There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting to the stables, saddling up and getting ready to head out for some time in nature.
However, a rearing horse can quickly bring any feelings of peacefulness to a grinding halt.
If you want to get a better idea of why a horse rears and what you can do at that moment, you’ve come to the right place.
Why a Horse Rears
If you love horses as much as we do, you’ll know that they’re all so different. It’s their unique personalities that make riding horses such a memorable experience. But even so, you always want to avoid any dangerous behaviour that could lead to serious injury.
There are several reasons why a horse may rear, including:
- Fear response or general nervousness: Some horses are frightened more easily than others, but a sudden threat can make any horse rear. Predators, other horses, loud noises or an unfamiliar situation could all frighten your riding companion. Horses also tend to want to run if they feel nervous or uncomfortable, and the more you try to prevent them from doing so, the more likely they are to resist.
- Pain: A horse that’s experiencing pain in its back or legs may express its discomfort by rearing. A bit that hasn’t been fitted correctly in a horse’s mouth is another reason why horses rear. Checking your setup before you start riding will ensure your horse is comfortable throughout your ride.
- Overstimulation: A horse that is overstimulated and hasn’t had the chance to expend any excess energy will very likely rise onto its hind legs, leaving you at risk of falling off. Excess heat can also result in dangerous behaviours, so make sure you’re heading out at an appropriate time.
- Poor handling: Rough handling is another common reason why horses rear. Horses that feel confused or frustrated may use rearing as a defence mechanism. The idea is for you and your riding companion to work as a team.
- Dominance: A rearing horse can also be linked to displays of dominance. This is particularly common if it feels it’s being suppressed in some way. Horses can be stubborn creatures and don’t always respond well to instructions or forceful movements, causing them to run backwards or rear up.
- Medical issues: Lastly, many rearing horses have been found to have visual or neurological disorders that can cause them to act in unpredictable ways. Regular check-ups with your local vet can stop minor medical symptoms from becoming more serious problems.
What to Do When a Horse Rears
Finding yourself on a horse that’s lifted onto its hind legs is less than ideal, but you can get the situation under control safely.
If rearing occurs while you’re riding a horse, you want to do everything you can to keep your balance and your weight forward. You can do this by leaning into its neck. Do not pull on its mane and keep the reins slack. Tightening the reins may cause pain or make the horse feel trapped, making it panic even further.
Remember to stay calm – the more you panic, the more frightened your horse will get.
If you cannot stop the rearing, wait until all the horse’s feet are on the ground before you jump off. Get out of the way as soon as possible.
How to Prevent Horse Rearing
Now that you have an idea of what to do when a horse decides it wants you off, let’s look at how you can prevent this from happening in the first place.
As much as you respect your horse for the joy it brings you, it needs to respect you too. Both horse and human should be happy before, during and after a ride.
To prevent rearing, spend more time working with your horse on the ground. The point is to establish yourself as a leader. Leading exercises such as walking in straight lines, circles and direction changes will help your horse learn how to move forward and in different directions when you want it to.
While you would never want to intentionally scare your horse, performing a few desensitisation exercises can get them used to objects and situations that may seem like a threat. Introduce your horse to various stimuli like plastic bags or umbrellas to desensitise them to potential fears.
Get them comfortable with equipment
Another way to keep your horse’s body on the ground is to get it used to its riding equipment. Practice haltering and bridling, ensuring the horse remains calm and accepts the equipment willingly. Test a bit in your horse’s mouth to make sure this fits comfortably too.
Pay attention to your horse’s behaviour
Inadequate training, especially in the early stages, can often lead to rearing problems. It’s important to instil a solid training foundation right from the start.
You also want to pay close attention to how your horse behaves in various situations. What makes them anxious? Is your horse’s head bobbing? Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional if you need guidance on how to make your horse feel more comfortable.
Is rearing a permanent problem in horses?
Not necessarily. Rearing is often just a symptom of an unhappy or scared horse, not an ongoing concern. It’s important to work with your horse on the ground to establish yourself as a leader. Over and above training, your horse should always be comfortable before and during a ride.
How do I know if a horse doesn’t like being ridden?
With the right care and training, it’s possible for any horse to enjoy being ridden. An uncooperative horse is usually one that is uncomfortable or scared. Make sure the saddle and bit are always placed correctly. You may also want to get a vet to perform a check-up to eliminate any health problems.
The thought of a rearing horse should never prevent you from saddling up. The team at Strathorn Farm is always here to help.
Along with knowing what to do at that moment, there are also steps you can take to reduce any risks of injury and unpleasant riding experiences, including thorough training and knowing how to saddle your horse correctly.