Why is This Horse Rearing?

A behaviorist offers feedback about a Facebook fan’s video of a rearing horse. Her take? Aggressive rearing is unsafe.
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Aggressive behavior can have its roots in fear. When a fearful horse is restrained or feels trapped, evasion can escalate to aggression. | Photo: iStock

Q.Will you watch this video of my mare and let me know if this behavior is something you might be able to help with? My mare is 5 ½ years old and has been striking out like this with her front legs in the school (arena) with me on the ground. Is she trying to harm me or is she frightened?

—via Facebook

A. The video shows a horse behaving aggressively. She’s at liberty, and as you approach, her body is positioned directly toward you; she pins her ears, paws, strikes, and rears several times. In contrast, a fearful horse will typically try to avoid being caught, and turn, walk, or run away when a person approaches

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Written by:

Robin Foster, PhD, CAAB, IAABC-Certified Horse Behavior Consultant, is a research professor at the University of Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. She holds a doctorate in animal behavior and has taught courses in animal learning and behavior for more than 20 years. Her research looks at temperament, stress, and burn-out as they relate to the selection, retention, and welfare of therapy horses. She also provides private behavior consultations and training services in the Seattle area.

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