I"m a dressage rider and currently working with a 6 year old horse who has been started and was progressing well with walk/trot but recently he reared and threw me off. It was my mistake - he gave me warning signs and I was tired so I pieced them together after the fact so I take responsibility for that.
Since that day however I have been able to get up on his back and he is fine for the first 5 minutes at a walk, then he starts pinning his ears and throwing his head up and bouncing his front end like he's about to rear again. I've tried talking calmly to him, deep breathing to make sure my body is relaxed, and I took a look at the saddle to see if I could find anything that would be pinching him or bothering him (but I'm not knowledgeable enough to know for sure). This most recent time, I dropped contact on the bit and he calmed right down as we walked again but the same behavior happened when I took up the reins to ask him for a trot.

I should mention I take lessons once a week and I've been improving greatly in those so I must be doing something right. My position is getting stronger, my legs stronger and my contact lighter.

I always try to keep in mind the big picture and I have a lot of patience so I'm going to take him back to lunging for a bit. As far as I"m aware he's never used side reins so I think that may help but I would love to hear other suggestions,things I could try to help him relax again and accept a light contact. Any thoughts/suggestions and questions are welcome! Thanks!

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Hi Amy,
I have been riding for over forty years, and an equine massage therapist for over ten years. In my experience has been that very often bad behaviour from a perfectly reasonable horse is caused by discomfort. Often either the mouth ( the bit), the feet (the shoes) or the body (the saddle). You are probably correct about the saddle fit causing a problem. One place to check is the withers- but before you do anything put a shank on him and always start gently, and increase the pressure incrementally - place your hand over his withers and squeeze - if he reacts negatively that is part of the problem. Secondly run your fingers down his back parallel to, and about an inch from his spine - about as hard as you would press to curry him. The muscle should feel like solid jello, rippling under your fingers. If he tries to bite or he sinks down that is another part of the problem.

If you think the problem is in his mouth then you could put his bridle on and take a contact while you are standing beside him and see what his reaction is. As always be awware of his signals and start gently. Keep your face away from his head snd neck so you don't get smacked in the face by accident.

I hope thes ideas will be of some help.
Thank you, that is great advise. I'll see him tomorrow so I'll try both. I have a feeling it may be his teeth or the fit of the bridle. If not then he may just be stubborn in which case lunging may help with that. He was always a little tricky with contact but I believe that it was behavior typical of any inexperienced horse (leaning into the bit or ducking behind it; always trying to escape it).
Hi Amy,

I agree with Kim and would particularly look at the mouth. When is the last time you had his teeth checked? Did you recently change bits, tighten the noseband? How long has the horse been under saddle? Was he willing before all this to take a steady contact?

Lunging is great if the horse is willing to move forward and stretch and round his neck right into the contact with the side reins. Otherwise, he'll just back off even more and curl or raise his neck to avoid the contact altogether.

I can give you a few ideas once I hear back.

I would agreed with the others to assume some pain problem. Especially the fact that it starts getting worse after some minutes of riding suggests that is has to do with the additional weight or the contact to the bit.

Before trying anything else I'd call a vet and/or a physiotherapist. That costs some money but you get the information shortly.

Horses are amazingly fragile organisms when it comes to health problems. It can be as easy as having been locked in a lying position over night without anybody noticing.

Barbara's advice to lunging -or other types of work without rider- is the right thing to do until you get some experts feedback about the horse. There is no point in trying to be a hero riding the horse and fight about its rearing. Most likely it has nothing to do with your riding. The horse feels pain for whatever reason.

Should the vet/physio not find anything you'll have to think again.
Good luck
Thanks Barbara for your response. I've been working with him since November and he had I believe 3 months of professional training in prior to being off for the fall. When we started out he would tuck his head up into a false frame to try and duck the contact. I had been working on keeping a softer, longer contact with him and trying to encourage him to stretch his head down. It worked some times but not always. I don't believe he's ever used side reins so I was going to put them on fairly loose but I certainly see your point! I don't want to encourage bad behavior. How do you help a horse learn to relax and stretch????
you can help your horse relax and stretch by doing some streching for him. try some simple yield to poll excercises - put a thin halter or, ideally, a rope halter on him in a stall. then pull down gently on it until his head drops. if he's never done it, start slowly, let him drop his head as much as he wants. Eventually, see if you can ask him to drop it to the floor.
For a simple side and neck stretch, stand at your horse's near side, his far side against a wall. At his shoulder, convince him to "hug" you with his neck, possibly enticing him with bits of carrots, or fresh grass. Horses also LOVE dandelions, and they're redicolously good for them too! The wall on the off side of your horse tells him you want him to bend, not move.
Next stretch: legs. Front legs : pick up your horse's foot as you would to clean it, only tuck it right into his armpit, or as high as he can comfortable get. rock it gently front and back to loosen the shoulder up. Go slowly, and only as your horse is comfortable, otherwise you might end up with some tricky hoof-cleaning next time around!
Also on the front: pick up the horse's foot and extend it forward and downwards, gently, as he would in an extended trot. Slow and gentle is key.
On the hind end: you can do basically the same stretches, only stretch the hind leg backward instead of forward. I suppose you could stretch him forward too.... but this isn't something I've done myself.
More relaxation/stretching/supling techniques.... I'm FULL of them. lol. Add me as a friend, message me or whatever, I'll get back to you if you want to know more. I'm well versed in alternative therapies (herbal, massage, aroma therapies mostly) and also in nutrition.
also, your horse may really love a "steam/heat" treatment. Soak a towel in the hottest water you can stand, put a dry towel on your horse;s back, and put the hot one (wring it out a bit so you dont burn him) ontop of the dry one. Throw a quartersheet or a fleece overtop. the moist heat seeps into the horse and relaxes him right good.
and if you're mounted and want his to stretch his head and neck down: Widen your hands. like exaggerate it. on one mare I rode there was almost two feet of space between my hands, and she was stretched down as far as the reins would allow!
Best of luck my friend, and please let me know how it goes!
Hi Amy, One of the best pieces of equipment to use to help show the horse the way to the ground is a Chambon. I'm not a big fan of side reins, as I feel you need to be quite experienced in their use . For young horses starting their work, or for rehabilitation of older horses, it's hard to beat a Chambon. There is never a backward pressure with the Chambon, the horse learns easily and is relaxed enough to bend his entire body laterally inwards, if the horse is not able to do this they are unable to bring the inner hind leg underneath his body, stopping him from taking longer strides. The Chambon will, with time, bend his body laterally inwards and lead with the head and neck in the direction where he is going. Simultaneously, the inner hind leg is brought more actively underneath the body. The more the hocks are engaged the more the back muscles will develop and make it easier for the horse to round his back. I rarely have a problem with backs as all my horses come back to work with a Chambon. Cheers Geoffrey
Chambon, side reins, whatever are all useless if the horse feels pain when riding after a few minutes. Trying to fight it with mechanical reins help will only make it worse and riding a rearing horse with chambon is a fair risk for total desaster.

If the horse tried to get away from the pain by rearing any type of reins locking his head and neck into whatever position will make it loose its balance.

Fortunately most horses won't try to rear when tied down, but sometime they do and that will put you in danger.

The chambon is a useful tool for example when you have a horse with unfavourable neck muscles or one that has a kissing spines problem. In those cases lunging with a chambon helps. Riding with it is useless as it forces the horse into a wrong acceptance of the bit, thus making a later training for correct contact more difficult.
Sorry Bernd, I made the assumtion that it is common knowledge that you only LUNGE a horse in a Chambon. At no point did I suggest that we FIGHT the horse with anything .
Hi Geoffrey, looks we both agree. I have seen some people do it though over here and they were very astonished when I told them not to ride with Chambon. they thought it was more relaxing for the horse;- but, well sometimes girls feel they know everything just when they have won a few local shows at 1,10 m high.
He should have his teeth floated about once a year. If he has never had his teeth floated, there are probably some very sharp points in there that need to be taken care of!
At six years I would be looking at wolf teeth- you can check for the points by grabbing the tongue and pulling it to one side and running your finger down the opposite row of molars on the outside-between the inside of the mouth and the teeth- some horses have points at this age- definately by 8 yrs.
Did you rule out the wolf teeth erupting- happens around 5-6 yrs and makes a bit very uncomfortable for some horses.- of course with any of this advice- get the vet to check and rule it out.


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