Equine Behavior Questions and Answers

The Question: What should I do about a gelding who rears when on trail rides?

Early in the afternoon yesterday my mother and I were asked by my grandfather to exercise two horses up in his barn. My mother told me to ride my grandfatherís horse, Blaze. I have ridden this horse before and I dislike him. When I ride him, he normally chooses a very steep hill and rears and backs up every five feet or so until you take him back home. I have tried getting off of him and working him there, but he is very violent and gets spooky. He is fine to ride in the barn where there are four walls around him or when we are in the corral. I mounted, and my mother started leading Bandit in front and Blaze started dancing and then jumping forward. My mother got down to the bottom of the hill and said he needs exercise, take him to the top of the hill again and back. I walked him up the hill and he started jumping but it was minor so I kept riding it out. We got to the top of the hill and I went to walk him onto the grass and he stopped. I started talking very firmly to him because he had his ears pinned and I tried to get him to walk forward. Suddenly he reared several times. The fifth time, he flipped over. I donít know what to do with him now.

The Answer


Rearing is one behavior I will not tolerate in a horse. You need to get to the bottom of this behavior ASAP before someone gets hurt - or worse.

To start off, I would rule out any physical problems. Have your veterinarian check your horse over to make sure he's not in pain. Have him check his teeth for sharp points and check his back for soreness. Your vet should also watch the horse move to make sure there are no subtle signs of lameness you're missing.

Next, check his tack. Make sure the bridle fits properly and does not have any sharp pieces poking into the horse. Make sure the bit fits well and is not pinching his mouth. Check the saddle blanket and saddle for anything that presses into his back and make sure the saddle fits properly.

If you can rule out a physical cause for his behavior, then you need to hire a professional trainer to ride him and evaluate his behavior. If the professional can work through his rearing issues, then you need to take some lessons with the professional so you can continue building on that progress.

I cannot stress how dangerous rearing is. A rearing horse sent me to the hospital with a concussion and cracked ribs, and rearing horses have killed people. You need to enlist the help of your veterinarian and a professional trainer to help this horse overcome his issues.

The Equine Behaviorist

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