Reasons why horses rear

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Rearing is a behaviour that most riders fear. When it happens, it feels as though your horse goes so high you’re not sure how he stays on his back legs, manages to stay upright and doesn’t end up toppling over backwards.

In fact only 0.01% of horses will fall over when rearing in their natural habitat – such as in the paddock. It’s when riders get involved that the percentage of falls increases.

It’s essential to understand why your horse is rearing as this will help you to eliminate the behaviour. It can be all too easy to think he’s being badly behaved, but there’s every chance that it’s pain or soreness that’s the culprit, so it’s key to rule this out first.

The pain likely to cause your horse to rear could be in the teeth, feet, from a kissing spine or even soreness in the girth area. Contact your vet for an assessment before moving on to other possibilities.

Other reasons a horse may rear include:

  • The rider is holding on too tight.

  • The horse is in panic mode.

  • It’s a natural reaction in horses when faced with fear or stress.

  • He’s being dominant or aggressive.

  • Your horse is over-excited.

  • He’s young or not confident and doesn’t want to go forward.

  • Exuberance from overfeeding and not receiving the right amount of exercise.

If your horse is about to rear you’ll feel him shorten up as if he’s about to spring forward and his ears will twitch. Also, he has to be static in oder to rear – canter, stop, rear, for instance. Not letting him stop is key to avoiding this behaviour.

If your horse does rear it’s important to relax the contact on the reins – grab onto the mane or saddle instead, or a neckstrap if your horse wears one. If you keep pulling when your horse rears or is about to rear he could go up higher and this is when he could go over.

For more about how to ride a rear and preventing your horse from rearing, see the full article in issue 457.

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