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Moonfire - Fixing a Rearing Problem - Part 1
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   29th Feb 2012   •   8,120 views   •   11 comments
Fixing a Rearing ProblemIt all started around November 2011 – I couldn’t tell you what caused it. Sometimes there is no cause – young horses are constantly going through phases, which are seldom triggered by anything at all – and this was just one of Moony’s phases.

At the time, his flatwork had come on in leaps and bounds, and he was working better than I’d ever felt before. He was showing an excellent lengthened trot, leg yields, and a fantastic rein back. He maintained the contact beautifully, and worked with lovely balance and rhythm. I even began introducing a little half pass, turns on the haunches and forehand, and even the beginning stages of a canter pirouette when he was at his best.

He had taken a huge leap forward in his work – but as all riders of young horses know, every step forward comes with ten steps back. Perhaps Moony began to find the work too difficult? Perhaps he just thought it would be easier not to do it, who knows? No matter the reason, Moony began to avoid his work. Every horse has its avoidance tactics – but as was to be expected of such a henceforth exceptional young horse, Moony’s was particularly extravagant.

Moony began to rear.
They started off small, just the odd little head-toss, with his forelegs popping off the ground for a moment. I shrugged it off, and rode him forward, but when the little rear threats became more and more frequent, I began to worry.

I had his back, teeth and saddle checked – nothing.

I tried changing his bit from the snaffle back to the rubber straightbar, and this made a small difference, but it did not solve the problem. Eventually it got to the point that, as soon as I took up a contact, Moony would rear.

This phase lasted 4 whole months, and by the end of it, Moony’s rears had become far more extravagant than at the start. He would go nearly vertical, and add a fancy little flourish with pawing forelegs. Sometimes he’d go right up and leap forward off his hind legs. Of course, this was his rearing at its worst, but still – it became a nasty habit.

Fixing a Rearing Problem

In this article, I’ll be telling you how I faced this problem.

No sane rider enjoys sitting a rear. Even I get intimidated at times when the horse goes that little bit too high, and I feel like I’m on the edge of falling over backwards. That, I think, must be nearly every rider’s greatest fear – falling backwards to the ground with half a ton of horse on top of you. It sure doesn’t sound very pleasant to me.

The human mind is ruled by fear – it’s natural, it’s just our sense of self-preservation – so when a horse rears, and we feel our lives in danger, we are automatically tempted to take rash action.

This is WRONG!

I’m sure you’ve heard the cruel methods people come up with to stop rearing. Things like smacking the horse over the poll, or breaking a glass bottle over his head. Now, not many of us will be that rash, but I’m sure I speak for most of us when I say that, to a rider, rearing seems a big deal – and so we make a big deal out of it.

Your horse tugs the reins out of your hands, you shrug and gather them up again – maybe with a little kick, or a word of scolding. But if our horse rears, we have a dramatic screaming fit, maybe give him a smack, a sharp boot in the ribs... Most times I see a horse rear, I see a rider lose their cool. The logic is understandable: Make that first rear such a TERRIBLE experience that the horse will never think to try it again. Makes sense, right? After you burn your finger on the stove, you’re not going to touch the stove again in a hurry flawless logic.

Human logic.

When I’m trying to retrain a human, maybe I’ll give you a call...

Horses, as it were, think slightly differently. They remember comfort and discomfort, and respond thusly. When you make a big deal of a rear – sure, they remember the discomfort, but do you know what else they remember? The rear. The more you fuss and fret about it, the more the horse gets that idea lodged into his mind. The key to fixing any problem, and keeping it from becoming a habit, even in a young horse, is not extreme punishment. The answer is simple: You just ignore him.

You sit the rear appropriately (I will discuss the correct way to sit a rear in a later article), wait for him to touch back down, and ride him forwards again. Scold him, let him know he was wrong, but not any more than you do for any other little problem. Tell him "No", and nudge him forward – then continue whatever you were doing before. He’ll learn that rearing does not get him attention, and that it does not let him escape work, and eventually he should stop doing it. It could well be a long process, which will take a LOT of patience and persistence, but you just have to keep your cool and work through it.

Some people say a rearer can’t be cured. Patience? Persistence? I think not.

Read on next time for further information!
Dark Star  
My friend had a barrel horse who picked up the nasty habit of rearing at the gate and when stopped. She tried everything (This was a seasoned barrel horse) til she found the thing that made it stop for a while. She crushed a egg between her ears. This didn't fix the problem it only made it go into remission for a while. She no longer has this horse because of the fact she started flipping over. They sold her to a 'problem horse' trainer. Whatever.

Good article!
  Feb 29, 2012  •  7,511 views
 
Madeirey  
wOW O_O Those are some fancy rears Mooney! I'm so glad he didn't fall on top of you...
  Feb 29, 2012  •  7,508 views
 
Double Spur Ranch  
Wow very good article! Very useful also!
  Mar 1, 2012  •  7,530 views
 
hylandrockxxx  
WOW !! :O ........
  Mar 1, 2012  •  7,732 views
 
Emmurr  
So far, this article is actually quite enjoyable, I'm looking forward to reading the rest!
I have a Dutch mare who, every time she comes across pigs or decided that she REALLY doesn't want to go out hacking, will go straight up (while spinning) and these are some serious rears when upon landing she will proceed to snatch the reins out of your hands and attempt to bolt home. We've tried everything to stop her, even sending her to a brilliant trainer, she's just never stopped. The thing that stopped me hacking her all together was when she tried it on the edge of a very steep, high up drop off (on a track along a steep hillside) and was at risk of killing us both when she almost went over the edge (She looses all sense). I got off and lead her past, I think if I hadn't done that I would have been dead now, although I really do hate getting off because it reinforces the fact that rearing will stop you riding them.
Fortunately, even though she gets bored out hacking, she adores schoolin
  Mar 1, 2012  •  7,519 views
 
Southern Devil  
My barrel pony Blackie was (and still is, considering she's 23) a hard core barrel pony. She holds records all around the state against big NBHA horses. She used to buck and rear. So I decided to make it into a trick, so everytime we'd go to a show, before we'd run, we do a quick buck. Afterwards, when we'd smoke all the big horses we'd do a "victory rear" I got her when I was 11 and I'm 14 now. :) People would think she was some crazy pony, my mom would always smile and reply, "Nah, my daughter knows what she's doing. She trained her to do it. It's completely controllable!"
  Mar 1, 2012  •  8,079 views
 
MoonBeam  
This is a little creepy- One of my horses is called Moony....and he used to have a major bucking problem....

Great article though!
  Mar 2, 2012  •  7,730 views
 
Run Free  
Angel's little stages never last over one month but every time she is behaving they come into action just a little at least once a month. Thankfully the worst rear Angel has done was only about 5cm above the ground and she never tried it again even though I only gave her tap with the whip on the shoulder and a stern 'no'
  Mar 2, 2012  •  7,574 views
 
Rusted Faith  
I'm pleased that you said not to punish the horse. Too many people consider it acceptable to give a horse a rather extreme punishment for bucking and rearing, which in most cases only seem to make it worse as the horse is then scared of its rider.

You say that he is a young horse, how old is he? I've heard of 5 and 6 year olds who have just got to the brink of training and are trying more experianced things, then rearing out of pure confusion. Obviously I cannot judge or critisise you as I don't know you or your horse, but have you considered the posibility that the aids you were giving him for new things hasn't confused him, which may have caused his rearing?

PS: (I don't know why I am doing a PS, it just seems logical) I am in no way calling you a bad rider, or saying that the aids you are giving him are incorrect, I am just thinking of posible reasons why his rearing would become so extreme.
  Mar 3, 2012  •  7,542 views
 
Empathy  
Polo, your amazing. xD Great, great, article!
  Mar 12, 2012  •  7,510 views
 
Run Free  
I have nearly read all your articles now :0 the pony I used to ride tried to rear once, he was a seriously bad attention seeker. All he wanted was attention and he thought rearing would get him attention, he never tried a little rear, only big extravagant rears (which helped me with angels vertical rears when she was in pain) and it stopped once I simply rode forwards and did nothing about it, he got no attention and stopped after a few days. Thankfully I knew it was just for attention and chose to completely ignore him, that in fact was the worst punishment he could imagine and he must now associate rearing with being ignored and for an attention seeker that is a horrible experience. And thankfully angels rears stopped with a dentist visit
  Jan 16, 2013  •  7,633 views
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