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HomeFixing a Rearing Horse

Rearing Horse – Pat Parelli

If your horse is rearing up, it is likely happening for one of two reasons:

• The horse is being held back. • The horse feels trapped or cornered.

The Parelli natural horse training approach is opposed to punishing horses for rearing, mostly because it’s a fearful reaction that is often caused by the handler or rider, albeit unintentionally.

Because natural horsemanship always begins by understanding any problem from the horse’s point of view, we ask you to consider horses’ rearing behavior like this: your horse has a driving, forward desire yet there’s something in his mouth that is holding him back. If you hold him back strongly enough there is only one way left for the horse to go – UP!

Some people think their horse is rearing up to intimidate the rider but something important to understand is that the horse is just being a horse and thinking like a horse. He’s naturally a fearful, claustrophobic animal whose main defense is to run away. If you’re holding him back and not allowing him to run, he’s going to move in the only direction he can.

Usually it’s more flighty horses that rear, and of course that makes you want to hold them back. They’ll begin by tossing their heads, and then proceed to rearing behavior if it gets bad enough.

How to Stop Horses Rearing

• You start by understanding why your horse is rearing up and refrain from punishing him for his natural reaction/behavior. • Then, you take steps to change your approach and your behavior in order to gain or regain your horse’s total confidence in you. • Next, stop using two reins to control your horse and learn to control him with one rein.

These three things will dramatically change your horses rearing behavior.

You can learn the Parelli specialized techniques for natural horse training with an at-home study course. The best place to start would be The Seven Games: The Secret of Teaching Horses DVD, then go to the Calm Ride DVD. Both of these DVDs will give you new and effective strategies right away.

Next, we suggest you learn your horse’s particular personality type by studying the Parelli Horsenality™ system, so you begin to really understand your horse. The Natural Attraction DVD is a great way to learn how to get your horse to want to be with you instead of trying to get away from you. All these great natural horse training DVDs can help you with your horse’s rearing problem and any other horse training challenges your facing. You’ll be amazed at the results and success stories you’ll have!


Rearing Under Saddle – Causes and Solutions

by Mike Kinsey

Before we start with a cure, let's start with a cause. If the person trying to cure the issue is the cause of the issue, we need to take away the problem before addressing the symptom.

Someday maybe I'll see a second reason, but so far it is always too much bit, and too much pull by the rider causing the horse irritation over the unfairness, to the point of frustration. Over the years I've become numb to riders telling me "I wasn't in the horse's mouth".

Rearing under saddle is an unpleasant reaction. In its extreme form, flipping over, this action can be life threatening. Understand, it is a reaction. The following are two posting I made after reading suggestions to "pop" the horse between the ears for rearing.

Before we start with a cure, let's start with a cause. If the person trying to cure the issue is the cause of the issue, we need to take away the problem before addressing the symptom.

THE PROBLEM: Every time I've been asked to assist with solving a rearing problem, it has always been a rider problem, and a horse symptom. Tie downs and popping between the ears does not address the problem but rather the symptom. If the problem continues, the tie down and popping increases the frustration which makes the symptom worse. It does not matter if the rearing is at mud holes, roads, barrels, on the track, roping, or wherever....

Someday maybe I'll see a second reason, but so far it is always too much bit, and too much pull by the rider causing the horse irritation over the unfairness, to the point of frustration. Over the years I've become numb to riders telling me "I wasn't in the horse's mouth". When we humans panic, or are stressed, we don't know what we do. So if you struggle, get a horsey friend to give you some feedback. The quality of the feedback will be directly related to what you're the horsey friend knows. It won't increase with what the friend thinks they know. Pick carefully.

A SOLUTION: Almost every time, … it has not mattered with me in the saddle or an assistant. With few exceptions, within a few minutes of riding with soft hands, and dumping the harsh bit, the rearing was no longer an issue. Harsh bit is defined by the mouth of the beholder. A very few needed additional work. My opinion…. Is that rearing up is the horse frustrated with what it perceives as abuse. Let's not confuse rearing with flipping over. Another opinion here…. My observations make me believe flipping over is when a horse is so frustrated by the abuse it feels no recourse but to come over backwards. I walk with a gimp on rainy days from being talked into riding a horse that flipped over when I was a young trainer. Frankly, I'm dang glad to have just the gimp. And I don't take horses that flip over.

I never pull with two reins. Never. I never pull with a lead rope when leading either. What can a person accomplish by pulling with either? Pulling on two reins you can teach a horse to pop up his head, or if you keep at it, you can teach him to rear, or if you keep at it, you can teach him to flip over. Tie downs are useful in postponing going from popping up the head to flipping over. They certainly do not relieve the frustration that cause the behavior. But when that critical moment occurs, there won't be much rearing. Call 911.

Ramifications: So why do we see rearing at obstacles? Generally because riders get stressed and don't manage the reins or the horse appropriately, or don't know how to manage. I see riders who either don't "see" the horse starting to spin away, so they are way behind the horse's action and are trying to re–act, or just are not skilled enough to act, and must re–act. Now the horse is stressed by the obstacle, and the horse is stressed by the rider who is stressed, the natural horse reaction is — Run Away!.

So as the stressed rider now knows he/she is losing control, he/she does what comes natural and instinctual; pull the reins. Now we have a stressed horse not only getting jerked around while trying to flee this really stressful situation, but now the rider is pulling the horse's face up. If the horse can't run away, what alternative does the horse have but to rear?

Why do we see rearing at ropings, barrels, and other competitive events? Because folks are not dealing with the problem of stressed or overly energetic horses, they are trying to deal with winning, and to heck with the horse. The "quick–fix solution" A bigger bit… which leads to frustration and rearing. Then the tie–down, which leads to more frustration.

Green horses and green riders are not a good mix. This is a common comment by many on this forum.

All advice on the forum comes with equal standing. But there are people that may go home and use stuff that will get them hurt. Worse (my opinion) is that horses suffer. I'll apologize for offending, but not for pointing out what horses don't deserve.

Someone can have owned and ridden for thirty years and still be "green". Other times I see folks who have been riding for 5 years that blow the socks off "experienced" folks.

A better solution…. We use Start 'em Right as our trademark because our belief is that it is easier to bring a horse along without mistakes, then it is to spend time fixing mistakes and causing the horse a lifetime of baggage. If you want to train your own, give your horse your best shot. Take the time to read, and watch and learn. And figure out how to recognize the wheat from the chaff. (You know I had to re–write that twice.)

As far as crossing obstacles, for novices, I'll defer to the "Back Country Basic Trail Training articles in Western Horseman 2003. AHP thought they were good enough to earn the years Best Educational Series. For better riders, I'll refer to the posting at

When again asked "what to do with a horse rearing under pressure", I posted the following:

Again, rearing under saddle is rider induced. Re–train or replace the rider, and the rearing goes away.

Don't believe it? Go watch a herd of horses. The only time you will see rearing is when they are playing or if you should see stallions posturing and fighting. If a horse gets stressed by fear of something, he does not rear, he runs away. If the horse can't flee, it will either attack with its teeth or its feet. Rearing, and the ultimate expression of rearing, flipping over, is not a natural reaction to stress.

Decades of experience has convinced me that rearing under saddle is a reaction to stress of any kind, coupled with not being allowed to move away from the stress. I don't believe it matters if the stress is fear, frustration, too dang much feed and stall time, or just a heavy handed rider. Rearing is a reaction to the horse's not being allowed to express itself with it's feet. (Backing, jigging, sidestepping, bouncing and a host of other equally irritating but less dangerous actions are also manifested by this attempt of a rider to bottle up the horse's feeling of need to move.)

A rider that understands this instinctual need to go knows better than to control it with force or pain. A horseman removes the option of rearing, by allowing the horse to move, but directing its focus. A person who does not understand this and takes the "by golly the horse will stop when I say or I'll ...." is merely a statistic waiting to happen. It is no different than the folks who punish a horse for spooking. Adding pain to stress does not make things less stressful for the horse, but results in more stress, more violence, and more injuries. Training is the solution. This debate of control through pain versus training has raged longer than you and I have been alive.

As long as there are folks with horses that do not understand horse psychology, there will be rearing. Tiedowns and popping a horse between the ears does NOT address the problem. And they add more stress to an already stressed horse.

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