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The Case Of The Flipping Horse

She writes to me...

Don't know how I found your site but I printed your article on rearing to give to our trainer.... it really sounds so's the situation as written to another web site.... I am really trying hard to find out what the problem might be..... We live in Idaho. I really appreciate any suggestions. If you saw a video of our daughter riding this horse in early June you would not believe this is the horse that I am describing.... The reason that we bought her is because she is such a sweetheart. No one is riding this horse until we can figure this out. She gives no warning and flips quick. I checked with the AQHA and she does not have "Impressive" in her can reach me at ***********.com... Thanks!

And includes emails (I'm assuming they're emails) she has sent to others...

I have a 4 year old quarter horse mare that our whole family has fallen in love with completely.... Today was a nightmare. We had sent this mare for 6 weeks training so that our 10 year old daughter would have a well trained horse..... no problems, smart mare, great stable..... we brought her home 3 weeks ago and have been bonding to this sweet horse. No problems other than a little nipping (read your answer about treats:-).....) and the fact that she does have a problem with her head..... swinging it up when you put on the bridle....... The halter goes on no problem.... she just drops her head in and we buckle it up.......In the past 3 weeks, we have been riding 3 times a week, longeing her before we ride... just in a pasture area, no rails..... so it's not the same set up as at the stable.... not the same discipline.... I have had a high school girl with lots of riding experience helping us with 2- 2hour lessons, great time, great experiences.... not hard work-outs, just riding around the corral, up and down the driveway.....

Today, our trainer (30 years experience) came to give our daughter her first lesson here at home. We longed great for a good 20 minutes in an open 70-90 ft area, our daughter rode for a good 15 minutes fine and then the horse didn't want to go..... Our daughter needed to be more aggressive, but the session was going so smooth. The horse again didn't want to move so the trainer had our daughter get off the horse. The trainer got on and rode fine for several minutes..... THEN comes the nightmare..... the horse out of the blue, rears up, falls back, the instructor scrambles off, and the horse stands. The instructor was thankfully not hurt but surprised at her behavior because it was totally out of her character (In her 6 weeks of training nothing like this happened at all).... she mounted again right away, rode the horse for several more minutes while the mare did great once again.... THEN as soon as she put just a little pressure on the large snaffle bit boom.... up again, horse falls back over again.

By this time the trainer was bugged...... I wasn't sure if it was a contest of the wills.... but knew that the trainer was going to win, not the horse...... She put the horse back on the longe line and started again.... the horse reared again, repeat..... I am thinking holly smokes!.... where went our sweet horse! We repeat again.... this time the horse reared, went back 15 extra feet, stepping off a 8' edge of bank backwards down into a hole on her back.... I was sick.... I thought the horse had broken something for sure!...She just laid there until we pulled her up! She was unbelievably unhurt! I am still in a blur of the events.....

My first and utmost concern is safety! Good grief! If it had happen once.... I would have considered it an accident.... but 4 times???? Will this horse ever be safe for my daughter??? Can problems like this be resolved??? The only other clue that I might be able to add is that I just found out that the horse had gone to another trainer prior to our purchacing the horse.... If she had bad experience there ( her sensitive month??) I don't know if I would get the truth anyway.... The owner of the horse seemed to be very straight forth about the sale, guaranteeing the horse, but also saying the she was not selling her as a children's horse because of her young age.

We have now had the horse 2 months. We had a horse dentist look at her mouth a month a ago to make sure everything was fine teeth wise and bit wise.... we used a large rubber bit in training..... we just love this horse! Help! Do I ever trust her again???? I am so appreciative of your web site..... what great information!... and I did read about the other horse with a somewhat similar situation....Please answer soon! Thanks so much!


and then 3 weeks later....

I thought that I might ask your opinion on a couple of more questions (previous question posted here).... Sometimes I not sure if I have a horse problem or a "horse-people" problem..... You seem to have the most common sense approach.... We left the horse alone for three weeks, except for longing....lunging (sp?) and she did just fine. Had a trainer scheduled to come and ride her here at our home. He arrived and told us that she needed 90 days training at their place. I decided that if I was going to send the horse out again that I would stick with the people that I know and trust the most.....

We had her at the stable for 8 days again just longing her... no problems except that she had been "dreadfully" in heat... their words... Day 9 the trainer puts her on the drive lines and she rears and flips 10 times. I was not present but they gave me this report....They have never in all their experience seen such craziness! She goes up and over very quickly and lays there. She does not care if she hurts herself. She threw herself into the wood walls of the arena more than once. The trainer has lots of experience with horses that flip because he worked with race horses that flip in the gate. He is determined to see this through. He threw a blanket on her and threw water on her.... he tried every trick he had ever had to use...Day 10, he puts her on the drive lines and works her for 10 minutes with total success. She thought about doing her flip trick, but thought against it... They gave her lots of praise and put her away. Day 11, She goes through the routine almost by herself.... as though she is saying.... "I'll be good, I'll be good".... One time she thought about going up, but again decided against it. They kept the session short and put her away on a good note.

This morning he is going to try "pushing her"? a little bit more...I think the term was "up in the bit".... This weekend if she remains good he will try and ride. The trainer said she longes perfectly and would do so until the cows come home. I guess at this point I am going day by day......

Options??? I guess in the back of my mind I'm wondering about the trust factor..... What do you think??? The vet is coming out again to check her mouth or any other physical possibility... We had her checked the end of May.... Some horses can only use a hackamore(sp?)... If this horse is unpredictably dangerous, if we sold her with full disclosure, how do you know that she won't be sold again? Can you put a marker on her registration? Should we just turn her into a brood(sp?) mare at 5? I read about your $12 thousand dollar "mistake"... luckily, we are only into this 6.... I don't care about the money.... although I am about spent out.... I care about my daughter, her feelings about horses, and the well being of this horse .....

We still love her!...Maybe Hollywood needs a sharp looking, too smart, flipper.....:->..... Maybe I should have leased the 20 year old down the road named "Ol' Johnson"..... Thank you for any insight or additional information.....


Mr. Hall..... The trainer had 5 successful separate days with our mare on the drive lines.... everytime she would think about doing her flip trick she thought it though and decided against it.... Today we had a different vet come out and check her mouth. He could find nothing wrong with her mouth. They can send her to Washington State University for a MRI for neurological testing, but it is very expensive. I guess we could use that as a last option...

The vet had a problem with a mare that would behave this way when she was in heat. Have you ever heard of Norplant for horses? The trainer wants to send her back to our home for a few months so that our daughter can still feel like she has a horse. He wanted to send her home on a good note....

We were really hoping that the vet would find the clue to our problem. In October, the trainer will work her again and ride her then and we will take it slow and easy.

One more question?....If we decide to breed her when she is five, what are the chances of her passing this on to her offspring? Thanks so much again..... I would like any feed back at all as to other horses that might have had a history of flipping....

My mind is reeling, I can only imagine what yours is doing.

First of all I want to say that I am operating strictly from information that I have received in an email. I have no knowledge of this situation beyond what you have read on this page.

Rearing is unquestionably the most dangerous movement a horse can make. It is also by far and away one of the most complicated problems to correct. Dealing with a rearing horse requires GREAT care and extreme caution both in discovering the cause and stopping the behavior. The number one first step to take with a rearing horse is to immediately stop riding it until the cause is discovered and efforts have been made to correct it.

In my opinion, horses rear for essentially two reasons. Pain, or when they are placed in a situation where they are prevented from turning when unwilling to go forward (also known as rebellion, evasion, fear or one of a number of mental problems).

The number two first step in dealing with a rearing horse is to refrain from digging through one's bag of tricks in hopes of finding one to use.

Regardless of the reason for rearing, force or repeatedly putting the horse in the rearing situation without prior remedial efforts is NEVER the solution - the horse will not rear itself out. You may be able to force the horse to resist the cause of the rearing but the cause will surface again and it usually surfaces at a point where your vigilance is down.

Intentionally flipping the horse, tie-downs, hitting the horse between the ears with anything, throwing a wet blanket on her, or using any of a myriad of "tricks" do not work.

By definition of work, or success, I mean (and I'm being generous here) that if you used the same trick in 100 rearing situations, you could count on a 25% success rate. In my opinion these old "tricks" survive because occasionally after one of these tricks is tried the behavior stops. Let's say, for instance, a horse rears because it has cervical vertebrae severely out of whack. The horse gets flipped, either on his own or manually, and the vertebrae get slammed back into place when the horse hits the ground. The horse no longer rears because the vertebrae no longer pains as badly. The flipper then forever tells everyone he knows of with a horse that rears, "Flip him, that's how I fixed mine!" It is not the trick that works, it is the removal of the cause.

But most of the time these tricks only make the problem worse. Regardless of whether it is a pain or fear cause, the trick treatment may increase the pain and will almost certainly justify the fear.

Step number three would be to determine which of the two reasons, or a combination of the two reasons, is the cause of the rearing. If it is pain, one addresses it differently than if it is fear. I always start with the pain possibilities first because when a horse is in pain, it is impossible to have the horse's total attention and because the far greater percentage of rearing horses I deal with have severe pain issues.

If I am unable to find any pain issues (and just because I am not able to find any pain issues doesn't mean there aren't any) then I can deal with the fear issues more easily. Eliminating pain and then eliminating fear is the most logical approach.

ANYTIME a horse abruptly stops doing something it did freely and willingly, I suspect pain. Horses are the most tractable animals imaginable, it is really unusual for them to abruptly switch gears.

I believe we have a relatively young horse here (yes, I know she's 4) and all things considered has had a lot of training compressed into a short span of time (yes, 6+ weeks is a short time). In addition to accepting a rider she has had to learn how to balance herself AND the rider who is also "training" at the same time she's learning just to carry herself. When a horse is in the beginning stages of training, things get sore, twisted and strained more easily.

No matter what anyone says, a horse is NOT fully trained in 6 weeks. It takes a LOT of wet saddle blankets to train a horse, especially one a child is going to ride.

If we eliminate mouth problems ("We used a rubber bit in training"? Have you changed to something else since?), and in this case we'll assume we have because a couple of practitioners have examined her mouth, we can begin to look elsewhere for the source of the problem.

At one point a "little pressure was placed on the large snaffle bit" and we had a major problem. I have difficulty in seeing how one puts this kind of pressure on a snaffle. I would expect this term to be used with a shanked bit or a broken curb such as that unholy Tom Thumb bit. Tom Thumbs cause more wrecks than any other bit in my experience. It is impossible to use that bit without sending a lot of conflicting signals and activating a number of pressure / pinch points.

Horses move towards pain or the expectation of pain. We see this when we watch them "fighting." If the attacker goes for the head the victim goes up. If the attacker goes for the leg, the victim goes down. If a horse crowds us and we lose it and begin wailing on it and yelling, "GET OFF!!" it moves towards us. If we have a bit problem the horse could move in any direction to deal with the pain.

But in the narration about we have all kinds of things setting the horse off and the results from those actions on top of the causes really complicate the situation. This makes for an incredibly difficult challenge. And it is even more complicated by the fact that children are at risk.

Let me add here that just because several practitioners have checked something out and found nothing doesn't mean there isn't something wrong. Some very obvious injuries can be overlooked by the most experienced practitioner. Traditional vets, as a general rule, overlook things that are not actually swollen, bleeding, oozing or overheated. This is not to say that vets are shoddy and worthless because that is not the case. Practitioners tend to look for the things they see the most and few horse owners bring their horses to the vet for anything that isn't glaringly obvious.

I believe horses move toward pain, or the expectation of pain. One can observe this behavior when one horse attacks another. If the attacker goes toward the victim's head, the victim goes up. If the attacker goes for the victim's leg, the victim goes down. On those occasions when one has lost it and wailed away on a horse with a crop or what have you, chances are good the horse moved into the whipper. When you see a balky horse being whipped on the hind quarters by the rider, the horse backs up. If the horse is not moving away, or has no time to flee the attack, it will move toward the attack. Nature says the closer you are to the beginning of the impact, the less damage you'll sustain.

This principle can help locate the source of bucking and rearing problems. With this horse the neck would be the first place I'd look. I'd be pretty much willing to bet this horse has cervical vertebrae that are out of alignment. Since she has been over numerous times and even "stepping off a 8' edge of bank backwards down into a hole on her back" I also suspect she has numerous other injuries that may go undetected...sprung ribs (rotated rib cage even), scapula dislocations, thoracic & lumbar subluxations, sacrum problems.

I suggest extensive chiropractic for this mare. If you are unable to find an equine chiropractor, try talking your human chiropractor into coming out for a look at the horse. While they may have no experience with equines, they have experience with skeletal alignments and something is better than nothing. You may be able to find an equine chiro at

Do I think this horse is recoverable? Quite possibly. Judging from this mare's history I think that it will take about 6 months and a few chiropractic adjustments.

I do not believe this horse is suitable for a 10 year old due to the ages of both parties and (unless the 10 year old is a **WAY** beyond her years horse person), the relative inexperience of each. Usually my age of horse recommendation is, the younger the rider, the older the horse.

Another recommendation...keep the trainers away from this horse until the physical problems have been located and addressed. And when the physical issues have been addressed, stay away from those who use force to accomplish their goals.

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