By Nicole Fava

There are many bad habits a horse can have, but my least favorite is rearing. As the rider of a rearing horse, you are exceptionally prone to falling off the back or the side. Or, even worse, there is a chance that your horse can flip over backwards, causing injury to you, themselves, or those around you.

stop horse rearing

Once a horse learns to rear, it can be a hard habit to break. Here is a guide to rearing, how to fix it, and how to prevent it from happening in the future.

Why is My Horse Rearing?

Whenever a horse is acting up, I first want to make sure that they aren’t experiencing some form of physical pain. Some sources of pain could be:

1. Poor saddle fit. Perhaps your saddle is too wide and is sitting on your horse’s spine. Or, perhaps your saddle is too narrow and is pinching the shoulder blade. Have your saddle examined by a saddle fitter to make sure the fit is right for your horse. This is often my first step when I have a horse that is rearing.

2. A girth/cinch that is too tight. Extremely tight girths and cinches can cause pinching, galling, and general discomfort that might cause rearing. You should be able to fit one index finger under your cinch to the first joint in your finger.

3. A bit that is too severe. If you use a stronger bit on a sensitive horse, they may be resistant to going forward, and will rear when pressure is applied. A general rule of thumb is to use the softest bit you can get away with.

4. A physical problem, such as kissing spine or teeth issues. Physical problems are the most common reason for rearing. If your horse is in pain, they will be unwilling to work and might rear to get out of doing so. Have your horse examined by a veterinarian to ensure that there is no hidden source of pain.

If you’ve had your equipment checked and have sought out the opinion of a veterinarian, you might be able to attribute rearing to the following:

Poor Training. Perhaps your horse has learned that they can rear to get out of working, or to avoid rein pressure.

Barn Sourness. Horses that are buddy sour or barn sour will often rear to avoid leaving their comfort zone.

Spooking or Fear. Your horse might rear and spin to avoid going down that scary walkway where monsters live!

Too Much Energy. If you horse has been cooped up for awhile or has an incorrect diet for their workload, they might rear out of excitement or to burn off some energy.

How to Deal with a Rear

When your horse rears, there are a few solutions that will work to stop him, depending on your situation.

1. When you feel that your horse is about to rear, be sure to kick them forward and disengage the hindquarters. If you can get their hind feet moving, they cannot plant their hind end to rear.

2. If your horse rears up, lean forward and put your reins towards your horse’s ears. DO NOT pull back, as this can cause your horse to flip over backwards. When your horse comes back down, kick them forward and disengage their hindquarters to avoid further rearing. Put them to work right away. You want your horse to learn that the consequence of rearing is hard work.

3. If you feel as though you are in danger mid-rear, you can always perform an emergency dismount and slide off the side of your horse’s back.

How to Prevent Rearing

Assuming your horse has no equipment issues or physical problems, there are some things that you can do to prevent rearing in the first place.

1. Avoid kicking and pulling at the same time. A confused horse with “no way out” is likely to rear up out of pure frustration.

2. Leave your emotions out of riding. If you express anger or frustration while riding, your horse will certainly feed off it. Be sure to breathe and think before you act on negative emotions. The more calm you stay, the less likely your horse will be to rear.

3. Do groundwork. Does your horse know how to give to the bit and disengage its hindquarters from the ground? If not, more groundwork is necessary. Most bad habits that a horse develops under saddle can be solved in this manner. Try flexing your horse from the ground or lunging in side-reins to help them improve their acceptance of bit pressure. Practice applying pressure to your horse’s hindquarters and having them step away from you.

4. Make sure your experience level is suitable for your horse. In general, if you are a green rider, you should not be riding a horse that tends to rear. If you feel as though you might have unintentionally taught your horse to rear or are having trouble solving the problem, seek out the advice of an experienced trainer.

A rearing horse can be intimidating and hard to fix, but don’t lose hope! If you investigate possible causes, ride the rears effectively, and take all measures necessary to prevent them, many horses will overcome the issue. Just remember, safety first… and never be afraid to ask for help if you need it!