Rearing is very serious. It’s dangerous to the rider, to others nearby, and also to the horse himself. Why horses rear can be answered by either poor training, being severely frightened of something and having no confidence in the human at the other end of the lead, or something else.
Let’s take a look at why they might and how to stop it before it causes serious harm to someone or the horse.
Why My Horse is Rearing
A horse that is still pumping adrenaline from a race, excitement before a race (like in the chute), or an animal that is pumped and frightened, may rear. That’s one scenario. The second scenario is that he is simply refusing to do something and being disrespectful to the handler. It happens.
Once you’ve had some time to determine which one the situation is, you either calm your horse down and work harder on desensitizing him to the same situation over and over until he isn’t phased anymore, or you go back to basics in training because he’s simply being disrespectful.
I always say you should rule out pain as well. Make sure that you go over every inch of him and check for scabs, lesions, cuts, … anything that could have caused pain and rearing. Always make sure that you don’t have a medical issue first. Once you’ve ruled that out, get to work.
Go back to working your horse in a ring. Make him use his feet, running circles. If he is moving, he isn’t thinking. He’s focused on moving. That’s the herd animal mentality.
They focus on what they are doing. If he is moving, he is going to respect you again because he is going to lose his fear. Because you are in control of the situation, he’s going to respect you again.
It typically only takes a couple of weeks to do this work each day with your horse and establish yourself as someone he should listen to. You will see his attitude change. Only after doing this work for a couple of weeks should you try to hop back in the saddle.
Typically, everything will be fine again as soon as you’ve done this work with him and the rearing will cease.
Clinton Anderson says Make Him Move
When your horse wants to stand still, make him move. Don’t let him rest until it is your decision to allow it. This puts you in control of the situation and it will also work as reverse psychology to get the horse to do what you want him to do without a fight.
Manipulate him and don’t fight with him. If you get into a tangle with an animal that outweighs you ten to one, who do you think will win? Don’t try to out-muscle him, out-think him. Horses are easy to use reverse psychology on in this way.
When he won’t go the way you want. Make the way you want the only direction that is comfortable for him. Make him move and don’t let him stand still until he is where you want him.
He’ll learn to move for you easier this way because he will respect the fact that you’re going to make him move no matter what he does, until he is where you wanted him in the first place. He’ll learn to just go along with you right away.
So in other words, if the horse rears when you are leaving the barn, he’s trying to be stubborn and not want to leave the barn. Then at the barn, work him. Make the barn a place that isn’t so much fun to be in and he’ll want to leave readily. Make him move and do it quickly.
Change directions, do rollbacks, throw it all at him as fast as possible. The more he has to think about what he is doing, the easier it will be to get him out of that barn.
There is no need to ever punish a horse, and you shouldn’t do that anyway. That can lead to misbehavior in the long run. You want to outthink the animal and get him to trust you and respect you. Respect is the key. When he is thinking for himself, work his mind so he has no time for that and his fallback is listening to you.