How to teach a horse to rear

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28 Responses

Kaitlin Clarke

That’s not really a rear…

Samnightingale123

You should! It save my life twice and my mom’s life 8 times!

ForestBurnHolly

you REALLY pulled on his mouth at the end :/

Chloe Robinson

Yea, I agree with ur POV

I agree. — Why teach a horse to rear, if it isn’t a trick horse for a circus. Seems a possibly dangerous trick to teach a horse, if you ever think he might be re-homed. Using a smooch and slight pull to get a rear is something that another person in future may do without realizing that is a signal for a rear, as is not unique. A horse that rears up and knocks someone in the head is not going to end up with a happy ending. It doesn’t seem wise to teach this to a backyard horse, IMO.

Hooves98

Well this is good for the horse and your saftey.

Angela leussink

I taught my horse how to rear, but instead of doing what you did I just would reach forward with my legs and put pressure on her shoulders, and she jumped up, and when she did
i would say jump, and I did this until she could do it by voice command.

Karolina Bramwell

Poor guy, I wouldnt want my head pulled back and jerked back and forth like that.

TyHorsesAndRodeo11

Good job, how tall are you and how tall is Romeo. the reason im asking is because you just put you leg over and pull yourself up.

By: Tracy Hanes | December 1, 2016

Does it feel like your horse is going to pull your arms from their sockets during a ride? Does he struggle to perform correct transitions? A horse that leans on your hands is heavy on the forehand and not properly engaging his hind end. If you are an eventer or dressage enthusiast, this issue impacts your dressage marks; for the jumping sports it affects his turning and jumping ability. A horse that is very heavy on the forehand can also be prone to tripping, which is unsafe regardless which discipline you ride.

The key to getting a horse to lighten on the forehand is to get him to use his hind end properly. But how do you achieve this? Here are tips from 2012 Olympian Michele Mueller, who coaches eventers and dressage riders at her Cedar Valley Stables in Port Perry, ON.

Knowledgeable riders always work to keep their horses off the forehand. First of all, you should check your position to make sure you are not loading your horse’s front end. Are your hands too low or are you sitting too far forward? You want to be sitting up and carrying your hands independently, riding into the bridle rather than trying to pull your horse’s head down.

Here are some exercises I find effective for getting a horse off the forehand and building hindquarter strength.

1. Start warming your horse up in a long and low frame, incorporating some circles.

2. Ask for a lot of quick, short transitions: walk-halt-walk, walk-trot-walk, canter-trot-canter, and so on. You want your horse to do them sharply and respond promptly when you ask for the upward or downward transition.

3. Keep your leg on when you ask for a downward transition, using your leg and seat to push the horse into the bridle. I tell my younger students that not keeping your leg on when you ask for a downward transition is like riding your 10-speed bike and only using the front brakes to slow down or stop. If you do that, your rear tire tends to slip or even come off the ground, throwing you forward.

4. Lateral work is excellent for engaging the hind end and building strength. I incorporate half-passes, renvers (haunches-out) and travers (haunches-in) into the warm-up to engage the hind end. I find a horse can still be on the forehand with leg yielding, so I don’t tend to use that move a lot in the warm-up. If you don’t understand how to ride these movements, work with a coach, as it’s important to know how to ride them correctly.

5.Practice turns to the right and left, trying to keep the turns as square as possible without letting your horse bulge through the outside shoulder. To execute the square turn properly, you are going to be using your legs more than your hands and your horse is going to have to lift his shoulder and use his hind end as he turns.

6. Use hills to help build your horse’s hind end strength. He’ll have to bend his hocks and ‘sit’ as he travels down a hill. Start with the walk, then progress to the trot and canter. Some horses will naturally set themselves back and use their hindquarters; make sure you are not leaning forward and you may have to use half-halts if your horse is pulling on you or heavy on the forehand as he descends the hill. Make sure you are not leaning forward and putting extra weight on your horse’s front end.

7. Set up a series of trot poles – two on each side of a very low jump, set about 9 feet apart. Trot and canter over the poles. The horse will lift his front end as he travels through the poles. Your horse may jump over the little jump in the middle or might just step over – either way is fine.

8.Bounces are another way to get a horse to effectively use his hindquarters. You can set up as many as six cavaletti bounces in a row (about 9 feet apart for a trot approach and about 12 for canter approach, depending on your horse’s stride) and trot and canter through a few times. Don’t drill this, as this gymnastic exercise is hard work.

If you incorporate some of these exercises into your schooling and ride your horse consistently with the goal of keeping him off the forehand, you should notice that he is becoming lighter in the bridle and better engaging his hind end.

Horses with ‘uphill’ builds find it easier to lighten their front end. Sometimes conformation works against us, as horses built ‘downhill’ have to work harder to get off their forehand and use their hind ends. It is do-able, but it takes time and consistent riding.

News from Trafalgar Square Books, the Leading Publisher of Equestrian Books & Videos

When your horse performs the turn-on-the-haunches, the outside front leg must cross in front of the inside one, as seen here.

It helps to teach the horse the maneuver from the ground first, then teach him to associate your aids from the saddle with a familiar learned behavior.

To perform a turn-on-the-haunches:

1 Bend the horse slightly in the direction of movement. The inside rein creates the bend while the outside rein maintains the bend and communicates with the outside front leg through the shoulder to build momentum. As an example, when turning to the right, the inside rein is your right rein.

2 Ask the horse to move his front legs and outside hind leg around his inside hind leg that serves as a pivot. If performing a turn-on-the-haunches to the right, open the right leg and apply the left leg at or slightly in front of the girth. The horse should remain in the same location by bal­ancing his weight between the two hind legs.

3 Ride the horse into the turn; do not pull the front of the horse. It is important for the horse’s body to remain supple and that he never loses the forward motion.

4 Teach the turn-on-the-haunches one step at a time. Start with one step and move forward out of the turn; work up to two steps, and so on.

5 Reward response to your aids by immedi­ately releasing the pressure as soon as the horse moves into the turn.

Turn-on-the-haunches to the left (top) and to the right (bottom).

To sum up: In a turn-on-the-haunches to the right, the horse will be slightly bent to the right, and his weight will shift back as he moves his forehand to the right, in a clockwise direction, around the right hind foot. The outside front leg crosses over the inside one.

This article was co-authored by Kate Jutagir. Kate Jutagir is an Equestrian Specialist, Hunter/Jumper Trainer, and the Owner of Blackhound Equestrian, a premier training barn located on 65 acres in Castro Valley, California. Originally designed to be a riding school used as a springboard for dedicated students into careers in the sport, Blackhound Equestrian has grown into a hunter/jumper training program for all levels focusing on providing a solid foundation needed for personal advancement in the sport. Kate has over 25 years of equestrian instruction and training experience. Her focus on developing horse and rider partnerships provides a complete equestrian education for both beginners and advanced riders alike.

There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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A respectful horse is one that does not invade your space without your permission. Training a horse to be respectful is the key first step in establishing a safe partnership with your horse. [1] X Expert Source

Kate Jutagir
Equestrian Specialist & Trainer Expert Interview. 31 March 2020. With patience, consistency, and firm leadership, you can teach your horse to respect you by focusing on three exercises: yielding to pressure, backing on cue, and waiting until cued to approach.

Train your horse to come to your voice cue and build the bond between the two of you.

Does your horse turn and trot across the pasture or pen when you call him? I’ll show you a straightforward way to train him to come to your voice cue or whistle. You’ll need only a halter, lead, longe line, and longe whip (or training stick with lash), plus a
safely fenced small paddock or round pen. For your own safety, your horse must already have solid ground manners.

How to teach a horse to rear

You can train your horse to come to you. I’ve called my horse and stepped back, and he jogs over to me.

Courtesy of Jason Irwin

Before You Begin

Decide on the cue you’ll use to call him. It can be any short word (such as “here” or “come”), or a loud whistle. Don’t make it his name, as you use that at other times as well. This cue is exclusively to call him to you. Use it the exact same way each time; consistency will speed your results.

A note on treats: I rarely use food when training. If you want to reward your horse with a treat for coming to you, that’s fine as long as you don’t lure him with the food. He must learn to come to you at your call, and not because he sees food. So if you use food, don’t let him see it until after he’s come to you.

Teach the Basics

Start in your small paddock or round pen, with your haltered horse standing so his left side is beside the wall. Stand in front of and face him, as in the photos. Hold the lead rope in your right hand and the longe whip in your left. (Also hold the lash of the whip with your left hand so it’s not swinging around.) Allow about three feet of slack in the lead.

Then, ask your horse to come to you by giving the voice cue clearly and assertively, while at the same time taking one step backwards. The backward step will exert slight pull on the lead, and moving back creates a space that invites your horse to step into.

If need be, reinforce the cue with a light tap on your horse’s right shoulder with the end of the longe whip. The wall will keep him from moving left, and he won’t want to move towards the whip, so he should walk forward to you.

How to teach a horse to rear

Start by giving the cue and stepping back. Use a whip tap if needed.

Courtesy of Jason Irwin

When he does, stop and rub or scratch him with the whip to reward him. You can also use your hand to rub and scratch, but doing it at least as much with the whip teaches him he has nothing to fear from it. (Obviously, you’ll use the whip only for this cueing and rewarding and not for anything aggressive or punitive.)

Repeat this entire sequence multiple times. As you do, try to avoid pulling on the lead rope as much as possible. You want your horse coming to you because you called him and stepped back. So when he doesn’t, use a light tap on the shoulder to bring him up to you.

Continue until your horse is readily stepping forward the moment you give the cue and step back. Then turn him around on the fence, reverse all your cues, and practice it in the new direction.

Add Hustle

When your horse is solid coming forward on cue at a walk, add a bit of hustle. Give the cue and step back as before, but once he’s walking towards you, begin jogging backward and see if he’ll trot to keep up with you. (Again, avoid pulling on the lead as much as possible.)

If need be, release the whip’s lash and flick it lightly toward your horse’s hind end. Once he trots a few steps, stop and reward him.

How to teach a horse to rear

When your horse is ready, use the same cues to advance to a trot.

Courtesy of Jason Irwin

Now move on to calling your horse while he’s already moving. Still in the round pen or small paddock, put him on the longe line and move him around you at a trot. When you’re ready, call him with the cue and take a few steps backwards. He’ll already have the idea to come to you when he hears the voice cue and sees you backing up, but if need be the first few times you can reel him in with the longe line as you back up.

Repeat this step several times over several days, being careful not to give the feeling that you’re “chasing” him. Always keep the focus on coming to you at the cue.

Add Freedom

When the longe-line work is solid, detach the line and move on to calling your horse while he’s loose. Get him quietly jogging about the paddock or round pen. Then, at a moment you can see his focus is on you, step backwards and give the voice cue.

If he turns and trots up to you, give both him and yourself a pat. If he doesn’t, try again, even going back to work on the longe line if need be to reinforce the cue.

Gradually reduce the amount of moving him around you do before calling him to you. Towards the end of the training, even if he’s standing still, you should be able to catch his attention, give the voice cue while taking a step or two back, and have him come to you.

Over time, cement the learning by practicing it in other enclosures that aren’t too large—his stall, additional paddocks, a small arena, etc. It may take a few weeks, but the end result—a horse that comes when you call and step back—is well worth it. 

Book: 101 Ground Training Exercises for Every Horse & Handler (Read & Ride)

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How to teach a horse to rear

8 Tips for Training Your Horse to Stand Quietly When Tied

How to teach a horse to rear

Horse Training Tips, get horse stand quietly when tied, horse standing still in cross ties,

Your horse won’t stand still in the cross ties or when tied to the trailer at the horse show. He moves from side to side, back and forth, and paws frantically, damaging his hooves, shoes, and the stable floor. Instead of being able to enjoy some quiet bonding time with him, you rush through the grooming and saddling routine. The following eight tips will help you resolve this common horse training problem. You can help your horse to be relaxed, quiet, and enjoy his time while he is tied.

1. Focus on relieving the underlying cause rather than the behaviour itself. As flight animals, horses are stressed when their ability to flee is compromised. The behaviour your horse is exhibiting on the cross ties is simply an expression of the anxiety he is feeling. In order to change the behaviour, you need to address his anxiety and help him feel comfortable about being tied.

2. Commit to taking the time and doing the work to help your horse. Training takes time and consistency. You cannot achieve behavioural change by rushing or being impatient. Set up time specifically to work with your horse on this issue.

3. Change his frame of body to change his frame of mind. Horses who are busy when tied have an unbalanced frame – scissored legs, high head, inverted back, etc. This frame keeps adrenaline pumping into the blood stream, keeping his stress and anxiety level and, therefore his need to move, high. Your horse needs you to show him that he can stand straight, square, and level.

4. Help him find balance. Your horse simply will not be able to stand still until he finds balance. Balance comes from straightness, being square, and having a level neck. Your job then is to keep correcting his position until he finds that balance and keeps it on his own.

5. Straightness comes first. Straightness means that the horse’s spine is in alignment from nose to tail. He will find and feel this straightness when the left hind lines up directly behind the left fore and the right hind lines up directly behind the right fore. Ask your horse to stand straight by pushing the appropriate hip or shoulder into alignment. As soon as your horse moves away from your push, stop pushing. You will have to move from side to side while keeping contact with the halter or head. As you move around his head, bend your near hip away from his head.

6. Be four square. When a horse’s feet are scissored, he is mentally prepared for flight. When the feet are four square, it is like he is standing in box, balanced and parked. Being square means that the front feet are straight to each other and the hind feet are straight to each other. As you work on correcting your horse’s straightness, you may find that he starts to find square on his own. If not, you can encourage him to stand squarely by asking him to take a step backwards or forwards. For backward movement, push on the front of the shoulder of the leg you want him to move. To encourage him to step forwards, tap his flank gently. You may have to ask for back and forth several times before your horse finds square.

7. Be level headed. A relaxed horse stands with his neck level so that the poll is the same height as withers. You can encourage your horse to bring his head down and his neck to level by gently moving his head laterally (side to side) with slight downward pressure. This is called “flexing.” Make sure you are not being forceful by pulling or pushing on the head. Think of this more like a rhythmic massage loosening his poll. You can do this with your hands on the halter as you stand in front of your horse (one hand on either side of the halter at the point where the cheek piece connects with the nose band) or by cupping the bridge of his nose in one hand as you stand to the side of him. If your horse tries to raise his head or turn it left or right, use your hand or hands in the same place to block his effort. Remember that you are not forcing your horse into this posture, but are encouraging him to stay there long enough to realize how good it feels.

8. Avoid being at the end of your rope. Whether you are using cross ties or a single tie, ensure the tie is long enough to allow horse to comfortably lower his head and bring his neck to level without creating tightness on the tie. With a single tie, make sure he has enough room to avoid having his face jammed into the wall or side of the trailer. With cross ties, encourage your horse to stand so that the cheek pieces of the halter are lined up with the posts the cross ties are attached to. Always attach the cross ties to the lowest ring on the cheek piece as this allows more freedom to bring the head down.

This training process will take some time, but is well worth the effort. Both you and your horse will benefit as you will be able to enjoy the grooming and saddling time together and have quiet time to rest and relax between classes at the horse shows.

Dear Friend and Horseman,

In my opinion nothing is more important to a horse’s performance than a good smooth stop on the hindquarters. Without it, you just don’t have a trained horse.

Unfortunately, this is also the maneuver that gives riders the most trouble. One of the “keys” to a hindquarter stop is the “timing” of the stopping cue.

In other words, you have to ask for the stop when the horse is in position where he “can” stop on his hindquarters.

If you ask for the stop at the wrong part of the horse’s stride, you’ll force him to do a jarring stop on his front end.

Be sure to listen to the audio instructions as well as the printed instructions below (scroll down).

The audio contains additional instructions that are not listed in print. Well worth listening to.

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Timing the Stride for a Stop on the Hindquarters

How to teach a horse to rear

Here is the leg sequence of a horse going from a standstill into a lope and then coming to a stop on the hindquarters. The important thing to remember is that there is a lapse of time between when you give the horse a cue and when he recognizes the cue and responds to it.

In other words, when you say “whoa” it’s going to take the horse a split second of reaction time to respond.

That’s why you need to give the cue just “before” the horse’s legs are in position to execute the hindquarter stop.

The ideal situation is to ask for the stop when the horse’s hind feet are in the air and on their way forward.

Saying “whoa” at this part of the stride, allows the horse to shoot his hind legs way under his body for the stop on the hindquarters. Below I explain the parts of the stride in relation to stopping on the hindquarters.

C. Unfortunately, this is the part of the stride where most riders say whoa and expect the horse to stop. You can see that the hind feet are on the ground pushing the horse forward. If the rider asks for the stop at this part of the stride the
horse is literally forced to do a jarring stop with his front legs.

D. This isn’t too bad. If the rider said whoa here, at least the horse has one hind leg free to stop with. He would stop with the left hind and the right front. The horse wouldn’t do a good stop but it wouldn’t jar your eye-teeth out either.

E. Ideally, this is the part of the stride to say whoa. Both hind feet are in the air, free to shoot forward for a smooth, hindquarter stop. On some horses, you could set the bit and give the horse a quick squeeze with your legs to shoot the
hind feet farther under the horse’s body.

F. Here, all four feet are in mid-air. On some horses that listen real close and don’t require much reaction time, this is where you should say whoa.

G. The horse’s hind feet have landed, it’s time to set the bit.

H. The hind legs are way under the horse’s body, stopping hard. Slack the reins. Quickly reset the bit if the horse hasn’t come to a complete stop. Then slack again. Reset and slack until the horse is completely stopped.

As you can see, it’s critical to ask for the stop at “exactly” the right part of the horse’s stride. If your timing is off, you’ll cause the horse to jam his front feet in the ground.

In my DVD, Teach Your Horse to Stop Light & Collected (Volume 1), I show you how to time the horse’s stride perfectly. It’s really not that hard to do…

… If you know the secret.

If you want to put a really good stop on your horse, here are the DVDs that will show you how:

New online video training course…

Horse Training Secrets For BIG STOPS!

The information outlined above is great way to get your horse stopping on his hindquarters. It’ll work well for most riders and most horses.

However, it’s NOT the ONLY way. I share multiple stopping methods in my DVDs and Online Streaming Videos website.

Until next time, have fun training your horse. Post your comments or questions below.

My 12-year-old rescue gelding is very sensitive to having work done on his feet. I don’t know if he was hurt at some point in his life, but he appears to be particularly fearful about having work done on his back feet. I’m able to lift, handle and pick all four hooves, and I do this with him on a daily basis. But when the farrier arrives, it’s a different story. 

How to teach a horse to rear

My gelding allows his front feet to be trimmed with a bit of coaxing and patience. But when it comes to his back feet, he fights so fiercely that I’m forced to sedate him for the farrier’s safety and his own. He’s barefoot for now, because the thought of shoeing him seems a little daunting until we’ve gotten past his aversion to having his hooves worked on. Eventually, I’d prefer to not have to sedate him, use a twitch or any other form of restraint when his feet are being tended to. What can I do to work toward this?

Great question—and I particularly like the fact that you do as much as you can between trims to help your farrier. You’re definitely right about the steps involved. Don’t try for shoes until this horse accepts handling and trimming. I assume you have had your veterinarian examine this horse to make sure he does not have a physical or neurological problem that makes work on his rear hooves uncomfortable or painful.

There is no quick fix when it comes to teaching a horse to allow handling of his legs. After all, legs have everything to do with flight and survival. That means it takes a lot of trust for a prey animal to accept a person confining one, even though we don’t mean any harm and we will give the leg back in a minute or so. Horses who have had a tough past are especially wary.

At a clinic a few years ago I was asked to help with a gelding who had a similar problem. He was a 5-year-old buckskin, and when people tried to handle his hind legs he was explosively dangerous. When the lady asked me to help her, she didn’t give me much history. She just said her horse had “hind leg issues.” I approached the horse, let him sniff me, and then began rubbing my way down his body. He was standing dead quiet. Rather then go for the hind legs directly I picked up his forelegs, which he allowed with no problem. Noticing he had hind shoes, I figured his “hind leg issues” couldn’t be too bad. Standing as close to the shoulder as I could, to stay out of the kick zone, I gave a rub down his side. I could feel his belly muscles tighten, and as I
approached his flank he let out three lighting-fast kicks as if to say, “Don’t even try it, Cowboy!”

At that point, I got the whole story about how three guys fought with this horse for four hours to get those hind shoes on. The woman told me the men had tied up the gelding’s legs, laid him down and beat him to get the job done. It was a horrible experience, and he wasn’t about to let it happen again. In the end it took me three days to build up his trust to the point where I could easily pick up his hind feet, simulate rasp strokes and tap lightly to prepare for nailing on shoes. The lady kept it up and he has since had hind shoes on without a struggle.

Fortunately, most horses don’t have that level of aversion to hind-leg handling, but many make the process more difficult than it needs to be for all concerned. And the steps involved in helping them improve are pretty much the same.

Safety is the main concern. Be realistic about your skill level and don’t overface yourself and get hurt. If the horse you are dealing with is even close to the level of difficulty posed by the buckskin gelding I described, get some professional, hands-on help.

When working with any horse, you must be able to read the subtle signs. When I worked my way down the belly of that buckskin with my hand, he was already telling me, “I do not like what is going on.” If I had ignored his message and headed straight for the hind legs, I could have been caught by those kicks he had ready for me.

So, reading the horse is key, and spotting tension is your main focus. Make sure he gets in the right state of mind before you go to handle his legs. The slightest signs of tension can show up with a skin twitch, fidgeting, irritation or general resistance. Pay attention to any signs of trouble through the whole process.

If, as you work with a horse, you start to feel him get agitated, ask him to move. The goal is to direct his energy through controlled movement. If he won’t stand still to relax, then move him more. Keep in mind, it is a horseman’s feel and timing that will get a horse through this. You determine when you are going to move him or go back to the leg handling based on his state of mind. If he feels trapped or forced he has to fight. By moving him you cause him to make this choice: He can stand still and relax while you quietly handle his legs or he can do a lot of moving. 

Never miss a chance to prepare your horse for leg handling. Whenever the farrier comes to my barn I like to bring my young horses around to experience all the sights and sounds. This way they become OK with it while nothing is happening with them. My farrier will often take a short break and come over and give them a friendly rub so they think she is OK, too. Then, by the time she needs to work on them, they already know her.

In the end my goal is for horses to allow anyone, in any area, to pick up and handle their hooves for cleaning, doctoring, trimming, rasping, nailing and even hot shoeing. With my young horses I focus on these basics and include them in every session. If I’m riding, for example, each time I dismount I walk around and pick up all four hooves and hold them for a bit. When possible, I simulate rasp strokes and even the pounding of the nails by tapping their hooves with my hands.

All of this helps to make farrier work and other handling easier for them down the road.

About the author: Jonathan Field is a trainer and clinician from Abbotsford, British Columbia. His program, Jonathan Field Horsemanship: Inspired by Horses, teaches the skills necessary to build a relationship with horses. Field grew up riding both English and Western and worked as a cowboy on one of the largest cattle ranches in Canada. Field regularly does presentations at events like the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, California. His first book, The Art of Liberty Training for Horses, was published in 2014. 

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #459, December 2015.