Reform a Rearing Horse
Story by JONATHAN FIELD
Photography by ROBIN DUNCAN
Canadian horseman Jonathan Field explains what causes a horse to rear, and shares how to safely correct the negative reaction.
Rearing is a tactic some horses use to evade certain cues, and it causes riders to lose confidence in their ability and in their horse. When I first observed Laura and “Red” at one of my clinics, I knew the horse had a bit of a “bomb” in him; if you pressed the wrong button, you found yourself in big, explosive trouble.
When a horse can easily get its rider to work around or avoid issues by doing something like rearing, he learns that the rider will simply stop asking for anything that ignites that bomb. The horse’s reactions start to train the rider. Over time, the rider’s list of things he or she cannot do gets longer, and the list of things that the rider can do gets shorter.
Red had a strong and resistant brace on the right, and when asked for lateral bend to the right, the bomb’s detonator was quickly activated. In determining why any horse has negative behaviors, I first explore the possibility of a physical problem because pain can be the cause. In this case, the horse had been examined by a veterinarian and other equine health specialists to be certain there wasn’t a physical reason for the issue. Red had passed the exams, which led me to believe that the source of the problem was a behavioral challenge.
As the clinic progressed and riders asked more of their horses, Red became more animated and resistant each time he was asked to bend to the right. As I tried to help Laura, it was difficult to communicate exactly what she needed to do, and I felt I could help Laura better by riding Red myself.