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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I would agree that it's best to get any physical problems ruled out and if he hasn't had his teeth done then he is long past due. If everything is fine on that end then the horse is pretty naughty. Horses that are dominant will often test you in ways that are very dangerous and unpleasant and if they don't get a positive (dominant) response back then this just confirms their suspicion that they can't trust you to be the leader. I am in no way suggesting beating the horse up for it's behavior but this horse is not going forward which is the very first rung on the training scale that you must establish. You can't do anything properly with a horse that is not going forward. This would be much easier to achieve on the lunge first. I would put side reins on (personally). Put them on fairly low and long to start with. If they are just flapping around and don't seem to be encouraging any contact whatsoever, then they are too long. If they cause the horse to curl and go behind the contact, they are too short. Then make that horse go forward!! Not galloping around but obediently forward with transitions upwards and down, tracking up and with lots of impulsion. Note: I have seen horses fall over backwards wearing side reins and have yet to see one get hurt, you just have to be careful to not let your lunge line get tangled as the horse goes over. It sounds unpleasant but I'd rather have a horse learn it's lesson that way, with me on the ground, than in the saddle. If it does fall over, get it up, ignore what just happened and carry on with your lunging lesson. It will soon learn that there is no reward for this behavior. If it tries it again with you in the saddle, either push it forward and this time I don't care if you're galloping around, the response to your leg is forward, not up in the air!! When it does go forward, praise it to high heaven don't carry on chasing it.There needs to be a reward for good behavior and more work for bad behavior. If that doesn't feel safe to do then get off and lunge it some more and then get back on. I'm not saying that this is a normal occurrence for me but I have encountered some pretty tough cookies who will try to intimidate you with tricks like this.
Well, to take the fastest and easiest road to success I would encourage Amy to to do this:

1. get a vet check and act on it depending on the outcome
2. it the vet goes OK, get a real pro and pay him some money to correct the horse

Sick horses are a vet problem and rearing horses for dominance reason are a professional problem.

Amy should not feel bad about the need to ask for help. I know some Olymic dressage riders in Germany do that when they have such a problem with a promising horse. They don't correct it themselves. There are many excellent professionals who will do it. It costs some money, though.
I agree 100%...

-Vet check for teeth
-Saddle fitter check tack
-Chiro check back
-All else failing send them to a pro...make sure the pro is willing to do a few lessons w you and your horse so there is no reverting back to bad habits when you get back home. Also, do your homework when it comes to choosing a trainer, check the barn out beforehand, and DO make unexpected visits now and again to make sure your horse is not being mistreated. (there are a lot of scumbag trainers in the world and its good to be mindful of this)
Hi Bernd, We are absolutely on the same wavelengh here . Cheers Geoffrey
I can agree with Bernd. My advice was only meant for a very strong rider who wants to and is capable of working through the problem herself. This kind of behavior, if it is due to an attitude problem on the horse's part for whatever reason, is generally not for just anyone to try to work through because if it's not done correctly then, not only will you waste a lot of time but you may also get seriously injured.
My horse used to do the same thing..he's 12 and has alot of engery. Now i'm only 15 so i don't really now what do suggest but with my horse we got his teeth checked and they were fine, so we checked his spine, and he has a really bad back, super sensitive. When i ride him as soon as i move to a faster gait, he pins his ears back and sometimes bucks. We got a memory pad which has helped but were going to get a riser.
We also got a bitless bridle which works great to as he does have a sensitive mouth too.

Your horse could need his teeth floated though, i know some horses that were 2 and 3 that had to have theirs floated.
I always get a horses teeth checked before I ever put in a bit, so if there is a problem, its sorted before he can associate the bit with pain.
My Equine Dentist recommends having a yearling's mouth checked, to make sure there are no developmental abnormalities, and then at least yearly from age 3, and twice a year after age 15, or whenever there might be a problem with the way the horse is eating, or accepting the bit.
Regarding a horse 'not going forward' I always found that spending at least a month long-reining a young horse, at first in the arena, then around the farm, lanes, roads, through villages, past all the obstacles he will have to pass when ridden, was the best start a young horse could get before being backed.
If ever I got a horse for remedial schooling, I would always spend a few days, at least, long reining, before I would get up, so I could see how the horse would react to the reins, to my voice, and to assess his temperament and attitude. It's much easier to keep a horse under control, and going forward, working on two long reins, than just lunging on one rein, and its the best way to 'make' a mouth.
After backing, I would never ask a horse to 'make a shape' until he was fit and balanced enough to carry me through basic school movements at all three paces on a light, low contact. I liked to hack out the young horse for a month or so before doing any school work, as riding out round the lanes would keep him interested in his work, keep his mind off the fact that he might be a little worried about me on his back, and give him time to strengthen up his baby muscles before asking him to do any work on bends and circles.
I found horses that came for re-schooling that were over-bent or brought their noses in and dropped the contact, had all been worked in tight side reins, and hadn't done the initial 'riding away' after backing, or learnt to 'go off the leg' before having their heads 'pulled in' as one 'expert' told me he did!
The horse will let you know when he's ready to start working on a contact, as you go round a circle, maybe at trot, with you using a nice little inside leg, he will start dropping his head and 'asking' for a contact. You know then you can take up this contact, very carefully - its a gift from the horse! - and gradually the time the horse is happy working like this becomes longer as he gets stronger. There should not be a battle, if you have to 'force his head down' there is a problem, either physical, or with your hands, the bit, or the horse is just not ready, either physically, or emotionally.
Time is the most important thing you can give your horse!
Best of luck!
Sidereins should not be short enough to pull the horse's nose in. They should just be at around the same length you would expect your reins to be for riding a horse at whatever level it's at. For greener horses that means longer and lower and encouraging the horse to seek contact and stretching over its topline without forcing it into a frame but rather by pushing it forward. I find that sidereins are simpler to use than double reins for driving which take a lot more skill and can get you into trouble if your reactions aren't quick enough. When introducing sidereins I always only put one on at a time at first so the horse can get used to having them there but can turn it's neck to release the pressure. I usually put both on by the end of the first session but they have very little contact as they can feel clausterphobic at first. Once the horse accepts them and starts stretching into them, then you can shorten them a little until they are at the correct length.

I would also be careful about taking a horse like this out on its own at this point because it doesn't sound like there is much control happening in an enclosed space. A lead horse though might encourage the horse to go forward and take it's mind of the rider.


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