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Rearing Horse Again

Thanks for all the articles and helpful hints on horses.

I have a rather unique rearing problem. I have a very well bred coming 3 year old gelding. He was doing very well at the trainers and I rode him myself a couple of times and he was very good, indicating he had the foundation started. The trainer said the horse was ready to come home. On the last day on rode him at the trainers, he was a little resistant but nothing too significant. I brought him home, and the next day got on him and he was very rough. He then started rearing and I mean rearing - straight up Hi Ho silver bit.

I quit and had the trainer come out and worked him twice. Still resistant and trying to rear. I had the chiropractor out and he had numerous sore spots. She did 2 treatments as well as meds prescribed by the vet. We then gave him a week off and tried again. He was terrible.

At this point I figured this has become habitual and knows he can intimidate me. He is now on a 2 month break until the trainer has space to take him back. This is a different situation in that the horse was doing very well then (I think) was initially rearing due to some sore spots and muscle pain. (Or he may just have figured out a way to resist). He has been vetted and his teeth done. This is a very talented horse but also very strong willed and bred "hot". I talked to the trainers of both his sire and dam, and though strong, neither one had any rearing problem.

As a 2 year old he was long lined a great deal. I have spoken with several trainers with everything from time off to grow up a little more to running W's - which is a rather severe method and hard on knees.

Any advice would be much appreciated


Hi Vickie,

Well I am a big fan of more ground playing/schooling than most any trainer you'll speak to. Also, you say he is a "well-bred gelding". Some breeds mature faster than others and some slower. Not sure where yours fits into that. For instance, Arabians, Saddlebreds, some warm-bloods, etc. mature slower and take longer to settle down into a training routine. Quarter's and Morgan's might mature a bit faster and be able to handle more vigorous training at an earlier age. No matter how you cut it, this is a very young horse and the old adage of too much, too soon might be coming into play. Other than pain, this is the most common reason for behavior from a young horse as you are experiencing. Rather than just have him stand around for another 6 months or a year, is there anyway to keep playing with him on the ground anyway? Make it fun and light. You have nothing to lose. Teach some fun things. Train at liberty part of the time. You will be amaized at how much the horse will mature by playing at liberty and keeping things somewhat easy and fun. The horse will get exercise though any movement. The horse will tell you when he is ready to advance more by his attitude. When they go into a trainers program, that trainer usually has only a limited amount of time for the horse as they have other horses to deal with. So, if a particular horse doesn't 'fit' into that trainers routene very well, the trainers go to trying to force or make the horse comply. This is the kiss of death for a lot of horses with trainers as many, many unwanted habits develop quickly. Personally, I love it when the owner steps up to the plate of the real relationship with the horse and understands that riding the horse should be the icing on the cake of the relationship with the horse. All bonding and trust is developed first and foremost on the ground with the horse. A relationship only based upon the human riding the horse is at best cursory and shallow. The whole world of the horse itself is overlooked in deference to the human agenda of riding. Working with the mind and EMOTIONS of the horse on the ground is where your bond of mutual trust will be forged initially. Without that the human will never really understand the nature of horses and their natural way of being. You cannot make someone love you and you cannot make a horse trust you. You earn trust over time and love, offer it unconditionally and give it freely. Then, leave it to God. The horse will love and trust the skillful, compassionate leader. It is beyond riding. But will include riding when the horse is considered as much as the human's agenda of riding it. Good Luck and a very Happy Thanksgiving!....

Sincerely, Franklin

Thank you so much. That was my game plan is to do some ground work for Dec and Jan, maybe Feb and then send him back

He is a Morgan, and I have found through 30 years of ownership, many of them are slow to mature. he will be a full 3 in Feb and as for his bloodlines he is very, very "hot" as we say - all park horses. His mom was way too much for her owner to handle under saddle but was a champion in harness. His dad also a world champion harness horse and did well under saddle.

I too think it was too much too soon, and want to try lots of line work both free and with a bitting rig as I think as he had muscle problems in his back he needs to get stronger.

He does need a job though - he is a very tough horse in the barn - was a big winner in hand as a weanling and yearling and always has been a handful. Very strong and will tend to push back instead of yield. This is something I am trying to work on

Unfortunately most trainers think bad behavior work it out of them. I agree to a small degree but as he was good for a few weeks under saddle and then nasty it has to have another root cause. Either that or he is just very difficult boy.

can you also suggest the type of fun things you refer to? I would love to try it. I don't believe in working my babies daily - usually 3-4 times a week is all they can handle whether driving, riding, lining, etc.

What do you suggest if he continues to rear when we start back under saddle? Do you have books? tapes?? Where are you located?? I ike your ideas

Thanks you so much again and you too have a happy Thanksgiving yourself

Hi Again Vickie,

Isn't funny how when someone mentions playing with a horse, it is hard to relate to, even for long time horse owners. It seems the only agenda they can relate to is always to 'work' the horse. Things is, horses learn just as well during an activity that is provided and led with the intention of it being fun and somewhat stimulating mentally for the horse. I suggest at liberty fun a lot. Both in a round pen and in a large arena. I teach this and it is a wonderful and rewarding (also bonding) way to get 'closer' to our horses. In fact, I rarely say I want to 'work' a horse. I now tend to say I want to play and dance with a horse. The feeling around that way of speaking about my time with horses has a totally different feeling for me and the horse, than I want to 'work' a horse. The words we use to describe something dictate how that thing is for us. The words we use to describe our lives reflect our beliefs around how our lives are for us and anything else as well. I chose my words very carefully now.

Some of the activities are the same action done when 'working' a horse. What's different is my agenda and my attitude going into the activity. I don't necessarily want to accomplish a task with the horse. I want to develop trust and feelings of safety within the horse. I, and the horse, tune into the 'feelings' generated by my attitude during the interaction. Horses are extremely empathetic. Much more than most people realize. The animal knows your feelings and attitude before you begin to have any action with it. To assist in a no pressure/no stress activity I tend to go as slow as possible (one little step at a time, reward the 'try' at compliance with a total release of pressure, i.e. a short break and finally, a bit of praise). This sets up a winning cycle for the horse where all is calm, fun and rewarding for all involved. Slo-mo is movement fun, educational, bonding and rewarding for horse and human. It is mostly overlooked. To develop good slo-mo movement and compliance is wonderful and so beneficial. Once slo-mo is mastered, speeding things up is always easier as the basics have really been learned. Even going back to the basics or re-starting the horse and doing it very slowly, re-sacking the horse, handling the horse like the immature youngster for a little while, can move the horse forward in its maturity quicker than pushing it.

Some of what I think are fun things to do with a horse on the ground are: lungeing over low jumps, 'sending' the horse in and out of places, squeezing the horse (sending it in and having it back out of tight areas set up with cones), trick training simple tricks (food reward) and having the horse hit a mark such as go stand on a tarp, ground driving over jumps, around obsticle courses, having the horse move through a maze with me at liberty in large/small arenas and more. If your horse will not stick with you at liberty and calmly walk through a maze with you, I don't think there is much of a bond present.

Unfortunately, I do not have the sort of vid that depicts many of these as yet. In the future you will be able to download a 15 minute vid that show some of the fun things I am talking about. But any creative horse person can do this without seeing them much. However, picking up a trick training DVD may prove inspiring. Many, many horse owners scoff at trick training and playing with horses in that way. They tend to be task masters and will go to 'making' the horse comply with their wishes. You cannot make anything happen at a high level with a horse. It must be a willing partnership. Strict dominence may take a person some distance with horses. But sooner or later, they and their horse will 'hit the wall' of fear (resistence) with the horse. Hopefully, then they will call a trainer like me who pushes developing trust over dominence.

Best regards, Franklin

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