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 examples.
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 up.
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
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
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.
About The Author
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 ca