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Rearing Horse

Dear Franklin,

I am so happy to have found your web page! My friend has a young filly (three years old) that she is training. Usually when she is being ridden, at some point the filly rears up and takes a few steps on her back feet before returning all four feet to the ground. It doesn't happen all the time. Her tack was checked, the chiropractor looked at her, and the vet gave her a clean bill of health. I always adhere to quiet, gentle methods when working with horses, and try to see the horses' point of view when looking at a situation. After thinking about it, I thought the path to least resistance would be to send her forward in a trot or canter a couple of times around the ring. I thought she would associate more work with the rearing. And that's what I told my friend. However, I doubt that advice as the rearing continues. Now I am really confused. What can help stop this rearing?

Any advice that could help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, Kathleen

Hi Kathleen,

I am sorry it has taken so long to respond to your question. The Holiday Season and the year's end are always big distractions.

As this is a fairly young horse there is probably a bit of youthful exuberance to be dealt with. How much of the rearing can be attributed to that I can't say. The filly could also be testing the waters, so to speak, as to the resolve of the rider. These things are normal when training young horses. Thank you for taking the route of; "putting the filly to work" when she exhibits unwanted behavior. Is there enough ground work/play being done before the filly is ridden? There can't be too much of that. I would suggest varying the ground games as much as possible to challenge the filly and keep her interested and guessing. This will also warm her up quite a bit and should get her moving forward easily. Does she rear when being handled on the ground? Do you have a round pen to play with her in? That would be helpful as they are a great tool.

As you have already done all the checking as to the filly having something physically wrong or being in pain that can be ruled out. Does she rear at a specific place when ridden? Does it happen at a regular time interval once she begins to get ridden? Is it really random or can you find a pattern? If you can find the pattern, it will be easier to find the solution. The only aspect I can think of that won't take a pattern is youthful exuberance. However, a lot of ground play will help that. Also, each horse has its own natural optimum time for being worked. If the rider attempts to go beyond that time and continues to work the horse things like balking and rearing become the result. A young horse not having a lot of the tolerance would be more prone to this also. While we don't want to reward behavior that is undesirable by putting the horse away, honoring the natural limits of attention and productivity of any horse are a real part of a good training program.

Something else to consider is the rider. How good is the rider? Does she push the horse in an inappropriate way even a little? Young horses are so sensitive that if there is any inadequacy with the rider it will show up in the horse's responses. I guess only you can say if this is a factor in this particular case. In trying to get a "feeling" for the situation from your email, I am inclined to strongly suggest more and varied ground play. The owner/handler/rider really needs to forge the deepest bond she can with the filly. This is mostly done on the ground as when the horse is ridden it is a different dance. The real training that must be done before riding is building the relationship of trust on the ground. I have trained horses that other trainers won't touch because they buck aggressively or rear to go over backwards, etc.. What I do that works so well is to go back to the basics of the training. I go back to the "beginning" and move forward thoughtfully. That tactic has yet to fail me with any horse. If you restart this filly under saddle, and I mean go through the entire process again, you may find the behavior will disappear. It does not take long actually and the rewards can be profound.

Let me know your thoughts on all this. Please forgive the delayed response. I hope your holiday season and new years went great. I extend best wishes for the New Year to you and your loved ones.

Sincerely, Franklin

Dear Franklin,

First, I just want to say it is wonderful that you offer this service. So many natural horsemen are unapproachable.

Thank you very much for your thoughts and advice. I will pass all of them along to my friend. In reading your answer I suspect this filly might be pushed too long and maybe too hard. Just this past week my friend told me that everything was going well for the first 35 minutes of her lesson. She should of ended there on a positive note. However, she continued and the filly started bucking. I never thought about the tolerance level, but it makes perfect sense. Heck, I start tuning things out when I'm frustrated or tired, so why wouldn't a young, green horse feel the same way! Thank you again for offering your wisdom and advice.

Do you have any books or videos? I would be very interested. Also, do you ever have clinics in the northeast? I live in Albany, New York. All my best in health and happiness to you in the New Year!


Kathleen Tuttle

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