West Virginia 2 year old TWH ridden in  and western /simco pleasure in large round pen, open trail by good rider.

Question: I have a rearing problem.
 I believe this problem started in the stall.  I have him next to an older gelding that is approx. 11yrs old.  When the horses would come into the barn for feeding the colt and gelding seemed to display aggressive play with each other.  The colt is about 14  hands and the divider between them is about 8 feet high.  The colt started rearing in his stall; I assume to "see" the older gelding.  (The colt has been casterated about 2 months now).  He  has reared one time when I was in the stall mixing feed, he was away from me and came down instantly when I had scolded him. 

 I have handle this colt since birth and he is an exceptionally  good natured.  I started ground training him and he has progressed very well with riding.  I am presently riding him with a tom thumb bit.  He has not been ridden hard about 20-30 min per day for about 3 weeks now. Under 1 hr total for trail. 

He is good with leg aids in turning right and left, stopping and going forward and backs a few steps (still needs improvement in  backing straight). There is still some head tossing and mouthing the bit. 

The rearing under saddle first started when he was on longe line, and I believe the line had got snag on the saddle.  (When he came up I did bring him over --for such behavior which obviously  cannot be tolerated)! Then the first episode on trail is when we went to cross a
creek.  Which he did finally cross-- confidently and not under extreme pressure.

Last night I was making the circle again but in the opposite direction.  When asked to go forward to somewhere he was fearful of he seemed to get higher rearing and now is straight up. I do not believe this has started from riding as I stated earlier.  But has carried over into the saddle.

My plan of attack is to hit him under the belly with a whip or rope when is comes up with me.  I do not want him to relate this to rider and since this is a vulnerable area to horses I hoping this will make him think twice for exposing this area.  My question is -- Is this appropriate and if not what is your suggestion in handling this given situation.

 Thank you


From Panelist Erica

First I will say - do not hit him from underneath! This could cause him to go up higher and actually flip over, many horses have died from this!

Second, when he goes up when you are on him, do not pull back on the reins at all. It will be harder to make him come down with a curb bit in his mouth as you do not have single control over each rein like you would a snaffle (even with a broken mouth). What you will want to check before riding him again is - saddle fit, be sure there is no other body pain that could cause this, bit fit, check teeth as well and be sure that your bridle fits appropriately and that there aren't any rough edges that could poke into him and cause pain. Now, rearing is usually one of many "escape" routes a horse will try. Usually rearing is when the horse feels that the rider is telling him to go forward but he either can't, isn't comfortable doing so, or is being told at the same time not to. When you tell him forward be sure you are not pulling back on the reins at all or telling him otherwise not to move forward. When he comes down from a rear be sure to reward him for coming down - do not discipline him once he has all four feet on the ground, it will do him no good. 

If you are on the ground and he rears you want to take a whip and hit his front feet on the cannons until his feet are on the ground. When he has all fours on the ground again reward him for coming down. Be sure to give him more praise than discipline! Under saddle I
personally have not had to work through it while using  a curb (I don't believe in using them, unless it is for refinement at PSG level dressage and even then you should be able to do all the movements in a snaffle) and so am not sure how to explain to you what may help/work. Curbs work very differently than snaffles in that you do not have individual
lateral control of the bit and the horse like you do a snaffle.. but I'm sure some of the
other panelists will be able to help direct you under saddle better. 

Good luck!
Erica Frei

From Panelist Lee

Horses rear under saddle for a number of reasons ... fear, evasion, confusion, lack of forward impulse, restriction or pain in the mouth/back. They rear on the ground for other reasons.  (dominance and "horse play" being some of them).  I don't think this horse is rearing with you on him just because he rears on occasion in his stall. They are two separate issues.  While the whip to the belly method might work on him from the
ground, it is not going to do you much good on his back when the reasons for his behavior are most probably evasion, confusion,  lack of forward impulse and too much bit.

So, to solve this problem while you are riding, you need to rethink some things.  First, does your saddle fit, and is the horse in any pain in his body from carrying you?  Remember that he is young, immature, and soft. What might not be stressful to a mature horse can be to him.  If the saddle fits and he is not in pain, then, IMO, ... you need less bit (a regular snaffle, full cheek is preferable) and a strategy to pursue when he first starts to think of rearing. As you well know, if this little habit continues for very long, it will become dangerous.  If you are not confident in your ability to ride this out, find a pro who can deal with it. But, if you want to deal with it yourself, first be honest about your ability to ride, be
sure you can ride really well, *put on a helmet*!!!! and get a set of spurs and a long dressage type whip.  Ride along as usual.  At the first sign that he is going up, lean slightly forward, drive him forward strongly with your legs, spurs and whip (on the butt, not the shoulder) , while slacking off rein contact completely. If he still thinks of going up, double
him, *hard* then drive him forward instantly. 

If this continues to be a problem on the trail, try riding  with another horse to give this young one some more confidence, (and to have someone there to pick up the pieces if you do come off).  It is not an easy problem to solve once ingrained.

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Liz

Hi Melissa,

I first of all think this colt is to young to be going undersaddle. Not only because of being structurally immature yet but also mentally. Give him time and the ground work is fine but should not be over done as well or you will burn him out early. It sounds to me like this
problem of rearing did start in relation to being under saddle first of all with the longe line, it was not his fault it got hung under the saddle and he was reacting to that,  I may have reacted the same way.

Now he is in a tom thumb bit. Have his wolf teeth been removed and have his teeth been floated before starting to bit him up. Next he should not be in a curb bit. As soon as that curb hits him under the jaw the one reaction to the uneducated horse is to go up. He
should be started in a snaffle. No curb, no shank and tom thumb is not a true snaffle but a curb bit with a broken mouth piece. The head  tossing is a sign of something is wrong in the mouth. A tom thumb bit can pinch the sides of the mouth due to the way the mouth piece is set into the shanks and when engages it also has a nut cracker effect around the
bottom jaw. All these things are unpleasant and can be painful to any horse.

Good luck and hope all can be repaired


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