Will draw reins fix my rearing horse?

The short answer is NO! Rearing is a complicated issue, and how people define it varies a great deal. Does yours get a too little light in front? Does he actually get his front end up in the air? Or does he do it to the extent that he appears to lack any sense of self-preservation—the “we are all going to die together now” mode?

Next at issue is how strong a rider are you? There are problems that not everyone is meant to solve. If you have personal strength or balance issues or other insecurities, having someone more experienced help you with the rearing problem beats hurting yourself!

Another reasonable question is do you know why your horse rears? Usually that behavior comes from a real or perceived notion that the front door is closed to them, thus, the only direction to go is up. “Real” would include too harsh a bit, bad hands, dental problems . . . It’s a long list. “Perceived” restrictions are tougher. You may not be doing anything wrong. The real problems may have occurred before you ever met the horse or you may have already removed the cause. Unfortunately, many horses have long memories. And then there’s the occasional horse that simply doesn’t have any intention of playing THE game—the submissive, “I’m willing to be ridden and try to please you” game. They’re the ones to sell to your worst enemy—quickly!

As for how to deal with rearing—the best solution is to finesse your way through the resistance and never let it quite get to the point of violent behavior. Keeping the front door at least partially open as you yield, bend, and supple the horse ingrains positive reaction to the leg incrementally and makes forward (with front feet on the ground) more of a reflex. Forward is always said to be the solution, but if the door is shut tight and you’re too aggressive, you may just provoke a greater resistance if you only try to drive the horse forward. Turning—including on a very small circle (read as “spinning”) can sometimes help. Make him too busy to go up.

Sometimes a brief meaningful scolding will “reset his defaults,” but you’d better know what you’re doing. This is not a good time for on the job training! Guaranteed, however, any form of pulling back is a dreadful idea!

As for auxiliary aids, I’ve seen horses rear quite athletically in either draw reins or martingales. It’s a myth that they can hold the front end of the horse down. They can keep the head and neck low compared to the body, but if the withers go up, guess where the neck goes too—and usually with the horse that much angrier from the restriction.

So to get back to my original answer, No, they won’t help a rearing horse!

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