Expert advice from HORSE magazine on coping with horses who rear

Behaviour expert Richard Maxwell believes rearing is a common problem, but there is nearly always a common denominator. “Max” believes that 98% of rearers are in pain.

There is often a poll problem. The vertebrae are misaligned, or there is a trapped or impinged nerve. Often they have teeth problems, too.”

Max, who trained with Monty Roberts, acknowledges that rearing is one of the most frightening problems an owner can face.

“It isn’t something one person can tackle, it’s very much a team approach. That’s why I always start by getting horses checked out by experts.

Rearing is a symptom. If you try to school the symptom, you won’t take away the problem. The trouble is it doesn’t automatically stop when the pain goes away. Of the rearers here, two have given it up in two weeks and the others will take longer. Rearing, like napping, is a form of not going forwards. The horse doesn’t want to go forwards, so he goes up.”

After checking the physical problems, Max will often long-rein or lunge a rearer on two reins, making him go forwards and flex at the poll. The rider must remain calm and in balance.

“Horses don’t go over backwards on their own,” says Max. “In 99% of cases, it’s the rider who pulls the horse over.”

When the horse goes up, the rider must stay forward and, if possible, lean to one side to avoid getting hit in the face. If he is skilled enough, the rider can grab the neck with one hand and turn the horse’s head with the other, which encourages him to come back to earth.

Max does not agree with hitting the horse on the poll or cracking an egg on its head.

“Horses are interpressure animals. They don’t move away from it, they move into it.”

Max says that, of the 600 problem horses he has been sent, he has had only a dozen failures.

The problem is often solved by changing the rider. I get almost blase about riding rearers, but I can understand how frightening it can be. When the horse feels as if he’s going to rear, some people tighten up and give him an invitation to do just that.”

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