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Rearing Horse

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Kids, don't try this at home. You'll fall off. Or worse.

What's with all the poor freaked-out horsies on romance novel covers? Is every day Throw A Rattlesnake in Front of Your Horse Day in Romancelandia?

The Rearing Horse is an iconic pose of a horse rearing back so its front hooves are off the ground. It is used in movies because it is so dramatic, being the organic equivalent of performing a wheelie on a motorbike.

It looks wild, powerful, liberating, and, yes, cool. It ends up appearing in many cowboy movies, historical movies and European coats of arms. In heraldry, the pose is referred to as "rampant" and is so popular that it is applied to pretty much any four-legged animal, including lions, wolves, and even mythological creatures like griffins. Technically, in heraldry, a rampant animal will stand on its left hind leg, with the three other legs elevated off the ground. The rearing pose also appears on some equestrian statues, although contrary to popular myth, the horse's pose has no relation to how the rider died.

In real life, it's a Very Bad Thing, and only experienced trainers should even get on a horse with a rearing habit (although there is a difference between an actual rear and several of the dressage moves known as the "Airs Above the Ground").note  It is very easy to cause a rearing horse to fall over backwards on top of the rider, which can easily lead to serious injuries or even death. note 

Often combined with Stab the Sky or Sword Pointing.


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  • Cars:
    • The Ferrari logo is arguably the most famous example. Its adoption comes from Enzo Ferrari meeting the parents of a World War I veteran who used to paint a prancing horse on his planes, after winning the Targa Florio. They suggested that painting the horse on his cars would bring him good luck, and the rest is history.
    • Porsche also have a rearing horse on their logo, which comes from the coat of arms of their home city of Stuttgart. Funnily enough, one theory about the badge used by the fighter pilot who inspired the Ferrari logo is that he borrowed it from a design on a downed enemy plane — which had the Stuttgart coat of arms.
  • The Winchester logo and the Colt, sans rider.
  • The Norfolk Southern Railway's locomotives are painted with the silhouette of a rearing horse on the front ends. Their corporate logo is also a silhouette of a horse's head next to the letters: NS. (This logo is usually seen painted on locomotives and vehicles they own.)

    Anime & Manga 

  • The iconic painting of Napoleon Crossing the Alps. In reality, he crossed the Alps on a sure-footed mule.
  • The Equestrian statues of Simón Bolívar.
  • The original design Leonardo da Vinci wanted for his horse statue was this pose. However he deemed it to difficult, so he went with a less awesome design. It was never finished due to a war.
  • Velazquez's portrait of Count-Duke of Olivares. Velazquez was fond of this, he has several (more downplayed) portrayals of the spanish nobility in this way.
  • The rearing white horse on red (though he looks more like he's about to kung fu some mother into next week), the arms and flag of the State of Lower Saxony in Germany, and of Westphalia (nowadays part of North Rhine-Westphalia).
  • There is a statue of a horse in this pose atop the scoreboard at INVESCO Field, home of the Denver Broncos.
  • In Washington, D.C., stands a statue of Andrew Jackson upon a rearing horse. The popular wisdom of the time was that such a statue — balancing solely upon the horse's hind legs — could not possibly be stable, and it's said that people used to take bets as to when it would finally collapse.
  • George Stubbs' portrait of Whistlejacket (though the horse is more horizontal than vertical and appears to be doing a controlled rise called a levade).

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Several joke lists purport to explain the code for equestrian statues (one hoof off the ground = died in battle, two hooves = died in bed, etc.) They're rarely the same (since it's a myth in the first place), but they always end with "four hooves off the ground = a very skilled sculptor".

  • Copies of Black Beauty sometimes display this trope on the front cover. Beauty himself is far too polite for such misbehavior. The pony Merrylegs, on the other hand, lets his infant riders know when he's had enough by gently rearing so they slide off his back onto the grass.
  • The fourth book of the Song of the Lioness series is called Lioness Rampant, which is also the design the main character has on her shield. (Also, the Thai edition of the third book is a tracing of that famous Napoleon painting.)
  • Subverted in the novel Sovereign by CJ Sansom. It turns out the protagonist's horse has been deliberately injured to make it do this as a murder attempt, and the character thrown off breaks his leg.
  • In Going Postal, Moist Von Lipwig and Boris the horse get themselves splashed all over the front page of the newspaper in this pose.
  • In "The Wallenstein Gambit", a Grantville American is leading the defense of Prague (on a borrowed horse) one of the other Americans tells him to do this to inspire his troops. He flat out refuses (being a decent rider, but a 50-odd year old jeweler) but he does agree to wave his plumed hat.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar:
    • The Kingdom of Valdemar's coat of arms is the Windrider, a winged horse rampant with broken chains.
    • Appears in the original cover art for Arrow's Fall, though the "horse" is Talia's Companion, who is more like a guardian angel made flesh.
    • Also part of the offensive repertoire of equines in combat — not only Companions but also trained horses like the Shin'a'in warsteeds. Part of Heraldic training is extensive equitation lessons, if only to learn how to stay on when Companions do the rearing and plunging they might need to do in combat.
  • This is a maneuver frequently used in 20 Years After to save the rider.
  • In Time Scout's Wagers of Sin, Skeeter winds up on a horse that rears in protest. He rapidly brings it under control.
  • The Lord of the Rings: the only time a horse rears is when King Theoden's horse is spooked by a Nazgul. The horse is then shot, causing it to fall and crush Theoden to death.
  • Bree (an Intellectual Animal and former war stallion) mentions that war horses were taught to rear on cue in combat to give added heft to a blow.
  • Parodied in The Tamuli with a minor character who rears his horse for dramatic effect, thinking it makes him look cool. The main characters immediately declare it cliché.
    • Done by Sparhawk during his goodbye to Lilias, again for dramatic effect as he is trying to impress her neighbors. The others call him out for it.
  • Deconstructed in The Saddle Club. At one point, Lisa tries out a new horse who ends up being incredibly badly behaved; when he rears up one day while she's riding him, she realizes his issues are beyond her skills to resolve. The seriousness of the behavior is driven home a few scenes later, when he does in fact overbalance and fall backwards, mangling his saddle — a saddle that Max and Lisa had just pulled a younger rider out of moments earlier. note 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Zorro TV series, naturally. A shot of Tornado rearing with Zorro concludes the opening credits. And in many episodes, Zorro salutes his pursuers this way before disappearing in the night.
  • The Lone Ranger and his horse, Silver.
  • The Goodies. In "Scoutrageous", Bill and Graham become a couple of masked criminal Boy Scouts, causing Tim to exclaim, "Who were those Masked Scouts?!" after they shake him down. Answer Cut to...
    The Narrator: From out of the West he came...The Lone Scout! (cue masked Graham) One. (cue masked Bill who tries to imitate a Rearing Horse only to fall down the hill)
  • Doctor Who:
    • The horse the cheetah rides in "Survival". Yes, the horse the cheetah rides. Note: During filming, the stunt man couldn't get the horse to rear, or do anything else, but the actress playing Karra could. It turned out that the horse hated men.
    • In "Last Christmas", Santa Claus (yes, that Santa) does this on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer after doing a Big Damn Heroes.
    • Weaponized in "The Masque of Mandragora". When the City Guards try to detain the Doctor, he produces a football fan's rattle and whirls it to startle the horses, causing them to rear and dump their riders so the Doctor can ride off on one.
  • Lancelot in the episode named after him does this on Merlin, just before he kills the griffin.
  • Parodied during the credits of the first season of Blackadder. After a montage of Blackadder riding (and chasing) his horse swiftly across the countryside to dramatic music, the horse rears up... and Blackadder falls off.
  • Get Smart: The same gag is used at the end of the episode riffing The Prisoner of Zenda, involving Max of course.
  • Power Rangers Samurai: Jayden's conjured horse when he rides in to take charge of his team in "Origins".
  • Angel: Vampire Hunter Holtz makes a Big Entrance in a flashback to Rome 1771. Likely it was the presence of evil vampire Angelus that caused the horse to rear.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • When Daenerys has to have her White Stallion killed as a blood sacrifice in an attempt to save her husband's life, the horse rears and whinnies in fright as she leads it into the tent where the sorceress waits.
    • Inept squire Podrick Payne finally manages to get control of his horse after losing control of it during a Chase Scene, only for the horse to rear and throw him into the river. The knights who've been chasing Pod ride up and find him not only without a horse, but without a weapon (given that his axe is strapped to the horse). Only Brienne's intervention saves his life.
  • House of the Dragon: Downplayed and more realistic in the pilot: instead of full rearing, Daemon and Criston's horses do the "airs above the ground" just before they clash with each other in the joust. Notably, it is only these two horses shown doing so, possibly for both Rule of Cool and Played for Drama.
  • Spoofed in the Danish series 1864 in a scene where an artist is painting a picture of an officer on a rearing horse, while said officer is posing in his studio on a wooden horse (which is not rearing, of course).
  • Queen of Swords: The Queen's Big Damn Hero moments are often announced by her appearing on her rearing White Stallion Chico.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A man on a rearing horse is one of the pieces in the game of Monopoly.

  • The G1 My Little Pony pegasus "Firefly" is one of few ponies posed in a rampant position.
  • Manufacturers of 20mm/1:72 figure sets for tabletop wargaming, such as Airfix or Revell, will as often as not include one rearing horse in a cavalry set, which makes sense if it is to be paired with a rider who is in danger of falling off or posed as being wounded.

    Video Games 
  • Players have the option of Heroic Pose in The Sims 3 Pets expansion if the Sim has a high-enough Riding skill. The result is a rearing horse.
  • In Shadow of the Colossus, you can make Wander's horse do this, and with practice you can use it to get Agro right into a gallop.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Like Wander above, Link can command his steeds to do this Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild.
    • Twilight Princess also has several other instances of the trope:
      • After Link has defeated King Bulblin in a joust on Eldin Bridge, Epona rears up on her hind legs in a Victory Pose, with Link brandishing his sword and the curtain of Twilight rippling in the background.
      • There's a moment which should be cliché, but somehow isn't, where Ganondorf rears up on his horse surrounded by fire in contrast to Link with Epona in the sunset.
      • Amusingly, spurring a Bulbo to a gallop results in this trope as well. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome ensues when Link utterly fails to keep his ass in the saddle, loses his grip on the reins, and spends the entire charge hanging onto the ridge of the saddle for dear life.
    • Happens as well on the title screen from Ocarina of Time.
    • When you finish a stage as Link using the Sword weapon in Hyrule Warriors, during the victory cutscene, he jumps onto Epona's back as she runs past at full gallop, and then has her rear as he brandishes his sword. Ironically, the victory cutscene for the Horse weapon is far more sedate.
    • In addition, one of the Horse weapon's Heavy attacks has Epona rear and flail her hooves, nailing any enemies in the vicinity multiple times.
  • In Assassin's Creed, you can get your horse to rear as well. Makes for some truly impressive shots when doing it on the bluffs overlooking Jerusalem...
  • Pegasus is a ridiculously useful creature in Scribblenauts. He also rears sometimes. It's possible from time to time for him to rear just as you grab the Starite, making for an extremely awesome end scene.
  • This happens in some of the critical hit animations in the Fire Emblem series. Fridge Logic ensues when you realize that even more damage could be done if the horse reared and pummeled the opponent in the middle of the attack, rather than the beginning. Bizarrely, even pegasi (i.e. flying horses) do this sometimes.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning's Eidolon transforms into a horse, which does this in an official image without a saddle or reins, or the rider having arms around the horse's neck (possible with strong legs and good balance, but in Lightning's case it's more likely that she's using her gravity manipulation device).
  • Can be done in Red Dead Redemption. Try doing it while the camera is facing the sunrise/sunset.
  • The horses of Star Stable will rear if you press X to stop them really fast instead of slowing down gradually with S; this is never treated as a training problem as it would be in real life. Your horse may also rear if you run into things, but this is slightly more understandable (especially since smashing into things at a full gallop will take out half your horse's HP, so you know it hurts).
  • In The Elder Scrolls Online, can be done by pressing the spacebar if the horse is standing still. If you are in combat and take enough hits, the horse will rear and knock you off.
  • The box art for Darksiders shows the protagonist, War, rearing back on his horse.
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade: Should Eliwood's post-promotion mount do this, he's about to perform a Critical Hit.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The Spanish Riding School in Vienna trains horses and riders to do awesome tricks like this. It requires tremendous strength and balance on the part of the horse to do it safely, which is why these moves represent the high point of a long training career.
  • Similarly, many Hollywood stunt horses are taught to "rear" on command; as with the Airs, however, the horse remains balanced and in control of its movements.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Rampant Horse


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Arguably the most iconic scene in the movie.

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