Kansas 3 year old Saddlebred with 1 1/2 years pro training ridden in full cheek snaffle and saddle seat in pasture/large fenced riding area by intermediate rider

I brought my saddlebred home about one month ago, after 1.5 years of training. She had been doing very well until the last four months, when my trainer acquired her own barn. After the move to the new training barn, she started rearing and exhibiting head shyness. These problems only got worse and after no improvement, we brought her home. Her head shyness is improving but I'm wary of riding her due to the rearing. I believe she may be afraid of any pressure on the bit, even though we had many wonderful rides before the "new barn." Any suggestions? She gets upset even if I put slight pressure on the reins,  even from the ground, but she works beautifully with side reins. Also when should I ask for the rack??? Her trainer never asked, said she is too small to compete. ( 15-3) Any help will be greatly appreciated.  

Thanks for a website that helps non-pros!

From Panelist Carol

HI Deb, 

Sorry to hear that things are figuratively, I hope, "going backwards" with your mare. First, I would have her teeth checked thoroughly by a certified equine dentist.  Second, I would work on her head shyness by stroking her head softly a lot.  The tellington-jones t-touch system might have some good exercises to offer you, like stroking   her ears and  "drawing" circles on her ear tips.  Be very careful when you do climb aboard again.  I would recommend that you get good lateral flexion and hindquarter disengagement from the ground before you get back on, then do that first when you get on.  If you can  messaging your mare's hindquarters, she will find it difficult to rear.  Yes, I have tried this on a rearing problem and it was very effective. 

Forget about racking for now, and just get your mare friendly and safe again.  You can always write us later about the rack. 

Carol Camp Tosh 

From Panelist Erica

Firstly, if what you are doing is working to help her with her headshyness, keep doing it! 

Second, for her rearing - be sure to check her mouth. Does she have any wolf teeth, sharp molars, sores, cuts, etc? Does the bit fit her, is it uncomfortable to her? Is it a normal full cheek snaffle and not with twisted wire or some other harsh mouthpiece? You may want to first try a milder bit than what she has now if she doesn't have any physical/medical
problems with her mouth. Maybe try a rubber covered snaffle, or even a halter if she is okay with that. Go to the mildest thing you can and start working her that way. You are going to have to build her trust up as she obviously lost it with the last trainer.

If she is having a problem with the bit even on the ground, you will want to start working her through those on the ground first. Start by just working with her to simply lead next to you with the bridle on, be sure not to jerk, bump or pull hard on the bit though. Do not reprimand her with the bit either. Eventually work up to having her comfortable with some pressure on the bit consistently. When she gets comfortable with any handling on the ground with the bit in her mouth, think about starting to work with her under saddle. Before you get on her though - be sure her saddle fits, she doesn't have any sore spots on her back, etc. I would also recommend that for the first ride, you simply work in a halter. 

You want the first ride back to be a relaxing and easy one. Don't worry about teaching her anything just yet, you first need to build some confidence in her in the saddle that you are not going to hurt her. If in the event that she does rear while you are on her, do not pull on the reins at all - leave the reins go slack and be sure to put your weight forward, if you lean back you could throw her balance out enough for her to flip over onto you. Remember, rearing is one way that the horse is trying to tell you it either doesn't understand, or has no other outlet for her to go in (i.e. she goes up when you ask for forward with your leg but pull back on the reins telling her to stop as she is trying to obey you and figure out what your asking at the same time). Do not punish her for rearing, just move on and try to give her even clearer signals. If you stop and reprimand her, she is only going to be thinking
about the pain and not about trying to get what you want. 

At this time I would not even consider starting to ask her to rack, you first HAVE to work through the rearing and headshyness before moving on. Also, another note - I personally refuse to ride any horse that is headshy/earshy. I would recommend you not ride her either until you have her comfortable with her head being handled. Good luck!

Erica Frei

Hi Deb,

 It is not a new barn that changes a horses riding habits but the riding done! It is my opinion that something or events  that have caused this in your horse. 

Rearing is a very dangerous situation and one that should be worked with by a calm , humane, knowledgeable person. In this case I would go back to good calm ground work building back trust and covering basics. I may also go to a side pull (bit-less rig ) and I would also have a vet look at the mouth for any damage such as fractured bars, nerve
damage to the tongue, cracked teeth. Also are the wolf teeth out and has a recent floating been done.

Please be careful with a  rearing horse.



Back to main page
Ask a Trainer