Why Horses Rear and What to Do About It

What Is Rearing?

For different reasons, several horses try to lash out with the front hoofs while rearing up on the forelimbs. It’s a dangerous act that you need to address if your horse does it. Horses rear up sometimes as a defensive measure due to fear, perhaps when they face a person, another horse or animal, or something that dazes them. Rearing up in some horses like stallions is a way to show their dominance or to let you know that they’re against you restraining them.

Without proper management, a horse may rear up as a way to refuse to cooperate with the individual handling or riding it. Rearing can result in injury and accidents, so rearing horses must receive adequate training and countermeasures to correct the behavior.

Mostly a behavioral issue in horses, rearing can occur as a result of many reasons. Read on to understand the symptoms and reasons for horse rearing.

Signs of Horse Rearing

You may notice the following when a horse rears:

  • Your horse’s body may shudder with its front hoofs, lashing out if the rearing is due to a threat or fear.
  • The horse may kick back, raise its forelimbs from the ground and stand on its hindlimbs to display dominance or aggressiveness.
  • The horse may stop suddenly or tense up.
A rearing horse

Why Do Horses Rear?

Several things can cause a horse to rear, and they include:


An anxious, confused, or frightened horse tends to rear. Although most horses usually run away when scared, some may rear, especially if they feel closed in.


Stallions may strike or rear to display their dominance or aggressiveness to other animals. They may also paw or rear when wooing a mare.

Bad Temper

The horse may have a bad temperament and refuse to work with its trainers or handlers. The threatening look the horse displays when it rears demonstrates rebellion and unwillingness to cooperate.

Painful Mouth Bit

If a bit is too harsh or causes pain, a horse may rear in reaction to pain and pressure.

Pinching Saddle

If a horse rears as soon as you mount it, the cinch may be too tight, or the saddle is probably pinching it.

To Have Its Way

If a horse discovers that it always has its way (like doing a particular thing or refusing to do something) after rearing, the horse will always rear when such opportunities come.

Energy Burn

A horse may be too playful or have excess energy due to the consumption of too much grain without exercising to burn the energy.

Diagnosis of Rearing

If a horse is rearing, it’ll be apparent. First, you’ll need to find out what causes the horse to rear to enable you to proffer the best solution to the behavior. You may need a vet’s assistance to examine the horse and determine whether pain is the reason for the rearing.

If you have a horse that’s usually compliant but suddenly begins to rear, you need to examine it physically, as physical discomfort sometimes results in such a jacked reaction. Watch out for signs that may indicate that the horse has an injury, such as a decrease in or lack of appetite, difficulty in transitioning between gaits, and difficulty maintaining a steady pace.

If you don’t discover any physical problem, your vet may advise you on how to work with the horse or refer you to a horse trainer or other professionals who may help solve the problem.

 How horses Rear

How to Treat a Rearing Horse

If your vet determines that your horse’s rearing is due to a physical problem, they’ll recommend the best treatment method for your horse to recover.

In most cases, rearing is a result of a behavioral problem. Once you’re certain why the horse is rearing, helping it to change the behavior becomes easy. Depending on your experience level with horses, you might need a trainer to resolve the problem that causes your horse to rear.

It’s vital not to panic if your horse rears, else you could make things even worse. To end this behavior in your horse, consider taking control of the rearing by pulling down the lead shank whenever it’s about to rear. If this action isn’t possible, try to immediately pull down the shank after the horse rears and its front feet are back on the ground. As soon as you’ve pulled down the shank, try to back the horse up a few steps to let it know that you’re in control.

For stallion horses that have reared at one time, you can use a combination of halter, chain, and lead shank to train them to prevent any future rearing. Put the chain through the horse’s mouth or over its nose. Pulling down the chain with much pressure will lead to significant pain, causing the stallion horse to be attentive. All horses are different, and your experience will go a long way in determining what works best for the horse.

Both the handlers and riders should be aware and prepared when a horse is about to rear. They should have a plan on how to proceed. If you’re handling or riding the horse, you need to be attentive to any prior signs of rearing, including sudden movements. We recommend the handler or rider stands beside the horse, outside the area where they’re likely to be struck.

A knight on a rearing horse

Recovery of a Rearing Horse

If you treat your horse for a physical problem believed to cause the rearing, ensure to consult your vet for follow up as recommended to resolve the issue permanently.

Since rearing is mostly due to behavioral issues, you may need a horse trainer or other equine professional to resolve the behavioral problem in the horse. Also, if the rearing is a significant safety problem, seek someone with more experience for assistance.

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