Rearing Strategies

Written by Martin Black

This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issue No.36

In the world of horse training, there are numerous devices to bring the horse’s head down, shoulders up, control the forward motion, etc. But what do we do when the head and shoulders are going up in the air, the horse is rearing or coming over backwards? This is very dangerous for a rider, not to mention the horse, which can easily injure his back or head.

On their own, horses may rear when playing or trying to show authority, but never would they purposely throw themselves over backwards. For a horse to lose his balance and fall means he is more concerned about other apparent dangers more serious to him than a fall. We see this commonly when handling weanlings, halter breaking immature horses, and of course, horses that are over sensitive to the bit or the rider’s hands.

There are various situations that may lead up to and cause the problem of rearing and falling over backwards, but the solution is relatively simple. Maybe not simple during or after the fact, but if we can anticipate the problem and prepare the horse differently we can eliminate the problem.

First of all, for the horse to perform this potentially dangerous act, he has to transfer all his weight to the hind feet and balance there to rear or go back past the balance point to fall.

If we anticipate or suspect this may be coming, we need to eliminate whatever may be causing it and or create forward motion with the hind feet. If we can get forward motion, the hindquarters pushing forward instead of pulling backward, we can eliminate the problem. If the horse is in a state of panic, which is usually the case, we may trade one problem for another, such as running out of control. To me this may be the lesser of the two evils. Hopefully we are aware of the potential problem, and we would be working in a round pen or an area we could work through it.

When introducing weanlings to the halter it is important to be mindful that it is the nature of immature horses to get their front end up when they feel confined. We should be on the alert for this and try to maintain forward motion by some type of pressure from behind. Sometimes they may run backwards before or instead of rearing, but just the same, they are pulling too much with the hindquarters. When they are in a panic we need to be careful not to increase the pressure on the rope. As they pull on us, we should move with them, keeping them from turning away until they get tired of backing and stop. In some cases we are better off to realize when we are in too deep and we may need to abort, regroup, and take a fresh start.

When we establish forward movement, if we can then draw the horse’s head to the side, sending the hindquarters in the opposite direction, we can establish lateral movement. A horse cannot rear or fall over backward with forward movement and the hindquarters stepping out.

Whether we are working from the ground or the horse’s back, this is what simply needs to physically happen. If we can give the horse some experience moving forward and stepping the hind feet out before we get in the situation where the horse may bring the front end up, it would be very helpful to the horse and the handler. The handler needs to be aware of when the potential problem is there and prepare the horse differently, or just eliminate the pressure that is causing the problem.

This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issue No.36

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