instinct tells us that the more we pull the horse back the safer we will be, but the exact opposite is true.

So if you sense that a rear might be approaching, force your horse forward thereby making it impossible for him to execute the move.

When seeking out the primary cause for rearing horses look for recognizable patterns, because the presence of patterns (or the lack thereof) can help determine the causes. For example, rearing caused by injury, inappropriate tack, boredom, excess energy or overworking is usually very predictable. Rebellious rearing, on the other hand, can often be persistent and unpredictable… the horse will continually challenge you until one of you wins.

Rearing caused by fear is usually unpredictable, but sometimes you can anticipate it. For example, if your horse rears at a certain spot on the road but otherwise rides fine, there's a good chance something nearby is causing him concern (i.e., a white rock). You may not see a threat, and the threat may be very minor or silly in nature, but sometimes you never know what will trigger a horse.

Other times a fear-induced rear will come out of nowhere, such as a passing car or a squirrel that darts out from some bushes. The only way you can guard against this type of rearing is to always sit balanced and remain attentive at all times.

Now that you have determined the potential cause for your horse's rearing, you're ready to move into the "meat and potatoes" of this topic and learn how to stop a horse from rearing.

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