Rearing

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How To Think Like A Horse
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Dear Cherry,  

     I am leasing a horse right now and if she doesn't want to go then she rears. Not very high, but just enough to get annoying. I have tried her with other rider, saddles, bits, bridles and with and without splint boots. I have no idea where this is coming from. I was
wondering if I should just find another horse to lease and give up on Scooter or if I should keep looking for the root of the problem?  

Miranda from British Columbia, Canada    


Dear Miranda,  

     I think it is admirable that you are trying to find a solution this horse's problem but I want you to know right away that there are two habits that I think require the assistance of a qualified professional horse trainer - rearing and kicking.  Both of these habits are very dangerous. You should be working with a qualified instructor who can help you diagnose this horse's problem in person.

     Although the mare you are leasing isn't rearing very high now, such behavior often gets worse rather than better.  The big risk, of course, is that when a horse rears, you can easily fall off, and often when a horse really gets into rearing, he can fall over backwards which can be deadly.

   But let's talk a little bit about what causes rearing and what you can SAFELY try to eliminate the bad habit.

   Rearing is an "avoidance behavior" - the horse is trying to avoid going forward.  This usually occurs when a horse has not learned that when you say go forward, he must go forward, so he is confused and needs progressive training and a review of the basics.

   OR it could be a horse that is becoming herd bound or barn sour and does not want to leave a certain area where she can see the barn or her buddies.  The horse is saying "NO".  This is more of a psychological problem.  The horse needs to develop security and confidence in the rider.

   OR it could be a horse that has at one time or another has received a sharp jerk or rough handling when he DID go forward so now he is afraid of the consequences of going forward.  When a horse that tends to rear is switched from a curb bit to a snaffle and the rider is very good with her hands (following the horse's movement), the horse tends to move OUT (forward) rather than UP (rearing).  It is important that when you apply the leg cue for the horse to go forward, you don't pull on the bit as that would be conflicting signals which would confuse the horse.

   You can rule out physical causes by having a veterinarian check the horse's mouth and back to be sure there are no dental or spinal problems.

   You can also review "forward" lessons in in-hand work (walk out and trot out promptly when leading) and longeing, concentrating on the horse working in a long, low frame with lots of extended trot type work, rather than collected work.  Collecting a horse too soon or improperly can lead to rearing.

   Since you are leasing this horse, you should ask the owner for insights to the mare's behavior.  If you feel unable to resolve this problem with the help of your instructor or trainer, then yes, you should find another horse to lease.  It is not worth the risk.

Good Luck      Cherry Hill     

 

  2006 Cherry Hill 

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