Monday, July 21, 2014

What Is Rearing?

Rearing is the "opposite" of bucking. A rearing horse stands up on its hind legs.

Rearing is considered more dangerous than bucking - although a buck is more likely to unseat the rider, a rear is somewhat more likely to end in serious injury to both. A horse that rears with a rider may fall over backwards, landing on the rider.

Like bucking, rearing is often caused by pain - sometimes a horse may rear because his mouth is sore and I once had to deal with a horse rearing, repeatedly, because the saddle was just lightly touching his withers (A change of saddle stopped the behavior instantly). Rearing can also be aggressive behavior. A horse that is seriously attacking a predator or another horse may rear and strike with the front legs. Stallions are more likely to rear than mares or geldings and I've seen a breeding stallion rear simply to impress the mare waiting for him.

Because the rear is so spectacular it's sometimes intentionally taught as a trick (not recommended unless you know what you're doing). Skilled trick horses will rear and even strike on command - and war horses would be taught to do the same thing on the battlefield. The classical dressage movement known as the levade is a highly controlled rear.

This Haflinger pony (Image source: Karakal via Wikimedia Commons) is rearing during ground work. He does not look happy at all - note the pinned ears and the white of the eye visible. This is a fear or startlement reaction, likely to something we can't see. He's off balance and in grave danger of going down, although fortunately away from the handler. From the fact that this horse is being led in a bridle with a special lead, I suspect he's an intact stallion.

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