Backing up?? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 09-16-2010, 02:01 PM Thread Starter
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Backing up??

my horse is a 19 year old quarter horse. I have owned him for 4 years and made a very big mistake of never making him back up. AH!! well now i need him to back up and he will not.. i have been working with him for two weeks now.. he will take about two steps back and if i ask for anymore he will simply throw his head up and pull against me and wont move! i keep constant pressure and give leg pressure 4 inchs back from the regular position. is he just not understanding me? and he did ok and went about three steps back a couple of times. But once we had been out there for about an hour and i tried to back him he acted like "oh no im boss"... it aggravates me soooo much! i have tons of patience but when it comes to him thinking he can get away with stuff like this i get irritated then he gets irritated cuz he can tell i am. haha... he reared twice but i worked him through that little issue and he continued to back up some.

although one main problem i am having is he will not stop straight! he will always shift to the right or left. then once i do get him to stop and i continue to attempt to get him to back up he will turn his head to the left and ill nudge him back to the right and when i get him to back up he will back up crooked.. he may be stiff in the neck? or just being stubborn?

any ideas???


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post #2 of 9 Old 09-16-2010, 04:39 PM
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I'm sure in his 19 years he's had to back up a few time.........( just saying LOL)

This is quick little video

How to teach a horse to back up under saddle | Video Wonder How To
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post #3 of 9 Old 09-16-2010, 05:11 PM
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I've taught quite a few horses to back up, but this year I had a customer's horse who for neither love or money would back up. I spent close to a month trying just about everything I could think of. Nothing would work. It was getting really frustrating cause she would back up with the barest touch of the reins if you were on the ground, but it just wouldn't translate to my being in the saddle. (even with another person on the ground) In desperation/frustration, I called my farrier, who happens to be a horse trainer with way more experience than I have. This is what he told me.

He told me her feet were sticking (which I knew cause she was a 2 yr old). I need to put my weight into my left leg/stirrup to cause her to shift her legs, then squeeze my legs (or whatever you do to ask for the back up) and when pulling on the bit to pull on one side (which for me, meant the right) just a tad bit more than the other. As soon as you get a step, drop the reins (release pressure for reward.)

After getting off the phone with him, in less than 5 minutes, I had the filly backing each time I asked. It was amazing, specially since I had struggled getting her to back for over a month.

You could try that. Good luck.

"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
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post #4 of 9 Old 09-16-2010, 07:19 PM
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First, I would start from the ground. Make sure he backs easingly and willingly to pressure with a halter. After all, the horse is first taught to give to pressure for turning and leading in a halter anyway.

I think that maybe you are expecting too much too soon. He was probably backed, but it could be 4 years or longer. If he takes a couple steps back, release and reward him then. Otherwise, you get in a pressure fight. If the horse thinks you won't release pressure, even if he backed, but you wanted more and never released pressure, then he will try other methods to get away from it, such as rearing and head tossing.

So, say he backs two steps for you, reward by releasing pressure and telling him good boy yadayadayada. Then, ask him for another couple steps. Instead of trying to make him back four steps at once, release every two. Eventually, you can add a step each time before releasing. And then, he can back four steps all at once :) But even John Lyons talks of teaching a horse to do something hundreds of times before he gets down perfect.

And on older horses, sometimes their joints get sore and stuff like people so maybe it’s a bit painful for him to back up as well. Just a thought. I don’t know.

Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back. -- Unkown
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post #5 of 9 Old 09-16-2010, 11:11 PM Thread Starter
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ill just reply to everyone in one message lol....

well the thing is i have been working on backing up on and off.. just this weekend started to really focus on it.. i have been backing him like two steps.. then releasing.. then trying for three.. got that down.. then for four steps and its like he puts his emergency brake on and does nothing!!! gosh it frustrates me so much! i know my horse is not dumb, to the person that said he is 19 im sure he has backed up before. i am more than sure! lol.. and i know he knows what the heck to do! he just is determined to beat me at this! and im stubborn just like him.. i will win! ^_^ today.. i rode him.. and he is still tilting his head to the right.. it may be a tooth issue.. im not quiet understanding his movements with his head.. but i got him off balance like the other person said to do.. didnt mean to get him off balance though haha but since he backs up crooked he did it to himself and that cause him to back up about 5 steps! woohoooo!!! but ill try what she said about what her farrier said to do.. that may work. i only have one more day to work on this so whatever i can get out of him tomorrow i will be happy with!

but heres my other problems.. when i use bit pressure to back up he gives his head. (like tucks his nose under to his chest. idk the proper wording) and i mean thats great and all that he will give to the pressure but i want the feet to move backwards! lol.. even when i use leg pressure he still does it!

i sure do have my work cut out for me! haha

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post #6 of 9 Old 09-17-2010, 12:05 AM
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I can't really help you on the not stopping straight problem. But as far as backing up... I would not apply steady pressure to his mouth. He will just brace against it and fight you. You found this out - he is going to be the boss. Try little tugs instead - pull and release, pull and release. Think of it this way. If someone came and put steady pressure on you leg, no matter how hard, it would not be as annoying as someone pushing, releasing and pushing releasing. It would get very annoying - same with the horse. The second he backs up release him and let him go forward. Then ask for two steps backwards, and on from there. Hope this helps!
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post #7 of 9 Old 09-17-2010, 02:53 AM
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You got some great answers form folks. The one I cued into the most was the person who said that his feet are stuck. I think that point is very important. When a horse gets stuck like that , you have to break him out of it, like breaking out of being frozen to ice.
The one person who suggested unbalancing him was right in that this makes him put more weight on one side than the other. the same thing can happen if you ask for lateral movement .

do you know how to "disengage" his hindquarters? If you are trying to back him up straight and he gets stuck (and He isn't smart or evil enough to intentionally try to outdo you in stubborness), you will have to give up on the straight backup and get him loose. (btw, does he feel stiff when he is backing up?) You will have to put a bend in him and may have to go so far as to disengage his hindquarter to break him out and then start again.
Remember to kind of lift your pelvis just a tiny bit off the saddle and believe it or not, you kind of put your upper body the tiniest amount forward and ask the horse to back into the space you have provided for him. If you are leaning too far back with a hard seat, digging your seat heavily into the saddle, you are anchoring him to the ground. Actually think backup in your head. Visualize how it feels and which foot moves next.
When you apply the rein, apply one more than the other, should create a give in the jaw. He should back one step, on that side. You do the same on the other side.. Step by step with a bend on each side.
Oh, I just thought of somethig. If you are riding in a curb or Tom Thumb, it won't work as well as if you are working in a snaffle.

Anyway, if the horse doesn't listen to the bend/back cue of the rein, then take it back so far that you actually disengage the hindquarter on that side, and the horse steps under. Why do that? Because it breaks him out of the resistance. Then without getting angry, try backing up again. Pretty soon he will find that backing with a little bend in his body is easier than doing the whole disengagement. He will become softer, too.
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post #8 of 9 Old 09-18-2010, 01:00 AM
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I think you have to not push him past his limits. At 19 he could very possibly have a little stiffness in his back that makes it hard to back up. What kind of bit are you using? if you're using something with a shank on it, when he throws his head up he's trying to get away from the pain. You have to reward what he gives you because if he thinks that he's not gonna get anything out of backing, he's gonna shut down and stop moving. So take a step at a time and reward him with a release of the reins. Pat his neck and then ask again. Don't necessarily let him move forward, just release the pressure so that he understands that when he moved his feet, he did right. Eventually, you can ask for 2 steps between the pressure releases and then more, but you have to give him time. I'm sure he knows what backing up is, he just might not realize what it is you mean when you ask him.
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post #9 of 9 Old 09-18-2010, 01:20 AM
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As a note, 99% of the time when a horse backs up crooked, it's because the rider is putting more weight in one of their seat bones and cueing them to go that direction without realizing it.

I agree about the steady pressure - there shouldn't BE "pressure" when asking for a back up. Backing up is nothing but forward motion in reverse - your hands should create a wall for him and your seat should create a door. You shouldn't be PULLING him backwards - you should be asking him to go "forward" but creating a wall on every side except back.

In teaching this to young or green horses, I will sponge gently on the reins in a "give and release" motion so they DON'T have anything to brace against. A horse that gets stuck in a brace is impossible to move. Also, don't be asking mountains to move. A shift backwards is all it takes for me to praise the horse I'm working with. Don't keep asking if they're giving, or they can't seek a release from the pressure and HE is getting frustrated with YOU.

Best of luck!

I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.

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