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Rearing and cross ties

Hi Franklin,

I have a TB mare that I've had for 4 years. She has always been very quiet and super easy to handle and ride. She never raced but was abused by her previous owner. She seems to have flashbacks every once in awhile. For example she would freak out in the cross ties for no apparent reason or get very nervous while being led again for no apparent stimuli. The "flashbacks" have become less frequent as time goes by. However, the other day I got on her and started walking her around and decided to shorten my stirrups. She stood still while I did that and then as soon as I was done reared straight up and felt like she could go over backwards. I bailed and rolled away from her. This was completely unexpected she's never done anything in the saddle and I've had several very inexperienced riders on her. I had her back and saddle fit checked out and everything was fine. I waited a couple weeks and got back on her and she's been fine.

Any thoughts?

Hi Lauren,

You don't mention any ground playing with your horse. If you want to develop and really good and deep bond with this horse that has a large trust factor built in, play with the horse on the ground a lot. Beyond 'working' the horse, ground play has an energy of playfulness to it and does provide activity with your horse that will greatly enhance your bond and the trust and calm the horse has when with you. Personally, I think cross ties, although traditional, are not great for many horses, especially nervous ones. It is reasonable for a horse to want to turn its head to look at something. As it is easy for something or someone to come up behind a cross-tied horse without the horse realizing it, I feel they are particualrly dangerous for many horses. Cross ties can make many horses extremely fearful and anxious and have caused many, many serious injuries over the years. I train all my horses to stand quietly and patiently without any restraint, anywhere. It amaizes me that the vast majority of English barns I have seen do not even teach basic ground manners to their horses and the animals are dragging their owners and handlers all over, or walking all over the humans around them, rearing dangerously, spooking from shadows and more. The humans at these barns are so attached to their lack of real knowledge and erroneous opinions about horses, that they remain closed minded to anything that smacks of real knowledge of the behavioral aspects of horses.

If you want to make certain (as best you can) your horse will not rear or do something really silly that is potentially very dangerous, re-start the horse. Allow the horse to develop again and this time with minimal pressure. This is how I have rehabilitated many ex-race horses and abused horses. Take it back to the basics of a good beginning. It will enhance your skills as a horse person and give your horse a better foundation for doing whatever it is you want. I would re-start and re-sack the horse. It might take a couple of weeks. But the benefits will be huge. If you do, it won't ever matter what you do with the stirrups or anything around him as you will actually have a bond and relationship with this horse where you are the trusted and great leader. It is a simple and effective solution to most any behavorial problem. If you do not know how to do this, it is easy to learn. Simply buy a vid on colt starting. Many good ones are found in the backs of all horse magazines. You can re-start and re-sack any horse with great results. It is a skill you should have. There is a world of the horse beyond the human activity of riding the horse. Most riders could care less about knowledge of the horse itself and only relate to the experience with their horse when riding it. This is a sad commentary on the human ego. If you really want to help your horse, the way is to gain more knowledge, educate yourself and become mroe of a horse person that has real skills and knowledge about the horse itself and how to train it. Go beyond riding.....take a trip inside the world of horses and into the mind of the horse. I am certain that over the four years you have owned your horse that you do have a bond. Any good horse person will tell you that they are always and constantly learning something from their horse(s). The best trainers always say the horse is teaching them all the time. It is that way for me for sure. It is a learning journey. I think it is a journey you will love......

Sincerely, Franklin

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