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Rearing- NOT a physical resistance


Have a 6 years old Arab paint horse she was a harness horse. She has good ground work but when you get in the saddle she will go so far then she will rear up.  When you ride back to the barn she goes with no problem. What am i doing wroung.Thank You or your Help.

My outlook is that I treat horses emotions and mental stability similar to that of humans. The more I get a horse or person to trust me, the more confidence they gain and the increased "try" they will have when addressing whatever I may present. Their respect will increase as they find that the "risks" they are willing to take in "trying" new things or actions help them wind up in a better place mentally, emotionally and physically.

You mentioned your ground work was "good" but you may have to go back and assess just how clear your communication is with her from the ground. Everything you'd ask of her from the saddle should be established first on the ground. Here are a few things to consider in your evaluation:

Beginning from the ground I would start to make assessments of your horse. Is she happy to greet you when you catch her? Does she stay respectfully out of your space as you lead her or does she barge past you? When being groomed or tacked up, does she stand relaxed and still, or is she constantly fidgeting, fussing, and moving side to side? Is there a change in her demeanor when you bring out the tack? Do you wind up working her in the same "routine" (same time of day, ride in the same place, etc.)?

I personally hate using the word "dominance" because it has a negative canatone. I'd rather you think of your time with your horse as the same balance she would find if she were in a herd. There is only one leader in the herd. So you have the option that either your horse or you can "lead." If your horse leads, her priority sounds like it would be for her to return to the barn. But, if you give your horse clear scenarios presented in a "safe" setting such as a round pen, where she can start to learn what behaviors will work and those that will not when she interacts with you, she will start to mentally learn how to "learn" and "try" to address what you are asking of her.

Remember horses are big and strong animals, but their emotions and mental stability are just as sensitive as it is with people. Also as with people, your horse's actions are a reflection of her mental and emotional status. IF you can get your horse to slow down and "think" her way through something, her body will stay far more relaxed and compliant. But, if you physically try to dominate the horse and push or force her through something you will never change how he feels about what you have asked her to do, and so each time you present the same scenario she will become increasingly resistant. By the time a horse is rearing, they have tried other "quiet" ways of asking for help and were usually unintentionally ignored, so they have to resort to dramatic, dangerous behavior. The rearing is a symptom, and not the issue. If instead of focusing on the rearing, you can instead influence your horse's worries, insecurities, misunderstandings, etc. that CAUSES the rearing, the act of rearing will disappear when she learns how to deal with her stress in a more reasonable manner.

If you try to use force to get your horse to comply, which you may be able to do for a while, over time it will take more and more artificial equipment (open any magazine or go to any tack store and you'll see thousands of "short cut" aids) to get your horse to do what you would like. Even if she starts to "give in" and may not act "huge" or dangerous anymore, there may still be an internal resistance and frustration inside of her that will increase every time you interact with her. It may be a month or years later, but she will reach the day when she can no longer be "forced" to do what you have asked and will "all of a sudden" freak out or act up.

It will take clear communication, patience, effort, availability and time from you in the beginning to build a quality foundation with your horse, but it will affect her entire outlook towards interacting with humans. Instead of having the teenager perspective of "Why should I?" which is how most horses operate, with trust and respect your horse will offer you a "What would you like me to do?" attitude which will be safer and more rewarding for both of you.

Once your horse's brain is with you she will have to learn how to take (literally) one step at a time. Especially racehorses, harness horses, etc., their brains anticipate what is about to happen, so many times you ask for one small response and they give you an over-the-top reaction. Instead your horse will have to learn to have a sliding scale of energy in her movement (reflective of how much energy you have in your body- whether from the ground or in the saddle.) The more available your horse is to hear what you are offering, left, right, slow, fast, wait, etc. the more he will be able to physically comply with what you are asking AND feel good about it.

Good Luck

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