Horseproblems Australia
Post Office Box Victor Harbor
SA. 5211
(61) 0885521418
horseproblems@horseproblems.com.au

 

 

HANDLING THE REARING HORSE

By
John O’Leary
Horseman
www.horseproblems.com.au

 ©2002

 

 

 


 

I rank the rearing horse as the most dangerous of the vices that can face a rider during their career. Give me the buck jumper, shyer, bolter any day as I believe the danger of serious injury is far more acute with the rearer.

Riders' are the predominant cause of rearing in horses under saddle. Horses rear as an evasion and they evade because of either a lack of riding with justice or that the Owner hasn't "Listened" to them. You see, Horses are communicating to us the whole time and when we don't listen, the top of the range, "screaming' can mean Bucking or rearing. There are few horses that are just plain naughty.

THE CAUSES       

 

  • Veterinary Problems and a Communication from the Horse to the Rider. (Listen to your Horse) (read Sacroilliac articles)

  • A failure to answer leg, a failure to go forward and a failure of the rider to have the horse forward.

  • Frustration and confusion in the horse

  • Learned evasions

  • Upward mobility of the mind

  • Too much riding on the arena

  • Teeth

  • Incorrect Bit

  • Owner not listening to Horse

  • Just plain naughty (rarely)

  • A failure of the Rider to train the Horse to think down and to be down

  • A lack of trained submissiveness.

  • Allowing Horses to travel 'above the Bit'

in other words, almost always not to do with attitude from the Horse

So let's examine them one by one:

  • A lack of forwardness and a failure to answer leg is probably the most common cause. It never ceases to amaze me how many people do not have their horses forward. Way in excess of 50% Even in the Dressage ring, so many horses are simply not forward. When I say "forward" I mean that the horse answers immediately without question, leg or whip and doesn't "suck back" as I feel so many horses do. This generally means that it is also a horse that will not say "No" when confronted by a frightening obstacle or creek crossing. During such fights with horses, I find that the ones that rear are definitely the ones that fail to answer leg well enough.
     

  •  Forward also means to be forward in the mind. That comes from the influence of the 'Breaker' and the education process. It also comes from happiness and an enjoyment of the work. That in turn comes from a rider who thinks about the ridden welfare of the horse. I mean the giving of appropriates breaks for a job well done, to not over ride a young horse, to trail ride it, jump it and above all, stay out of the Dressage Arena as much as possible. Forward also means that it is actually ridden forward. I would hate to think about the percentage of people who think that plodding around on a 'green' horse, not taking any chances, is going to protect them from the dire consequences that their brain is imagining.
     

  • Very early in the training of the young horse, it learns a thing called 'speed rate' and that comes from how the rider rides it. It gets accustomed to certain speeds and is later often governed by what is set in it's mind. The other highly important thing is that the horse does not become dead to leg due to the over use of whips or spurs or a failure to use the whip or spur assertively enough when required. They are two different things. A horse that says 'Yes' to leg on, normally never rears.
     

  •  Frustration and confusing in horses is rife of course but that doesn't mean that all horses rear. It normally comes from the horses that have to do flatwork for a competition rider. Flatwork is probably the main cause of rearing and for me, that is completely understandable. If one stops and has a think about what flatwork means to the horse, it helps to realize what may go through their mind. For a start, flatwork is about going on a journey with no real beginning, no real focus points along the way and definitely with no end in site. This can equal boredom, frustration and thoughts of evasion. Evasion can be represented by any of the following:
     

  • Running out of the circles

  • Falling in on circles

  • Just plain running

  • Looking for excuses to shy

  • "Pig rooting or bucking"

  • Failing to go forward

  • Running through the hands of the rider

  • Evading the bit, and the list can go on.

Horses are far smarter than some riders' and due to that fact can be learning all sorts of lessons during a flatwork session. Often though, the wrong lessons. All sorts of "Learned evasions" can be taken on board during a workout, especially on an arena when the fertile mind of the horse is wandering to wanting to be in more enjoyable places. These can range from dropping the shoulder causing the rider to flex the horse off to achieve a reasonable course and yet the horse really knows it is winning the evasion battle. Cutting corners, especially the ones that are further away from the arena exit. Lugging out of circles and again, especially the one near the arena exit. Changing leads to suit the preferred direction of travel that the horse might even be dreaming about, like out of the arena.

"Learned Evasions" can influence the frame of mine of the horse, ignorance, attitude and cunning. It can also escalate a frame of mind to the ultimate evasion, the rear. The more a horse is getting away with little evasions, depending upon the temperament of the horse, it can be enough for it to increase its lack of respect of the rider, thus increasing the chances of escalating various vices.

UPWARDLY MOBILE MIND

The term "Upwardly mobile mind" in the horse could be my invention as I have never heard it used prior. I see it in a small percentage of horses that have an attitude of "Up", they think it and act it. They are born that way. Even in the paddock, they stand around like sentry guards with necks set on like the "Lama" They usually have "Upside down Necks" I can see them think "Up" and if you get on their case at all, they usually go "UP" The Trainer should be well aware of these Horses and custom make them during the breaking in to alleviate chances of rear.

Of course, Veterinary problems must always be ruled out before ever undertaking any remedial ridden work on horses. They can't talk and we must make real sure they are not hurting. Often this is the cause. Things such as sore backs, sharp teeth, worms, stifle problems, out in the poll or lower back can do it.

PREVENTION

  • Keep the horse happy in it's work.

  • Never exclusively ride green horses in the arena.

  • Trail Ride your horses at least twice per week.

  • Jump your horse once per week.

  • Teach the horse to go forward on day one and keep it that way.

  • Learn the art of "reward and relief" and use it on dozens of occasions in every flatwork session.

  • Realize that the 'engine is in the back' and don't slap Horses down the shoulder.

  • Be vigilant to impending Veterinary Problems. "Listen to your Horses"

THE GREEN HORSE

Green horses should not be ridden on an arena more than twice per week and for no longer than 15 minutes.

The majority of buck jumpers, bolters and rearing that I meet are caused by over exposure to flatwork in arena's. Most people think that you can teach green horses more in an arena than you can out on the trail. Well they are wrong. Read my lips. What would you rather do if you were a horse? Think about it! In the flatwork session, given the fact that the green horse cannot fathom why the hell you are even asking it, why should a young horse be happy in its work and why wouldn't its mind wander to green pastures? Why wouldn't that wandering mind move to thoughts of evasion?

DEEP AND ROUND

The foundations stones, not to rear, are put on during the starting phase of the young Horse and so it is highly important that you use a Professional who knows their stuff.

  • Resistant Mouths on the finished Horse forms the first possible step to the rearer due to the evasion that the young Horse is going to meet during it's 'Green Horse' stage.
     

  • Boldness and Bush bashing is another thing that sets the young Horse up to not think about rearing.
     

  • and then of course, the all important of the great Mouth. The well mouthed Horse automatically thinks down and lowers the head when you pull on the reins

Horses that 'think up' should be ridden 'deep and round' or even in Rolkur if they are under re-education.  The further down their head is the less the chance of rear during times of worry.

http://www.horseproblems.com.au/podcast.html Go here for the video on the fabulous equipment called the 'German Martingale or Market Harborough as an aid to Rearers.

RE-EDUCATION

These Horses can be helped by re-education on the ground. In particular, regular lunging to lighten them up in the front end and dissipate resistance. I do this by using my designed running reins system, which is designed to have options for different Horses, especially these.

Horses that rear, first resist the hand and thrust the head upwards. If your Horses does that, fix it quick.

THE VALUE OF TRAIL RIDING

Here are some major benefits of work on the Trail

  • The horse is kept happy and its mind alert.

  • The rider has so many training aids at their disposal. Stumps, ditches, holes, trees, bushes, etc.

  • You are creating a bolder horse.

  • The horse has things to focus on the whole time.

  • The horse sees and understands the reasons for riders' various requests.

  • It is a more enjoyable experience for the rider which is a benefit towards rider attitude.

Horses can learn to leg yield many times faster if they are avoiding a log, hole or stump. Horses can learn to neck rein far faster if they are going around a bush and changing direction around another bush, rather than work in an arena, If you need to back a young horse up because you have run into a dead end of prickle bushes, the horse will certainly see the reason why and thank you for it. This means co-operative learning.

Horses rarely think of evasion out on the trail, they are happier and their overall consolidation moves faster. They are more nervous but that is actually a plus. Reason? The horse that may have suddenly bucked on an arena is far less likely to even think of such things out on the trail. They are nervous and desperately looking for the leadership of the strong assertive rider which they love and need at that time. As a result, they do not think of vices and evasions.

THE WALK

Young or 'Green' Horses should never be collected at the walk unless in a lesson situation or a competition. The rest of the time, they should be ridden with a pleasure rein or at least long rein walk as required for the Preliminary Horse. Collecting walks jams horses up and that can lead to rearing.

HOW TO CURE THE REARING HORSE

"Old Wives Tales" say that you should break a plastic bag of water or eggs over the horses head and it will think it is bleeding. It will then stop raring. I think that belief is a complete fallacy.

Fixing a rearer is often not a pretty business, is highly dangerous, requiring a high degree of experience, skill, courage and above all, timing.

Horses that continue to rear normally end up being killed at the abattoirs. I want people to understand this before reading on. Rearers usually become pet food. Every time I cure a horse that likes to rear I am happy in the knowledge that I just saved its life.  There a few things one can do

  • Keep a happy horse.

  • Keep a forward horse

  • Keep a sound horse

  • Wear a set of big spurs and drive them into the horse as it goes up, thereby making the wrong thing uncomfortable. Release on descent thereby making the right thing comfortable.

  • Eliminate the Veterinary, and if all is well.....

  • As the horse commences the upstroke of the rear motion, give it a good swipe, smack across both ears with a rolled up newspaper.

  • Swipe them below the stomach as they are off the ground.

HITTING HORSES OVER THE HEAD

I have cured hundreds of horses that rear. I have saved hundreds of lives. If you, the reader, is a little on the "Animal Liberation" side of things, you may frown upon this description. I care about that but because of the extreme dangers that I face to save the lives of such horses', I figure I am more of an "Animal Liberationist" than most. Putting my life on the line for theirs. Two examples appear hereunder.

  • In general, we should never hit horses around the head. There are a couple of exceptions to the rule however but those exceptions must be carried out with complete sophistication. One is rearing and the other is biting.
     

  • If we are going to hit a horse around the "Ear Hole" so to speak, we must do it with impeccable timing. Such timing will ensure training. This is why that only the complete professional is the one for the job.

If a person hits a horse over the head, for any reason at all, the horse will not know why the person did it and head shyness will probably result. The horse will simply think that the rider hit the horse about the head for no reason. If a horse commits a sin, like rearing and the rider hits the horse over the head upon the horse landing back down on the ground, the horse will most likely have forgotten the event prior to the hit over the head and therefore think that the rider is hitting it over the head for no reason at all.

Timing is therefore imperative and that is why this is the job of a trained and practiced professional.

In short, if I hit a horse across the ears as it is rising upwards, the horse thinks that it has just hit its head on the rolled up newspaper. Conversely, if I wait until the horse has landed back down on the ground, the horse thinks that I have hit it around the head, will not understand the meaning and may become ear or head shy. So, given the split second timing, hitting horses across the head, without injury, mostly shock, results in no negative responses. I have never met an ear shy or otherwise distressed horse after using this negative re-enforcement.

The degree of power one uses should be governed by the maturity of the vice. If you have a horse that has been rearing for years, having victories left right and centre and set in it's ways of training humans, the slap has to be increased in strength.

For the young horse that has just started to jump off the ground a bit, all that is needed is a swift but soft swipe across the ears with a rolled up newspaper or even an open hand. They are fixed in one or two events. Every single time.

I have ridden bad rearers that, should you dismount during the problem time, they will rip the reins out of your hands in blind panic to escape a whipping from ground level. Previous riders' have dismounted and then thrashed the horse which is a total waste of time as the horse has forgotten the crime. You see horses tell us everything if you can read them. So this sort of behavior by a rider will never cure rearing and will certainly compound the psychological profile of the horse in all areas. I can tell you that the rider who jumps off a rearer and whips it from the ground is far more cruel than I am.

A few years ago I rode the worst rearer of my career. A 16.3hh Thoroughbred horse that had been through many owners. He would rear to the sky, completely upright, good enough to frighten most riders and to make most believe that he was going over. That horse was the toughest challenge that I ever faced. I asked him to go through a puddle one day and he stood and reared about 20 times in a row. In the end, he not only went through the puddle but he walked home with his head about 300mm off the ground. He then went on to an eventing career with Mrs. HP (pictured when 19) and his life was saved.

 

  Before you feel sorry for him, think about my poor hand. Another horse, one of the best moving horses in this Country, headed towards the Sydney Olympics, became impossible to compete. He would eliminate his very good rider by refusing to enter the Dressage Arena. He jumped on Judges cars as well. I purchased him for $300 but he had been worth $80,000. Here is a photo of him.

 

In October, 2004, he is competing at the Olympic Level. He was fixed with the Daily News :)

The weapon of choice should only be a rolled up Newspaper. It doesn't hurt them but gives them enough of a shock to make them think twice about it. They must realize, that if they are naughty enough to put their head up there, they are going to hit it on a newspaper.

Can Natural Horsemanship fix a rearer? I doubt it.

Can installing equipment fix them. I don't think so.

So the key with the rearing horse is to never allow it to happen in the first place and if it does, nip it in the bud on day one when it is easy peasy.

One Rein Stops are not for the rearing Horse!!

 

LETTER

Hi

I read your horse problem article about rearing horses. I have a horse that I have been riding for 4 years (she is 6yo) and we are successful in dressage. I had just started training her more collected canter movements such as canter piroettes and now she is rearing when I ask for collection this has been happening for about 2 weeks. Im concerned it is becoming a serious habit. After reading your article I think I need to hit her over the head with a newspaper - she is a very athletic mare and Im concerned what her reaction will be if I do this - what do you think?

Thanks

Jenny

Hi Jenny

The first thing you must assess, is the Veterinary and with this subject that you raise, the smart will avail themselves of our new approach of "Listening to the Horses"

There are virtually ALWAYS reasons why Horses do these things, as they are communicating to us all of the time. We just need to listen. You may wish to film the Horse and let us have a look for you. Have you examined the Horse carefully? Is the Horse 'stiff one way', is it's Muscle tone equal?, have you stood the Horse up dead square and examined the rear end for asymmetry????  and so on...........So in relation to dealing with a perceived "Vice", one must be very sure first, before one goes down that path. In my experience, VICE type rearing, does not come during collected Work of Dressage. This is almost always a Veterinary matter. Regards

 

 

home

Mail: horseproblems at horseproblems.com.au