To manage rearing in horses is important and as much care is required in harness as under saddle, because in riding the horse has practically no power over and very little influence with a good saddle horse rider who is firmly seated into the pigskin.
To an equine rider, who with great difficulty has just been mounted on a troublesome horse, a groom once said: "Now, you're like a duck on the water; you're landed." A similar confident remark cannot be made of a horse driver on the box, because, supposing we allow the full personal security of the coachman, there is the further consideration of the property in an expensive carriage, which property can be seriously damaged by a restive, runaway or kicking horse.
A saddle horse can: run away, which should be preventable in nearly all cases; fall head foremost, or otherwise plunge the rider over the horse's head; the horse, as a protest against the restraint of the bridle, rears and then the falling rider, not yet educated into the habit of gripping the head of the saddle with the bridle hand, tries to save his fall by hanging on to the bridle so heavily that probably the horse, losing balance, falls backward on the rider.
One never sees this accident in harness, because when the horse rears the rider is not slipping back nor expecting to fall; therefore he does not pull his horse over backwards. If this statement be accepted as a fact it will surely silence that large number who are inclined to think that horses fall backwards without being pulled over.
The only horse that will do this is the playful colt, in the sweet and stimulating pasture; but the educated horse
, however desperate, must have studied balance or equilibrium in his own natural feelings, and my experience assures me that he will never fall over unless heavily pulled, and even then he will fight hard against this unhappy fate.
Rearing in harness may result in troubles of an entirely different kind. Let me state a hypothetical but not uncommon case. A horse in a dog cart should, when only carrying two persons, have an extremely loose belly-band. It can hardly be too long, and I advise those who think they have it too long and loose to let it out six holes, and then with proper balance, there is in driving a smoothness and pleasure totally unknown with tight or even moderately slack belly-bands.
Suppose from any cause the horse rears, it is the duty of the coachman to keep him straight and in line with the shafts, and then when his fore feet again reach terra firma the horse is in his proper position between the shafts.
Now suppose the horse turns at right angles to the shafts, when his fore end is in mid-air, it is clearly seen that one shaft must come down on his back. With a loose belly-band no mischief will result, because the point of the shaft is not held down; but if the belly-band be tight the weight of the horse upon it may break the shaft, which is now across the back.
Now a few words of practical advice to beginners on the prevention of rearing.
Whenever a horse misbehaves himself, first endeavor to find the cause or provocation, and you are halfway to the remedy. Mentally place yourself in the horse's position, making full allowance for his natural want of brain power - or maybe the lack of exercising that brain power - and consequent narrowness of ideas. Remember his increasing nervousness by reason of the evolution connected with modern misguided high breeding, and you will soon see the source of his anxiety, the removal of which, reestablishes the bond of friendship between the horse and his rider or driver.
I will support this general statement by relating an instance which came under my personal observation some years ago.
A hunter was being put into double harness and being bustled sideways against the pole; he suddenly backed, and touching the conveyance, he kicked violently and continuously, until he knocked the front of the four wheeled dog cart into smithereens, and then getting his hind led hung up in the under-carriage he turned a back somersault, bending down the pole and finishing the contretemps with three men on top of him, as he lay broadside sprawling on the gravel.
The poor horse was not seriously injured, however, and was then and there put in by an expert and driven a long journey in double harness. The natural objection of the horse was clearly the touch of the conveyance against his croup, and his fear was that injury might be the result, so the horse endeavored to keep the noxious or disturbing element further away, by such strong and desperate kicking as might nearly kill anyone at such distance as to receive the full force of the violent blows.
The prevention of this avoidable accident is to keep the horse's head towards the carriage until the pole chains are firmly attached to the harness, and then he is physically prevented from reaching the carriage with his croup unless he pulls the collar over his head.
Even this can be prevented by temporarily strapping the collar and pad together, this being at first preferable to anything in the nature of a breaching in the case of a Saddle Horse not yet accustomed to the disturbing trammels of leather shafts or pole. The quiet companion horse – the break-horse – should poke his confidential nose near to the green or nervous animal, and as nerve is either knowledge or the result of knowledge in both men and beast the complacent tone of the old stager will not pass unnoticed by the nervous youngster or tenderfoot, and the violence of the latter – all through fear, and very seldom vice - will be considerably modified, if not altogether discontinued.
I must conclude with a more than fairly successful remedy for rearing, either under saddle or in harness.
All rearing is caused by the bridal; therefore playing lightly on the reins, with a delicate piano-like touch, and you will not see you so much rearing. When a horse insists upon going his way rather than yours do not provoke the conflict as you would in a boxing bout, but be diplomatically indulgent, as would the nursemaid of a child with too indulgent parents. Speak soothingly, never lose your temper, wait patiently and confidently, and your confidence will be surely rewarded.
Use neither whip nor spur, and even allow the horse to go a short distance his own way, rather than have a standup fight with a much more powerful animal than yourself. In managing horses that rear, indulge them with a companion horse, work them regularly and ever increasingly, and they will gradually yield to your quiet and diplomatic policy.