Backing up with her head WAY up?

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Backing up with her head WAY up?

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  • How to keep horses head down when backing
  • How to keep a horses head down when backing

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    12-22-2011, 04:23 PM
Super Moderator
Backing up with her head WAY up?

Miss Lacey has always had this issue where as soon as I request a back up from her, her head flies up in the air and she backs up very stiffly.
She can be going along, completely soft, stop with her head low, but her entire attitude changes when I ask her to back up.
Even if I ask her to back up on an entirely loose rein (one soft+short pull backwards then release, with light leg pressure is her back up cue), her head flies up.

I'm pretty sure this is a deeply ingrained training issue for her because when I first got her, any request for backing up was also a request for her to rear as many times as possible. I assume that whatever is going on here most likely stems from that. I was able to train her to stop rearing but we've gotten no further than that.

I'd love to get her backing up comfortably since she's obviously uncomfortable right now, I just don't know where to start. I do try to back her up a few times a ride (I'm a little nervous about doing it too often because she used to use backing up as an evasion on the trail) but that doesn't seem to change anything.
She's most comfortable with no rein contact while she backs up but even then, she feels very nervous about it.
She did back up with her head down once (first time ever!!), 2 rides ago, but she was really worked up at that point and was doing her best "I'm a wild Ay-rab!!" impression so it was more her being worked up vs any actual training in progress.

She has no issue backing on the ground and she prefers to back up with her head up then too, but as of late I've been teaching her to put her head down to back up (on the ground) and she's doing really well with that. So maybe it'll be a progression...? She also has no problem backing up on her own time, loose, with her head down...

Ideas? How do you guys train your horses to back up all nicely?
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    12-22-2011, 05:48 PM
When I ask my horses to back I maintain the same rein contact I would throughout the rest of my ride. I try not to actually use my reins in the back up but rather use light leg pressure and HOLD with my body- I almost envision sucking them backward like a vaccuum with my seat and core. If this isn't enough and they want to move forward then my rein contact is there to re-enforce my body and act as a wall telling them no forward is not an option. I never pull a horse into a back up but rather as I said have the hands there so if the horse tries to take a forward option it will quickly realize it has nowhere to go and this is not what I'm asking. I haven't had any problems with my horses doing this and now rarely have to have my hand there at all to back up and they all do so softly without hollowing the back and raising the head but then I've never ridden a rearer in any sense so perhaps someone else will have something more enlightening lol but that is how I ride my guys.
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    12-23-2011, 12:24 AM
I had a similar problem with my horse, but when he was asked to stop. He backs beautifully and gives his head perfect, but at one point in his training, he just randomly decided he didn't want to stop for anything. Since you believe it's a training issue, why not get a trainer/instructor? I don't know what I would've done without my trainer (; She's throwing her head way up because she's bracing against the pressure. She wants to be in charge and she obviously doesn't want to back. You need to let her know, that you want her to back and she WILL back if she knows what's good for her. (; My trainer had me do one rein stops with my horse, and it totally helped. NOTE Just because I USED the one rein stop, and it helped me, doesn't mean that I think it will help every horse!! I don't think it should be used on every horse/every situation. So all of you who want to argue and say that I said that one rein stops work for everything, I DIDN'T For crying out loud people, it's like saying that I think a curb bit is the perfect bit for every horse, AND NO ONE DOES. Sorry Wallaby, I got kinda off subject...(some people had a major problem and freaked out about the fact that I recommended teaching their horse to flex and do the one rein stop on another thread....) ANYWAYS, like I said before, a trainer would be nice (:
    12-23-2011, 12:30 AM
Try keeping contact with her mouth- this will gently tell her to keep her head where it needs to be. You said that she's good any other time and is very soft, right? Use her soft mouth and ability to listen to the bit well. If she tries to throw her head up, gently see-saw or tap the reins until her head is back to where it needs to be, and then ask her to back again.

If you have no contact, like you said you do, it gives you no way to direct her head- you're basically giving her the freedom to do what she wants to do with it, which in this case, doesn't work for you very well.
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    12-23-2011, 12:33 AM
Super Moderator
Rosie1- I'll give that a try the next time I ride. I had never actually thought about not pulling back AT ALL and then just squeezing with my legs and stopping her from going forward with my hands... I'll have to give that a try. :)

Gallop- There aren't any trainers in my area who I'd trust with this girl. They probably just throw draw reins on her and force her head down which is not what I want. Not to mention that most of the trainers around her are just creeps. Basically, HF is the best trainer I could find.
Also, her "wanting to be in charge" is not the case here. She's definitely scared. I'll try to find a video from a few years ago to demonstrate but until then, it's definitely not a dominance issue. She doesn't want to back up, but it's worry that's making her get brace-y, not dominance.
She ORS's perfectly. :) She'll give her head every direction except down, undersaddle (and every direction, including down on the ground).
A trainer would be nice! But no luck there.

Soenjer- I usually do keep contact, I was just using no contact as an example to show that she's not evading the contact itself. I can give that a try but she does not usually react well to seesawing or bops with the reins. I've tried them before (in the distant past) and I seem to remember even more evasion coming from it... She has, however, progressed greatly in her training since then so her reaction might be better at this point...
    12-23-2011, 12:38 AM
Oh darn ): I'm lucky to have 2 trainers that are great (: There are also another 2 that I hate, but MOVING ON BEFORE I START RANTING... (; Is your horse a rescue? Did she come out of a bad situation? My horse is the kind of horse that you can punish him for something wrong, (even if you have to be kinda harsh...*sigh*) and he'll move on, no harm no foul. It won't ruin our relationship at all. In fact, sometimes, depending on what he was getting in trouble for, our relationship will be better (: My trainer has a horse that if you punish him for doing something wrong with anything but gentleness and patience, (HA except you can't punish with that lol) he will freak, and they will have to practically start over... Which one sounds more like your horse?
    12-23-2011, 12:50 AM
My horse learned to back up on the ground by applying pressure on his halter until he backed up. Then we worked on backing up with pressure motion, which he is getting better and better at each day.

But he learned best in his side reins. After he and I have been lunging on the line with his side reins, at the end I ask him to back up a few steps if he tries to follow me when I am messing with his stirrups or girth or whatnot. Eventually it became engrained in his brain, and now when I say "back" he backs up nice and low and relaxed, even under saddle with very light rein pressure and shifting my weight.

It just takes time to help your horse understand what feels best to them and what makes you both happy. But you'll both get it! Though the side reins did speak best to my horse. :)
    12-23-2011, 12:54 AM
I even know a girl that trained her horse to back with only using her legs. It's really cool. I want to teach it to my horse (:
    12-23-2011, 01:05 AM
Super Moderator
Erhmmmm....well, she's not what I would call a "rescue" or from a bad situation since she was fat (too fat) and a pasture puff when I got her. However, before becoming a pasture puff, she had apparently, from what I can piece together, really suffered at the hands of the sons of her owner. I'm not really sure exactly what all happened but I had some work (and am still working at) undoing the "training" they made her suffer through. She seems to have some really nice training under all the craziness they encouraged but there are somethings, like backing up, that I haven't been able to "fix" yet. Not to give her an excuse though. It's just a part of her life that we're still working through and that we'll get completely through eventually.
She's definitely more of the sensitive type. Usually a verbal reprimand is more than enough punishment for her. She does have a bossy side, but it's never something that a "QUIT IT!" can't handle.

This was taken about 2 years ago but it's about as far as we've gotten (with more contact she's a littler better, I was experimenting with very little contact at the time, which worked fantasticly for getting her head down as you can see).
Also, I wasn't using my legs to block her side to side movements enough, I've since learned to do that.
You can see how before I ask her to back up and after I stop asking for the back up, she's completely soft and responsive.

Thanks Sky. :) That's what I'm hoping for: that maybe by practicing backing up on the ground, we'll get backing up in the saddle. She did back up that one time the other day with her head down and we've been practicing that daily for the last few months, so maybe she's getting it! My fingers are crossed. Haha I've been trying to add a word cue as well, it's just not working as well as most word cues do with her... Silly horse! Haha
    12-23-2011, 01:15 AM
After seeing your vid.. though I can't see up close, how do you ask for her to back up?
I've found softening the bit helps them to remember not to brace against it when they back.

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