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How To Stop A Horse From Rearing: The Basics

By Jeffrey Rolo

The image of a rearing horse has long been cherished within the art world, but as any horse owner will tell you, dealing with a real rearing horse is anything but desirable! It's a dangerous practice that can place both you and your equine companion at serious harm. While I generally don't recommend that amateur horse owners or trainers try and resolve this problem due to the potential for harm, this article will provide some advice about how to stop a horse from rearing.

First and foremost you want to determine how your horse is rearing as well as why your horse is rearing. Horse rearing can be caused by:
bulletA mischievous younger horse trying to release a few extra oats out of his system.
bulletSerious pain and discomfort.
bulletFear and apprehension.
bulletRebellion or disrespect for the owner.

I won't go into the causes explicitly here, because another article discusses the causes of horse rearing in detail. If you haven't read that article yet, I recommend doing so now and then returning here when you have finished.

For the purposes of this article we are going to assume that the cause for your horse's rearing is not due to pain or ill-fitting horse tack. Those are easily addressed through a qualified veterinarian or a change of gear.

Stopping Horses From Rearing While Riding

Many horse owners want to know how to stop a horse from rearing while riding, and honestly I think this is a poor approach. First, you place yourself at far greater harm while on the saddle, yet at the same time you maintain far less control. That's a bad duo. Second, I strongly believe that solid groundwork is far more effective at tackling the root causes of horse rearing. Rearing is the result of a root cause, so tackling the reaction rather than the cause is less effective.

That having been said, here are two old-fashioned techniques that you should not depend on:
bulletHarshly smack a horse over its head with the handle of riding crop or a 2x4. While there are some isolated occasions where force is necessary in horse training, this is not one of them. You can injure your horse and you won't get any results from bringing him pain. In fact, there is a strong likelihood that you'll make the horse worse since the fear and pain caused by such an action will only compound the strong emotions he's already grappling with.
bulletBreak an egg or a plastic bag of water over his head. The concept behind this old wives' tale is that the horse will think it is bleeding and therefore stop rearing. While this technique won't cause any harm (though it may create a mess to clean if you use an egg), it's too gimmicky for my tastes. I'd rather rely on solid, effective practices.

First and foremost it's imperative that you maintain proper balance and riding technique while sitting on a rearing horse, otherwise the horse can cause you serious harm and vice versa. When a horse rears, a lot of riders become surprised and their first reaction is to lean back in the saddle and yank on the reins for dear life. The problem is yanking the reins provides false hope. When you yank on the reins of a rearing horse, you won't be able to pull yourself forward as your instincts tell you. Instead what you'll do is pull an unbalanced horse backwards, thereby drastically increasing the chance of flipping him over on top of you.

When a horse rears you need to immediately lean forward against his neck and loosen the reins entirely. Give the horse his head in the midst of a rear – he'll need all his balance to prevent him from falling over. Reapply direct rein pressure only after all four hooves are back on the ground.

Unless you are a very experienced rider (and even if you are one), you want to realistically assess your risks. Don't try and "ride out" serious rearing unless you are in a supervised and controlled situation. If your horse rears somewhere outside of a riding ring, I would modify the above tidbit a bit. Instead of leaning forward and incorporating loose reins, wrap your arms around the horse's neck and quickly slide off. Once your feet hit the ground back away instantly so the horse doesn't hit your leg or land on your foot as it returns to all fours.

Some riders can do this while maintaining loose reins, others may elect to drop the reins completely and focus on sliding off ASAP. The key here is caution. Pride isn't worth broken bones… or worse. "Ride out" furious rearing only while in the confines of a supervised riding arena.

Now that we have looked at a couple of flawed "corrective actions" and learned how to ride through and/or dismount from a rearing session while under saddle, we're ready to learn some more specific techniques that can correct this misbehavior in Part Two of this series: How To Stop A Horse From Rearing While Riding.

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