Originally Posted by farley
where are your hands when you are asking him to back? Are your hands in front of your stomach or down by your knees/hips . Sometimes by lowering your hands you are forcing his head down into toward his chest which is easier for then to collect and back it also teaches him to drop his poll and give to the pressure. Otherwise your horse may want to fight the pressure and toss their heads this can make them stumble back and learn to hold their heads while backing. Also First ask them to only take a few steps and release and then gradually increase the steps once he understands.
I completely disagree with lowering the hands to ask for a stop, certainly applying any pressure while your hands are lower is not good; it puts more downward pressure on the bars of the mouth and in my experience, teaches the horse to tuck his nose back toward chest in an evasion of the bit. Once a horse starts tucking behind the bit, it is one of the hardest habits to break. Much harder to train a horse out of going behind the bit than to train it out of going above the bit.
YOu maintain the elbow to hand to bit alingment, whether going forward or backward. IF the horse raises his head to avoid the bit, you follow him up, and when he chooses to come back down again, you encourage that thought with a slight softening of the hand.
In any case, there are loads of threads on how to back up a hrose. I do, however, agree that while training good stops, it's not a bad idea to back the horse up a few steps. How many depends on when you feel him really put his mind into the process, lift his shoulders and neck (not throw his head in the air, lift the base of his neck) and LIFT his front legs backward rather than dragging them across the ground. When you feel that, then release.