How to react when your horse rears

In the Part One and Part Two of this series we covered methods that will help keep you safer when a horse rears while horseback riding, as well as corrective actions that will remedy that behavior. In this article we will learn how to handle a horse that rears while on the ground.

Before discussing the corrective actions I want to make a quick note about advice I’ve given in the earlier articles in this series. I stated that when a horse persistently rears under saddle due to defiance that it’s best to address the problem on the ground. The same horse may or may not rear while on the ground, but whether he does or not is irrelevant. Groundwork is about gaining mental control over a horse by establishing yourself as a gentle, yet firm, pack leader. Once you achieve this point, the horse won’t rebel against you and as such the rearing should become a thing of the past.

So if you’re starting groundwork due to a horse rearing while riding, and you find that the naughty horse doesn’t rear while on the ground, continue with the groundwork just as you would any horse in training. Work through the basics until you establish yourself as the leader. (You can find several articles about round pen work elsewhere in this site if you’re interested.)

With that said, the focus of this article will be on a horse that rears while on the ground. The two most common causes of this type of rearing will be overenthusiastic youngsters spending off excess energy or rebellious horses trying to establish themselves as the boss. Fear can also prompt rearing while on the ground, but usually a horse that becomes frightened while being led will elect to bolt to the side away from the perceived threat. Rearing from fear is more common under saddle since the bit and riding gear makes them feel a bit more “cornered.”

Luckily although rearing is frustrating and potentially dangerous, it can also be very easy to control while on the ground. If you control the horse’s head, you control their ability to rear – it’s just that simple. Okay… nothing is ever that simple, but the basic fact holds true.

While doing groundwork you want to focus heavily on making the horse drop his head on cue. There are two reasons for this, one obvious, one not so obvious. The obvious reason is that if a horse is lowering their head they can’t possibly be raising it simultaneous… but that theory only goes so far. If a horse puts his full strength into rearing, chances are good he can overpower your downward pressure depending on his age and bulk.

The second and more important reason why lowering the head helps prevent rearing is relaxation. When a horse is frightened or tense he will raise his head and tighten his neck, but when a horse is relaxed his head will drop lower and his neck and chest muscles will relax. Many times once a horse drops his head upon request he will by default begin to loosen up.

Practice this over and over again until he not only drops his head upon request, but also keeps it lowered once you release pressure. Repetition will be your friend, and eventually if you lower his head anytime you feel your horse tensing up the rearing problem should go away altogether.

If your horse is the nervous type that reacts to perceived threats by rearing then you want to work on diverting his attention to you. There are other articles on this site that will show you how to train a fearful horse and make him gain confidence through you, so I’d recommend checking them out if the cause of your horse’s rearing is nerves. Keep his mind engaged on you, make him trust you, and he’ll be far less likely to react strongly to nearby “threats.”

Sometimes a defiant horse will not drop his head as requested and you’ll need to escalate your insistence that he cease his rearing. For this stage I would recommend carrying a riding crop (or better yet a dressage crop since they are a bit longer – you don’t want to be too close to a rearing horse). Anytime your horse rears, smack him hard on the chest or front shoulders with the crop while commanding him to cease his rearing in a menacing growl. I would recommend using a consistent one-word command such as “down” or “stop.” Always use the verbal cue with your physical corrective action, because the verbal cue will be far more effective in the long run.

Some trainers will sharply yank a horse’s head downwards when a horse rears, and this can be effective if you are able to overpower the horse. I’d only recommend it with colts and fillies, not problematic adults. Some leads have a chain length, and some trainers will wrap the chain length of the lead over the nose of the horse’s halter to gain additional leverage while yanking the horse back down. I recommend extreme caution before doing this, because if you apply too much pressure you can hurt your horse’s nose pretty badly. This technique is best done with slow and steady pressure rather than a sharp yank, and I’d actually recommend against using the technique entirely unless you are very experienced.

I’ll close this article with two thoughts. First, always be aware of your distance and positioning when dealing with a rearing horse. Never stand in front of the horse or too close to the horse’s side. You want to position yourself about even with the horse’s shoulder approximately one outstretched arm’s length away from his side. Improper positioning can lead to being struck by your horse’s front legs.

Finally, always react to rearing quickly and firmly, leaving no room for compromises. It’s a behavior that can eventually lead into a very problematic habit, so there can be no room for overlooking it.

With patience and proper procedure, chances are high you can stop your horse from rearing both on the ground and under saddle. Just take things slow, maintain control and don’t make the mistake of going overboard with corrective actions.

A Rearing HORSE is Dangerous

Rearing is a very dangerous situation for both horse and rider, and if left uncorrected is a problem that only gets worse. The key to understanding how to fix your horse’s problem is to first understand that it’s just a symptom of a cause. A horse doesn’t rear for the fun of it; he rears because he falls into one of two categories:

1) He’s hot and nervous, wants to run and is using the reactive side of his brain. To make matters worse, his rider holds onto the reins with both hands, trying to force the horse to slow down and relax. However, since the horse is a prey animal, the more you say, “Don’t go!’ and try to stop him by pulling back on the reins, the more trapped and claustrophobic he feels. In his mind, the only way he can escape is by going up in the air.

2) He’s disrespectful and has sticky feet. When he doesn’t want to do something, his way of getting out of it is to run backwards or rear up.

Gain Respect On the Ground

Whatever the cause of rearing, it’s a clear sign of disrespect. To gain a horse’s respect, you have to move his feet forwards, backwards, left and right and reward the slightest try. If your horse is rearing, he’s telling you that you don’t truly have his respect. You need to spend more time working with him on the ground, establishing yourself as the leader. The Fundamentals level of the Method contains over 13 groundwork exercises you can use to gain your horse’s respect and get him to use the thinking side of his brain, all of which makes him a willing partner. After working with hundreds of horses over the years, I’ve found that a week or two of consistent groundwork usually cures rearing before you get back in the saddle. Why? Because the horse’s respect is earned on the ground by moving his feet, he’s using the thinking side of his brain and he is no longer fearful. We see this all the time with the Academy Training Horses. An owner will send us a horse that has a chronic rearing habit, has hurt multiple people and is basically unrideable. When we get the horse, we do nothing but groundwork with him for a solid week. By the time we go to ride him, his rearing problem has disappeared because it’s a symptom of a cause. In most cases, that cause is disrespect. The funny thing is, when we call the owner to give them an update on their horse’s progress and we tell them that we started riding the horse, their first question is, “Well, did he rear?’ When we tell them that he didn’t, they actually act disappointed, as if they’re not getting their full money’s worth if the horse didn’t rear with us. But it just goes to show that groundwork ensures a safe first ride.

Safely Hande the Situation Under Saddle

If your horse is rearing because he’s hot and nervous, make sure you’re not adding to the situation by pulling back on both reins to try to stop him from moving. Remember, the more you pull back on the reins and say, “Don’t go!’ the more upset and nervous the horse will get. When a horse panics and uses the reactive side of his brain, use only one rein to control him, and concentrate on getting him to use the thinking side of his brain by doing lots of changes of direction.

Get Back in Control

The best way to gain immediate control of the situation is to yield his hindquarters. When a horse crosses his back legs over one another, it takes away his balance. Without balance, the horse can’t stand on his hind legs and rear. Think of yielding the horse’s hindquarters like pushing the clutch in on a car— you’re taking the power away from the horse. Yielding the hindquarters also gets the horse to stop thinking about being disrespectful or fearful and makes him concentrate on where he’s placing his feet.

Get Those Feet Moving

When a horse rears because he has sticky feet and doesn’t want to go forward, it’s a lack of control on the rider’s part and a big-time respect problem from the horse. When you tell your horse to move, he needs to move NOW! Get that point drilled into him. You first need to get control of the horse on the ground and then practice basic impulsion exercises like the Cruising Lesson to teach the horse to respond to your cues and to be responsible for maintaining the gait you set him in. When you gently squeeze his sides with the calves of your legs, he should immediately move forward.

Do the Opposite of What He Wants to Do

If your horse is rearing because he doesn’t want to go somewhere, use a little reverse psychology on him. Don’t think, “How can I make the horse move?’ Think, “How can I make it uncomfortable for him not to go in the direction that I want?’ You’ll do that by working the horse hard wherever he wants to be and letting him rest and relax where he doesn’t want to be. If the horse tries to rear up when you go to ride him away from the barn or other horses, work him hard at the barn or by the other horses. Using one rein at a time to direct him, hustle his feet. You can do a lot of serpentines by bending the horse with your left hand and left leg, and then going the opposite way, using your right hand and right leg. Rollbacks—loping the horse off, bringing him to a stop and rolling him over his hocks to change directions—are also a great exercise in this situation. But in reality, it doesn’t matter how you move the horse as long as you hustle his feet and are constantly changing directions. The more times a horse changes directions, the more he has to think and pay attention to you.

Success Tips:

Build a solid foundation.

Plain and simple, a horse that constantly rears is a horse with a lack of foundation. You need to establish better basics and prove to your horse that you’re a capable leader. You can do that by working on fundamental groundwork and riding exercises. Once you get your horse using the thinking side of his brain and earn his respect, you’ll find that the problem will fix itself.

Don’t make a bad situation worse.

When a horse rears up, even though it can be frightening and could even catch you off balance, resist the temptation to hold tight on the reins. The only time I have ever seen horses fall over backwards when they rear is when the rider actually pulls them over backwards. So when the horse rears, lean a little bit forward in the saddle and grab some mane, if you have to, in order to help balance yourself. Then, as soon as all four of the horse’s feet hit the ground again, put him straight to work.

How to react when your horse rears

How to react when your horse rears

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How to react when your horse rears

Question from a reader:

“I’ve owned my 6-year-old warmblood-cross gelding for three years, and he has recently started to get really nappy when I ride him (although not always).

He will stop out of the blue, sometimes rears or bucks a little, and refuses to go forward.

I’ve ridden horses for many years, and I cannot think of how to get him past this behaviour.

When I turn him around and try to go the other direction, he still stops and refuses to walk on.

I have tried turning him in circles, getting off and walking him forward (which he does willingly), and then getting back on, all to no avail.

I’ve tried using spurs and a crop to encourage him, but he will not budge.

What could be causing this behaviour and how do I fix it?”

It sounds like your horse has learned to stop and resist, rather than move forward and give when you ask.

Horses often learn to relieve pressure by resisting, rearing, kicking up and bucking.

Your horse must learn that bucking and rearing won’t relieve pressure from his rider.

At the moment, when he rears or bucks, you’re too busy hanging on to use your crop or spurs.

So from your horse’s point of view, his rearing and bucking makes your crop and spurs go away.

Overcoming your problem is quite simple in theory – your horse must learn that the only way to relieve pressure is to move forward and give.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to put this theory into practice.

Your problem starts the very moment that your horse moves one step faster or slower than you ask, or moves one step off the line that you want to ride on.

Like everything else, you must come back to basics.

Ride your horse in an arena or a small area, where everything is to your advantage.

You must have an exact plan of where you want your horse to move.

You must also have an exact plan of the gait and the speed you want him to move.

You can’t truly control any horse until you have an exact plan of these three things.

Start by trotting a twenty metre circle.

You must correct your horse immediately he speeds up, slows down or moves off line.

If you have to correct him twenty times in twenty metres, that’s okay.

If your horse tries to stop, rear or buck, immediately pull him around in a tight circle, so that resisting is an unpleasant experience for him.

Remember that you’re not punishing your horse.

You’re simply showing him that it’s easy and pleasant to do as you ask and slightly unpleasant for him when he resists.

See this demonstrated in my Fear-free Fundamentals Online Clinic

The only way to overcome your problem is to be more definite than your horse.

Stay in the arena or small area for at least a couple of weeks.

When you have some improvement at the trot, move into a canter and concentrate on exactly where you want your horse to move and the speed you want him to move.

Make sure you have complete control before you ride outside.

At the moment, your horse knows that if he resists for long enough, you will (unintentionally) relieve the pressure.

You have to teach your horse that you relieve pressure only when he moves forward and gives.

Every time your horse speeds up or moves off line, you must correct him, and every time he resists, you must make life a little unpleasant for him by pulling him around in a tight

When your horse concentrates on where you want to move, the speed you want to move and the gait you want to move in, all your problems are over.

Creating your dream relationship with your horse.

Dealing with the Horse that Rears

I’d like to discuss what causes a horse to rear and how we inadvertently set a horse up to rear. There are two basic concepts to consider Horses learn by pressure and release, and a horse can go six different directions – forward, back, left, right, down, and up. If you think in those terms, when we work with a horse, we always have to give the horse a way out, a way to find release. If you try to close off all the directions, the horse is going to take one of the directions that you can’t block. With these principles in mind, there are several reasons why a horse may rear:

Separation Anxiety
You might be out on the trail with another rider who takes off going a direction or speed that you do not want to go. Your horse may get upset because the other horse is leaving. The normal response is to try to force your horse to go the way you want to go. As the other horse gets further and further away, the anxiety of your horse builds. The more you force the horse away from his buddy, the more likely it will be that the horse will rear. You may need to go with the other horse. Ask your companion to not ride off. Any time you ride with a companion you should both practice courtesy and be aware of the problems that can be caused when one rider abruptly changes speed. If your horse is extremely upset, you may need to get off and walk him for a bit. You can let your horse go toward the other horse and turn him slightly away, relaxing the rein when he yields for even one step. Set up a time to work with another rider on separating and coming together to reduce the anxiety and buddy sour behavior.

Barn Sourness
Another time that a horse may rear, and I’ve seen this many times, is when a horse has anxiety about going home – the horse that wants to race back to the barn or jigs all the way back . Forcing a horse away from the barn causes a certain amount of anxiety. The more you hold the horse back, and the further from the barn you ride, the more anxiety and tension you create. The barn represents the horse’s comfort zone. The thing to do for this is to go back to the barn and go out again. Going toward home releases the anxiety. Take the horse out a little and go back, expanding the distance and time away from the barn. It may take several lessons to build the horse’s confidence to go away from the barn or go out on the trail alone.

Resisting Contact
Another situation where a horse may react by rearing can occur when a horse will not accept contact. This can be a hackamore or a bit, anything that is controlling the horse’s face. If you make contact and ask the horse to go forward and the horse hasn’t accepted the contact, when you block all the other directions, the horse will go up in the air.

Natural Tendency
The natural reaction of some horses to new or different situations, no matter what, is to be light in the front end. You can give them all the positive escape routes and their natural reaction is to go up. This is a small percentage of horses. Every time the horse comes up to something he doesn’t like an object he is not secure about, he rears. Then we have to create a way for the horse to change its reaction.

So, whatever the cause, how do you handle a horse that rears?

If we want our horse to go over a log, a tarp, a pole, through a creek or toward anything that the horse does not want to go near, 99 percent of the time the horse will go left or right or it may stop and back up. I will block escape routes to the right or left but the moment the horse starts to back up, I let the horse move back. If he wants to back up five feet, I let him back up five feet. As soon as the horse stops, I ask him to go forward. Once a horse has stopped, you can apply the spurs or give the horse a good, aggressive kick to get him to go forward again. A firm forward cue is fine, but only after the horse has stopped. Wherever the horse stopped is where he feels comfortable about whatever it is that he is dealing with. If we apply the forward cue while the horse is backing up, I can guarantee the horse will rear. The horse is too uncomfortable to go forward at that time. The horse has too much anxiety and when the rider tries to force the issue, the horse rears.

If the horse does rear, what I do is take the horse to the right or left, even when the horse is up in the air. I get the horse to go forward a few steps and then turn the horse back into the object it is avoiding. This must be done with good outside rein and outside leg control. It may be a slow process because going to the right or left is an escape route but if we do not give this type of horse that option, it will rear. I release the pressure by letting the horse go right or left for two or three steps, and then once the horse has relaxed a bit, I turn it back into the object. I have found this to be a successful response to this type of behavior.

The horse is a majestic creature that has been used for centuries in farming and transportation. However, many people don’t know how to approach the horses or what to do when they rear. In this blog post, we will answer some of the most commonly asked questions about horse rearing and provide tips on how to handle these situations if you see them happening!

What is horse rearing?

A horse rearing is when the animal stands on its hind legs with all four hooves in a vertical position.

Why do horses rear?

The reasons for a horse’s rear can vary from one horse to another, but it’s usually an act of aggression or defense. It may also be due to fear-based reactions that are instinctively driven by potential danger, such as thunderstorms or firework displays.

What should I do if my horse starts rearing up?

It can sometimes take some time for your horse to calm down once they start raising their front feet off the ground, so make sure you stay close and talk calmly while waiting for them to return onto all fours. Once he has calmed his nerves, reward him with food and affection to reinforce the positive behavior.

What does it mean when horses rear?

Horses rearing usually means they feel threatened in some way, which can be due to many factors such as thunderstorms or firework displays. It may also indicate that your horse is scared of something specific like a person (especially if you’re wearing certain clothing). Horses will typically only rear up for brief periods and then return onto their four feet again; however, there have been cases where horses have continued to raise themselves even after being startled by an event.

How do I stop my horse from rearing?

If your horse starts raising its front legs off the ground while still on all fours, try whispering with it or patting its neck. If the horse is still rearing, try to move away from what your horse finds threatening and see if it will calm down then.

What should I do if my horses start raising their front legs when they’re not threatened?

If this happens out of nowhere, check for any wounds on their abdomen that may be causing discomfort (especially anything bleeding) and check for other injuries like a dislocated leg. If there are no visible signs of damage, contact a vet immediately because horses don’t usually rear up without provocation!

How can I stop my horse from rearing while riding them?

If your horse is reacting by trying to jump around in fear due to something happening nearby, such as an animal, person on a bike, or loud noise, try to calm them with soft words and slow movements. If the horse is still rearing, try to move away from what your horse finds threatening and see if it will calm down then.

How to care for a horse that rears?

If your horse is rearing in response to pain, check for any wounds on their abdomen that may be causing discomfort (especially anything bleeding), as well as check for other injuries like a dislocated leg. If there are no visible signs of damage, contact a vet immediately because horses don’t usually rear up without provocation!

What does it mean when my horse rears?

Horses typically rear or jump upwards with all four feet off the ground if they feel threatened by something, such as another animal coming close to them. They do this to get away from danger and protect themselves using their hooves which can inflict painful blows.

How can I train my horse to stop rearing?

Some horses rear because they don’t feel safe. If this is the case, try spending more time with your horse and getting them used to new things gradually to scare them too much. Other horses might be anxious or frustrated about something like a lack of exercise, which leads to pent-up energy being released in jumps and rears as an outlet for their frustration. You’ll want to assess your horse’s situation before trying any training methods. Generally speaking, you should start by breaking up long periods of standing still with periods where they are trotting around (this will help release some tension). Another option would be riding on a longer line – walking beside the horse and talking to them while they walk. If your horse does rear, it’s essential to make sure you’re not giving mixed signals: if the rider leans forward when a rearing starts, this can feel like an invitation for more.

How to react when your horse rears

If horses are starting to rear and have never done so before, stand back from the situation calmly but keep an eye on him if he continues or tries something else (like bolting). You don’t want to be at close range with horses who are nervous or upset – however tempting that might seem! Move out of his way as much as possible without making any sudden movements. Wait until he calms down enough that you think it would be safe for both of you before approaching again.

Tips for dealing with rearing horses and children

  • Plan and talk to your child about horse rearing before they get close. This can help them understand what’s going on and feel safer in the situation, as well as tell you if this is an area that should be avoided or not.
  • Teach children how to make themselves appear smaller: crouching down low rather than standing up straight might keep a horse from reacting defensively at first (although some horses may still respond with alarm even when a person doesn’t look big). It also helps for kids -and adults!- to stay calm and speak calmly.

Lastly, the child needs to learn how to get out of the way if a horse starts rearing. A rearing horse can cause a lot of damage to an adult or children alike.

In Conclusion:

If you have a rearing horse, the first step is patience! It may take time and consistency to help calm your horse down. Over time the horse should develop a better bond with you and learn to trust you. It’s crucial that no matter what training style you choose to use with your horse, you stay consistent with it even when it gets hard! Horses need to feel secure and safe to stop their rearing habits!

Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has developed a way to train horses, regardless of their past problems or traumas. It all begins with training the owners so they can gain their horse’s respect and understand how to properly control them. Join Clinton on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and problem owners. This week, we join Clinton as he shows us how to handle a rearing horse.

Clinton tells us that if your horse is trying to rear on the trail, you need to figure out why he’s rearing in the first place. Is he rearing because he’d rather be somewhere else, because he’s nervous or scared, or because he’s just plain disrespectful? Once you figure out the cause of the rearing, you can start working on addressing it.

If your horse is rearing out of disrespect, meaning he’s ignoring your cues and doesn’t want to move forward, it’s important to first get control of the horse on the ground. Get off your horse and practice Fundamentals groundwork with him. Do Lunging for Respect Stage One and Two and gain control of his movements. Once you accomplish that, you can get back on and keep moving.

When a horse rears because he doesn’t want to move forward, he is letting you know that you need to spend more time putting a foundation on him, taking him through all of the groundwork and riding exercises in the Fundamentals Series. It’ll be important to focus on basic impulsion exercises like the Cruising Lesson to teach the horse to respond to your cues and to be responsible for maintaining the gait you set him in. When you gently squeeze his sides with the calves of your legs, he should immediately move forward. All of the exercises in the Fundamentals series will help you with this.

If your horse is rearing because he’s nervous and reactive, get control of the situation by yielding his hindquarters. When a horse crosses his back legs over one another, it takes away his balance. Without balance, the horse can’t stand on his hind legs and rear. Think of yielding the horse’s hindquarters like pushing the clutch in on a car, you’re taking the power away from the horse. Yielding the hindquarters also gets the horse to stop thinking about being disrespectful or fearful and makes him concentrate on where he’s placing his feet.

The key is making sure that you work with the fundamentals and always build a strong foundation. If your horse is not broken in, make sure that you avoid riding him until you’ve gone through some groundwork training and gained his respect. Then, by the time you start riding him, he won’t rear and he won’t buck because you’ve done the necessary homework on the ground.

There are some horses in Clinton’s career that have been so badly trained and so ingrained with bad habits that Clinton didn’t even try riding them for the first two weeks he had them in for training. When he finally did ride them, after the proper groundwork training, he had no problems with them. You need to work with your horse on the ground for as long as it takes until you can get him calm, respectful, and using the thinking side of his brain. It’s all about getting the horse soft and relaxed. Then once you ride your horse, you won’t have to worry about bad behavior like bucking or rearing. You need to get all of the dangerous behavior taken care of while you’re on the ground where it’s safe.

Groundwork allows you to achieve good control and grow your confidence as a horseman. It’s designed to keep you safe in the saddle. You don’t want to ever put yourself in a vulnerable position with your horse on the trail unless you’re 99% sure that you’re going to be the one in control and calling the shots. Preparation leads to success.

For the past 20 years Clinton Anderson has devoted his life to creating the best training tools and videos available to help bring his method to you. But there’s only one problem. You can’t bring your TV into the arena. That’s why he’s been hard at work, developing a new platform to deliver the Method to you in a whole new way, a way that brings 20 years of horsemanship and puts it in the palm of your hand. Introducing the mobile method. It’s part of the new Downunder digital experience. And it makes learning the Method easier than ever before.

Now you can always have access to the Downunder Method, even when you’re on the go or at the barn. The Downunder Horsemanship app gives you access to your digital training kits and allows you to download videos and training content directly to your mobile device or view them on your computer. The Downunder Horsemanship app also offers over 100 hours of free in-depth training content. No Worries Club members will have full access to Clinton’s ever-growing training library and a massive number of members only features and information. And the best part is that you can view and interact with each lesson on your mobile device or computer, giving you ultimate access to the method anytime and anyplace.

To learn more about the Clinton Anderson training method, become a member of the No Worries Club, or to get information on any of the products seen on our show, head over to our homepage and download the Downunder Horsemanship app. If you’re interested in getting accelerated results, let a Clinton Anderson Certified Clinician bring the Method to you!

In the first article of this two-part series we looked at some common causes for horse rearing. Now we’re ready to look at the remaining causes and take home some final notes before we move on to learning how to stop a horse from rearing.

Overworking your horse and boredom

Just as too much energy can lead to rearing, overworking your horse can lead to that dangerous behavior also. When your horse runs out of steam he may become belligerent and resist, so try not to work him beyond his breaking point.

On a similar note, boredom is also a contributor to horse rearing. Try to vary your lessons regularly so that his mind remains engaged and he doesn’t dread his work sessions.

Rebellion and defiance

Rebellion can be one of the hardest, or one of the easiest, causes to resolve depending on your skill set and corrective actions. The downside of this cause is that your horse doesn’t respect you as a leader – he’s trying to show you who the boss is in a very dramatic fashion. My advice is to “fight” him on your terms until you’ve re-established yourself as the alpha leader. Dismount, bring him into a round pen and start with the basics until his defiance is melted away.

This can take days or weeks depending on your skill and his stubbornness. Expect a longer “battle” of wills with an experienced old coot that’s reared on his riders for years. Curing ingrained behaviors is always the most difficult.

Poor riding practices

This isn’t a direct cause of rearing, but when a rider doesn’t know how to react to an impending rear a horse can get away with rearing. When you detect that your horse is becoming apprehensive or naughty in a riding arena, if you can’t get off you want to do the exact opposite: move the horse forward. A horse that is moving forward cannot rear; they must come to a near stop to gain the leverage to rise from the ground.

All too often an inexperienced (and in some cases even a fairly experienced) rider will slow the horse down to a stop when they feel they are losing control. Natural instinct tells us that the more we pull the horse back the safer we will be, but the exact opposite is true.

So if you sense that a rear might be approaching, force your horse forward thereby making it impossible for him to execute the move.

When seeking out the primary cause for rearing horses look for recognizable patterns, because the presence of patterns (or the lack thereof) can help determine the causes. For example, rearing caused by injury, inappropriate tack, boredom, excess energy or overworking is usually very predictable. Rebellious rearing, on the other hand, can often be persistent and unpredictable… the horse will continually challenge you until one of you wins.

Rearing caused by fear is usually unpredictable, but sometimes you can anticipate it. For example, if your horse rears at a certain spot on the road but otherwise rides fine, there’s a good chance something nearby is causing him concern (i.e., a white rock). You may not see a threat, and the threat may be very minor or silly in nature, but sometimes you never know what will trigger a horse.

Other times a fear-induced rear will come out of nowhere, such as a passing car or a squirrel that darts out from some bushes. The only way you can guard against this type of rearing is to always sit balanced and remain attentive at all times.

Now that you have determined the potential cause for your horse’s rearing, you’re ready to move into the “meat and potatoes” of this topic and learn how to stop a horse from rearing.

How to react when your horse rearsRearing is a very dangerous situation for both horse and rider and if left uncorrected, is a problem that only gets worse. The key to understanding how to fix your horse’s problem is to first understand that it’s just a symptom of a cause. A horse doesn’t rear for the fun of it; he rears because he falls into one of two categories:

1) He’s hot and nervous, wants to run and is using the reactive side of his brain. To make matters worse, his rider holds onto the reins with both hands, trying to force the horse to slow down and relax. However, since the horse is a prey animal, the more you say, “Don’t go!” and try to stop him by pulling back on the reins, the more trapped and claustrophobic he feels. In his mind, the only way he can escape is by going up in the air.

2) He’s disrespectful and has sticky feet. When he doesn’t want to do something, his way of getting out of it is to run backwards or to rear up.

Gain His Respect on the Ground
Whatever the cause of rearing, it’s a clear sign of disrespect. To gain a horse’s respect, you have to move his feet forwards, backwards, left and right and reward the slightest try. If your horse is rearing, he’s telling you that you don’t truly have his respect. You need to spend more time working with him on the ground, establishing yourself as the leader. The Downunder Horsemanship Method contains over 30 groundwork exercises you can use to gain your horse’s respect and get him to use the thinking side of his brain, all of which makes him a willing partner.
After working with hundreds of horses over the years, I’ve found that a week or two of consistent groundwork usually cures rearing before you get back in the saddle. Why? Because the horse’s respect is earned on the ground by moving his feet, he’s using the thinking side of his brain and he is no longer fearful.

Safely Handle the Situation Under Saddle
If your horse is rearing because he’s hot and nervous, make sure you’re not adding to the situation by pulling back on both reins to try to stop him from moving. Remember, the more you pull back on the reins and say, “Don’t go!” the more upset and nervous the horse will get. When a horse panics and uses the reactive side of his brain, only use one rein to control him, and concentrate on getting him to use the thinking side of his brain by doing lots of changes of direction.

Get Back in Control
The best way to gain immediate control of the situation is to yield his hindquarters. When a horse crosses his back legs over one another, it takes away his balance. Without balance, the horse can’t stand on his hind legs and rear. Think of yielding the horse’s hindquarters like pushing the clutch in on a car, you’re taking the power away from the horse. Yielding the hindquarters also gets the horse to stop thinking about being disrespectful or fearful and makes him concentrate on where he’s placing his feet.

Get Those Feet Moving
When a horse rears because he has sticky feet and doesn’t want to go forward, it’s a lack of control on the rider’s part. You first need to get control of the horse on the ground and then practice basic impulsion exercises like the Cruising Lesson to teach the horse to respond to your cues and to be responsible for maintaining the gait you set him in. When you gently squeeze his sides with the calves of your legs, he should immediately move forward.

Do the Opposite of What He Wants to Do
If your horse is rearing because he doesn’t want to go somewhere, use a little reverse psychology on him. Don’t think, “How can I make the horse move?” Think, “How can I make it uncomfortable for him not to go the direction that I want?” You’ll do that by working the horse hard wherever he wants to be and letting him rest and relax where he doesn’t want to be.
For example, if the horse tries to rear up when you go to ride him away from the barn, work him hard at the barn. Using one rein to direct him, hustle his feet. You can do a lot of serpentines by bending the horse with your left hand and left leg, or going the opposite way, your right hand and right leg. Rollbacks, cantering the horse off, bringing him to a stop and rolling him over his hocks to change directions are also a great exercise in this situation. But in reality, it doesn’t really matter how you move the horse as long as you hustle his feet and are constantly changing directions. The more times a horse changes directions, the more he has to think and pay attention to you.

Build a Solid Foundation
Plain and simple, a horse that constantly rears is a horse with a lack of foundation. You need to establish better basics and prove to your horse that you’re a capable leader. You can do that by working on fundamental groundwork and riding exercises. Once you get your horse using the thinking side of his brain and earn his respect, you’ll find that the problem will fix itself.