Q: Why do horses rear?
A: It is very important that you understand the reason why your horse rears before you can begin to eliminate the behaviour. Before you think about any other potential causes, you must get your horse checked by a vet, as pain is a very common cause of rearing in horses. Many riders dismiss this possibility as they say the rearing ‘only happens when they ask the horse to work so it must be a naughtiness issue’ but this is a big mistake. If your horse is sore, work will be uncomfortable for him, and if the work is hard any pain he is experiencing will be much worse, and may lead to extreme behaviours like rearing when he can longer cope.
Other things to consider include the following:
- Tight or poorly placed girths. Girthing issues are a surprisingly common cause of rearing.
- Other tack issues. Bitting or saddle fit issues can also result in rearing.
- Dental or vision problems. Have a professional check your horse for problems with his teeth or vision. A horse who has pain in the mouth or who cannot see properly, may rear as a panic response.
- Under or over-stimulation. If your horse is excitable they may rear as a way of expressing excess energy. Check that you are not feeding your horse too much sugary concentrate feed, and that he is getting sufficient turnout. If rearing is due to over-exuberance then it will likely be seen in the paddock as well as in the arena. It is therefore worth looking to see if you can establish any patterns to the behaviour, such as when it is most likely to occur as this can give clues as to whether energy related issues are the cause.
- Training issues. If you have ruled out the above problems, then you need to have a look at your horse’s training. Are there gaps in your training that might be making your horse frustrated, confused or entirely overwhelmed by what you are asking of him? If so, then you need to look at taking a few steps back, moving more slowly or getting a professional to assist you in progressing safely in your training.