A rearing horse is no great trick

Onscreen, the Lone Ranger’s famous Silver would go up, and audiences would cheer. Rodeo crowds still roar to see bucking broncos fly upright, trying to unseat their athletic riders.

In dancing horse shows and Classical Dressage performances, similar feats (though ideally much more controlled and rhythmic movements) are often called the “Courbette” and the “Levade.”

Onlookers seem to love seeing the underside of horses. A rearing horse may be exciting to spectators, but it’s certainly no joyride for the person aboard.


Have you ever sat on a rearing horse?

I have. My first rearing experience occurred towards the end of a leisurely trail ride through a nearby forest preserve. I was aboard my trainer’s pricey Holsteiner schoolmaster dressage mount.

The professional was riding my Westfalen mare, introducing the show horse and former eventer to riding out quietly for the first time.

She had insisted we swap horses for the jaunt, as her mare had been on the trails many times.

We completed the woodsy trail loop and followed the path along the county highway, returning to the stables. Just then, an eighteen-wheeler rumbled by. The driver honked his horn and waved.

And the schoolmaster went upright.

I stood up in the stirrups of the shiny Passier dressage saddle, grabbing as much of the 18-hand mare’s mane as I could. She landed on all four hooves before rearing a second time, and a third.

With each bounce, I somehow managed to stay on the horse. How could I not? If I bailed, the fancy imported equine would likely head for the highway. Who knows how that would have turned out?

Once the excitement was over, I realized my own maiden trail had not even flinched.

Rearing is not nearly as much fun as it may appear to those watching. Often, the experience does not end as well as ours did.

Here’s a scary example.

Take a look at this video (shot three years ago), in which Towns Ender (then eight years old) reared up and tumbled backwards, nearly crushing U.K. jockey John Kington. This took place while the trainer held a longe line for schooling the horse and rider.

The same horse, having injured jockey Tom Scudamore a week prior, was retired after the incident with Kington.

Horse vs. Rider - watch more funny videos     


Here’s another one, a whole lot closer to home.

Not long ago, I allowed a young horse trainer to borrow one of my horses, so he could show a student how to complete a trail obstacle pattern on her own horse. With a couple of free rides and the aggressive use of a pair of rowel spurs, this hotshot had taught my quiet pleasure horse to rear. What's more, my little horse (whom I'd raised since birth) had spur scars on both his sides.

I had to put my young mount into 60 days of paid training afterwards. Honestly, I wanted to send the hot-dogging trainer wannabee a bill for the damages.

Now, who wants to teach a horse to rear?
Rearing Bronco, by Erwin Evans
Die Corbette, by Von Ludwig Koch
Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons Photos

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