We bought an 8 yr old mare in June for our daughter to show in 4-H. She is a beautiful animal, but has a very dangerous problem. She shows well in showmanship and pleasure, but when trying to use her for patterned work (i.e. horsemanship or reining) she rears, and will even go over backwards, when asked to lope down the center of the arena. We have taken her to a local trainer, and he said he can’t “fix” the problem. She is fine along the rail, but she seems to rebel when it comes to working in the center at a lope. Can you please advise me as to whether she is a “lost cause”, or is there something I can do to master this issue?
I wouldn’t say your rearing horse is a lost cause, but I would say that a rearing horse is a candidate for the most experienced of horse handlers. Just the phrase “will even go over backwards” strikes the fear in the heart of any instructor or parent. I’m just picturing it happening with your 4-H daughter astride. It simply isn’t worth the risk.
I’m hesitant to give you any advice to help you work on this because I don’t know the severity of the problem nor your abilities and it sounds like the trainer you have access to is at a loss for how to proceed.
What I would do if the horse were here would be to start with square one on ground training to identify the spot where the horse loses confidence and has a hole in her training. Then I would take the time it takes to work the horse through her issues, which would certainly take weeks and more likely months or even years to completely eliminate the horse’s tendency to rear as avoidance. Then once the horse was solidly over her rearing, your daughter would need supervised instruction on riding the horse so as not to undo what had been done.
Therefore, I must defer to the position that since your daughter’s safety is at stake, she should not ride the horse. Nor should you for that matter. For the horse’s sake, if you can find a competent trainer that is accustomed to working with horses with such problems and you are willing to spend the time and money it will take to have the horse rehabilitated, then that is route you should take.
If that is not an option, then retire the mare to pasture and find your daughter a more suitable mount.
You might also want to read Looking for the Root of the Rearing Problem and other articles on my website.
I’m sure that is not what you wanted to hear but all it takes is knowing one person who has been on the bottom of the pile when a horse has flipped over backwards for me to advise you to take extreme caution.
Best of luck and be safe,