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Horses Who Rear

Rearing is a very dangerous problem and should be dealt with only by those who are capable and experienced enough to deal with it.

In all my years of horses, I have heard of all kinds of rearing "cures" ranging from breaking bottles on the head so the horse thinks it's hurt itself and is bleeding to death (Yeah, right) to pulling it over backwards (a technique also known as "sandwich the human").

Some people revert to martingales and tie downs but a horse can still rear. A rear is in the hindquarters. All the horse has to do is shift his weight back over his hindquarters and he can rear. Instead of holding the head down, a mechanical device should hold the butt *up*. Most so called "cures" give no thought to carefully analyzing the cause of the problem. If a cause cannot be established and corrected the horse should not be ridden. Hit and miss with a rearing horse is a form of riding roulette.

I believe a horse rears for basically two reasons...

One...It has a physical problem that causes it pain or fear severe enough to be violently evaded. Neck or spinal vertebrae out of place, a mouth problem such as teeth or bit injury or abscess, or any number of other conditions.

I would suspect a physical problem if the horse reared for no apparent reason or as the result of a physical action on the part of the rider.

First, I would look in the upper front quarter of the horse for a problem based upon the fact that horses move toward pain or the expectation of pain. This is demonstrated by observing sparring horses in a pasture. If the attacker goes for the head, the intended victim tries to get his head high. If the attacker goes for a leg, the intended victim dips toward the attacker's head. When you are on a sullied horse cropping its rear, it usually backs. If you are seriously whipping a horse it tends to come toward you rather than going away. (Neither of these two acts are acceptable horse handling behaviors.) Since the horse goes up in the act of rearing, I would suspect a high problem, if the cause of the rearing is physical.

Some feel a horse's feet may be a rearing cause. Stone bruise, founder, navicular, etc. I feel that feet are an unlikely cause because a low injury would tend to make the horse limp (i.e. get closer to the pain) for relief rather than rear, the feet need to be cared for. A horse with bad, tender or painful feet should not be ridden, but if the true cause of a horse's rearing is discovered somehow, I doubt it will be the feet.

Before doing anything I would examine the horse's neck and back. I would look and feel for any bulges on either side of the neck. I would look to see if the horse was ewe necked. I would try to look down the horse's neck at rest to see if the neck was reasonably straight to a side to side center line. If it looks like a snake, or the horse raises and lowers its head jerkily as it grazes or you have any or all of the other conditions, you have a problem that certainly can cause rearing. Just as any vertebrae out of place in the back can cause bucking or bolting, a vertebra in the neck can cause rearing. But because back problems can cause neck problems, any problem vertebrae should be addressed in a rearing case.

I would also examine the mouth. I would make sure the bit is not banging on any teeth or jabbing into the roof of the mouth. Many rearing horses have wolf teeth and canines that may need extracting. The bit hits these teeth and you have pain. (Remember what happens to your head when you are chowing down and your fork jabs your teeth?) Many times wolf teeth are not extracted because they have not erupted for some reason and/or when extracted, are often merely broken off below the gum line. I would check to insure there are no teeth where the opposite tooth is missing. I would check to insure all of its teeth are facing in the correct direction. I would check to insure the insides of the cheeks are not scarred or lacerated by broken or pointed teeth.

If you are using a Tom Thumb, the so called "colt starting bit," run, don't walk, to the nearest trash can and dump it. This broken curb bit is billed by many as the first bit for a young horse and the common school of thought is that it is a mild bit. As a result it often ends up on older horses. Nothing could be further from the truth. The TT has at least 6 pinch, poke and squeeze actions that are implemented with the slightest rein action. I do not own a picture of the thing but if you don't know what one looks like go to your favorite search engine and enter the words ~ Tom Thumb ~. Whenever I demonstrate Tom Thumb action at a clinic it always causes surprise.

Once you know what a TT bit looks like be sure and watch a Hollywood western. You'll see a lot of Tom Thumb bits on the horses. The main clue to look for is a wide gapped mouth when the horses are neck reined. But I digress...

I would insure that the bit is properly seated (goes without saying it needs to be the proper bit), not too wide, not too narrow, doesn't pinch, etc. Do not think just because the bit fits properly that it cannot be causing a problem. The bridle must be holding the bit properly. If it isn't, head movement can cause bit inertia that will slam the bit into a sensitive part of the mouth. Some horses can hold concertina wire and not have a problem. Others can have a problem with a rubber snaffle.

Just because your vet, a massage therapist, whoever, has examined your horse and found nothing physical does not mean there is nothing physical. Most vets are conditioned by the demands of their practices to look for something swollen, bruised, bleeding, oozing, hot, or whatever. In the case of cervical, thoracic, lumbar or caudal vertebrae subluxations, he may not have a clue. Yet these can all cause serious handling and behavior problems.

There are many skeletal problems that aren't apparent to most vets. There are also many dental problems that also are not apparent to most vets. Nothing against the vets, it's just that the average owner doesn't bring a horse suffering from these things to the vet unless it is discovered by someone familiar with these "hidden" problems and the vet just doesn't see enough of them to suspect them.

By the time a horse gets to me it has usually been looked at by a half dozen vets, other practitioners as well as a long stream of friends, neighbors and trainers, and the problem is deemed "behavioral". Because I don't see many obvious problems in my "practice" I have to look deeper and I do find serious physical problems in a lot of the horses I work with. Is a physical problem ALWAYS the cause of a behavioral problem? No. But it is the cause often enough to always make me look for a physical problem first.

Many horses will not allow such thorough examinations which then brings us to the second reason...

The second reason horses rear is rebellion, evasion, fear or one of a number of mental problems. A horse who rears for one of these reasons simply has not been broke. It is not willing to accept the handler's direction. It may be rideable, but it is not broke.

Pulling a rearing over is NEVER the answer. Even the most experienced of us can be injured doing this, not to mention the safety of the horse. Mechanical corrections are nothing but band aids. They may hide the problem for a bit but eventually the band aid will fall off and the problem will be worse.

The first course of action with a horse like this is to go through bonding procedures with it to get it to the point where it will accept what the handler directs (within reason). After an hour or so of bonding, the horse can then be examined thoroughly for possible physical causes that may be more discernible once it has a willing relaxed attitude.

I have a bonding scenario that I use. It is a step by step procedure that *WILL* tremendously improve the horse's will to accept and cooperate with the handler's desires in minutes. It is also the mainstay of my Mind Meeting Mind Horsemanship method and what I teach my clients and at my clinics.

The procedure has come to be known as the "Bonder" but it actually is a horse herd dynamic scenario that establishes a leadership connection by having the human mimic the actions of a lead horse. A horse is genetically predisposed to act in a set manner when presented with these actions. I have put the procedure to print. For a free copy merely send any email to Bonder ~ Rearing. In a few moments you'll receive an automated message telling you some things I want you to know along with the current location of the procedure.

Another mental problem that can cause rearing is age. Let me go on record here...I want to be sure everyone understands what I'm saying...I don't want any doubt...a horse should be at least 4 years old before putting it under saddle. Prior to that it is mentally and physically not ready for the demands of riding.

Now I am going to get all kinds of people telling me they are riding young horses and having absolutely no problem. I even read one brag post on a list where a mere weanling had a saddle and child put on it. Save your typing. Your problems, whether handling or health, will come soon, or they will come later. For every one horse who is under saddle young and "has no problems" (yet) there are many, many more who do. I see them all the time. You might get away with it but the odds are against it.

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