What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Rearing or Pulling Back when Led in Hand


Rearing when led in hand is a highly undesirable behavior that can be dangerous to people and fatal to a horse. It needs to be resolved. Horses are taught to rear in the same way that they are taught to engage in many other unwanted behaviors. They perceive the behavior to be easier and more rewarding than alternative (desirable) behaviors.

Like many evasive habits, rearing can also be a response to pain. A variety of physical problems may cause a horse to rear. Mouth pain, undiagnosed wounds or injuries to the head, neck, or back, and (rarely) undiagnosed lameness can cause a horse to rear. Ill fitting tack always needs to be ruled out. Your vet can help you determine whether this behavior is a result of physical pain or discomfort.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • To rule out physical issues that may be causing the problem.
    • Some vets have valuable advice regarding behavioral and training issues.
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your role


What To Do

If a physical cause is ruled out, look to your own technique and others who have handled the horse as both the cause of the problem and the solution. A horse's natural response to pressure is to pull against it. In proper halter training, horses are taught instead to yield to very subtle pressure.

If you are struggling to manage this problem, engage a trainer who knows how to stop this behavior.

What Not To Do

Do not resort to "devices" to try to solve this problem. They are not the answer.
Do not get into a tussle with a rearing horse unless you are confident in your technique. You will make things worse, and you or the horse is likely to be injured.

your vet's role

Your vet carefully examines the horse to determine whether pain might be causing the behavior. This usually starts with a physical examination, oral and dental exam, and observation and palpation of the whole body, focusing on neck and poll. It will be important for your vet to observe the behavior, so be prepared to set up the conditions that set the horse off.

Your vet may also have some suggestions for managing or resolving this problem from a training standpoint.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Has the horse had any dental or mouth issues that you are aware of?
  • When did you first notice this behavior?
  • Do you notice any swelling or wounds around the halter or poll?
  • Do you know if the horse has had any dental issues?
  • Has your horse had a dental exam performed by a vet or dental tech working with a vet?
  • Can you think of anything that changed around the time the behavior started?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP