I checked everything I could think of that might be causing him pain: teeth, saddle, bit (it's a snaffle), his back, hooves, etc and I noticed that he does have his wolf teeth so I tried riding him in his halter but there was no difference between riding him in his halter or in his actual bridle, except that he had better brakes and steering in the bridle.
If a horse's teeth are sharp, regardless if you ride him in a halter or a bit, those sharp points will still bother the inside of his cheeks and cause ulcers, his tongue can rub against the sharp points (he may get anxious about being ridden and pulled on and kicked by kids, thus, he works his tongue and it meets with the sharp points).....rearing. (even with a halter, he can still anticipate pain, so he braces and rears regardless)
There's no way around the teeth issue. If the people want to use him as a slave and not care for him properly....they should sell him to someone who can care for him properly. Period. Some horses will break down and deal with pain, others reach a breaking point and say, no more. Sounds like this fellow might of reached his.
Saddles....dude ranches and summer camps are notorious for using bad saddles because they're cheap. Be sure this really isn't the problem. Also, if he's cinched hard once and then ridden, this will cause chronic pain. If the people in charge don't want to bother taking care of this, again, they need to find someone who cares to take him instead. Because ill-fitting tack will cause more unwanted habits (biting, cow kicking, bucking, etc).
I rode him for about 30 minutes and he reared 5 or 6 times and at first I just made an angry noise, pushed him forward and had him go back where he was when he reared. Then I started smacking him in the neck too because he's one of those horses who don't want to be smacked at all so you never do and then when you do it it carries a lot of weight. It only took him a few more rears to figure out that he wasn't getting any where so he settled down and was perfect, w/t/c, for the next 20 minutes.
If smacking him and making angry noises and punishing him worked, then he'd never of reared again. Clearly, it doesn't work. Because you're ignoring the real issue (pain or he might just be sick of being yanked on, kicked, etc. some horses just zone out and turn into dead heads and take the bad riders, other horses reach a breaking point and say enough).
Forget about punishment. Horses don't rear because they like to. They rear because there's a reason and if you want to keep working with this horse, then it's up to you to find out why and stop the issue there. Not band-aid it with predatory behavior (punishment).
Heavy handed riders who hold the reins tight and yank a horse around by the face will cause a horse to rear. The horse is fighting to escape the constant confusing, frustrating pressure. He braces. The rider kicks and pulls at the same time and the horse goes up. The rider freaks out and pulls harder, the horse goes up higher.
Bottom line is....this horse has been taught to brace against pressure and resist (aside from possible pain issues, which must be taken care of FIRST).....
Basically, are there any exercises that I can do with him to help him behave himself?
He's behaving as he should. Horses push or pull against pressure naturally....to find an escape from it when there's no good riding/training going on that they can listen to. He's doing it to tell you that something is wrong.
I think he's basically frustrated .... about carting little dumb kids all over the place so he figured out a way to make the kids go away.
You got that right. He's not the type to last at these summer camps/dude ranches because he refuses to be yanked and kicked and if his teeth are bad and the saddle is bad....well, he's doing his best to tell you that things much change for him to feel comfortable again. Get rid of the stimulus, and you get rid of the problem.
I guess I need some ideas of how to help him work out his frustration. I'm planning in riding him a lot and letting him be my baby for the next week and hopefully that'll begin to straighten him out.
Yes and no. If the pain issue isn't dealt with first and elliminated...then you'll still have problems and they will get worse eventually. When that happens, please try and find him a better home or find a rescue to take him.
If you get rid of the possible pain issues.....then your riding must be LOOSE REIN and lots of serpentine, bending exercises....with clear pressure (never pulling but only taking out the slack) and total release when he responds correctly. Then he'd be better off being a wrangler horse not a dude horse.
He's just so smart and it makes me so so sad that he's too short for me to buy and have it be a smart decision. Is there a magical horse growing potion out there? Lol
If you take him, you can always take care of his problems (pain and training) and then find him a good home.
1) get rid of the possible pain
2) bending exercises.....one rein stops (the main point being picking up one rein and moving the hip....crossing the back feet and turning that into steering and stopping)
--when you can pick up a rein and cross those back feet easily, he can't rear and instead, he learns to give and relax to pressure. You're bending his body and taking out the tension and resistance.
--serpentines are great, too.
3) I should of put this one second:
Going forward on a total loose rein. Let him move out and find that comfort zone without getting in his way, or in his face. Get him going consistently, then worry about steering.....ideally, choose a wide open space to do this in. Once he's comfy, then do the serps and one rein stops and such.
Good luck. Maybe the owners can step up and do their job right and take care of the animals that are making them some money.