How to help behavior Part 2: Rearing
Rearing is dangerous and can become a learned behavior if the horse knows how to take advantage of a rider’s fears. You have to attempt to connect with the body language the horse is using. Are they in pain? Are they poorly trained to the contact of the bit? Is there a tooth problem that the Veterinarian needs to address?
There were probably small signs before rearing began. Rearing is a loud way of saying either I don't want to go forward or I can't.
We need to rule out whether it started as pain that turned into behavior. Sharp edges on teeth or a broken or infected tooth can cause what appears to be behavior problems.
A poorly fitting saddle is compared to your wearing shoes that don’t fit. This is usually a definite cause for unwanted behavior. Placing a saddle too far forward is also very common and can pinch the horse's wither. Saddle too far forward blocks shoulder movement and destroys muscles that are being compressed. This results in how the horse moves, their performance and behavior.
“Muscular pain is the #1 cause of most equine behavior and performance problems. Yet, most people don’t even realize it when their horse has a muscular problem, and have no idea what to do about it! - Don Doran Equine Sports Massage”
Looking at some of the signs a horse is attempting to communicate before the rearing began can sometimes be:
Not wanting to be caught
Not standing for grooming or tacking up, pins ears
Panics when rider mounts or dismounts
Muscle atrophy behind the wither ( above the shoulder blade )
Once your Veterinarian has ruled out medical issues, it is important to evaluate muscle pain and the overall physique of the horse. Abnormal muscle patterns say a lot about how a horse is being ridden as well as signs of shut down muscles due to pain. Addressing these issues before rehabilitation begins, assures the root cause of the behavior is omitted.
Horses that are rearing due to pain, defense, or confusion need positive change. Horses that rear in an attempt to unsettle the rider and get back to the barn need to learn “ focus “ or “obedience.” We can never assume the horse knows what he is supposed to do, instead, the rider needs to make sure they understand the correct way to communicate what they are asking to the horse.
The re-education needs to start on the ground, this is where you can attain suppleness, focus and functional movement without the weight of a rider. This begins to improve strength, correct muscle imbalance and confidence. It also gives confidence in the contact of the bit. If a horse is held tightly in a frame with the reins, they eventually lose the ability to have natural movement. Loss of muscle, irritability and dysfunctional gait movement are just a few examples. Some horses refuse to go forward, and some horses go up.
Hiring someone that is going to attempt to ride out the rearing just reassures the horse to respond the only way they know how to protect themselves.
Hiring a trainer that can evaluate the behavior and begin a plan of therapeutic exercises on the ground and under saddle begins to start a relationship based on trust, comfort and the natural beauty of the horse.
“ Knowledge without understanding is nothing “ - Charles De Kunffy