Backing a young horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 02-03-2013, 04:26 AM Thread Starter
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Backing a young horse

I have a 3 year old shire gelding. Im in the process of backing. I have backed a few horses before but to teach turning ive always used long reining in a cavesson to get them turning left and right and standing but using the pressure release system. I cant find a cavesson big enough for my boy and need some ideas on teach left right and halt. Im worried about trying with his bit as i want him to stay soft in the mouth but seems this is my only option. Any ideas would be great. Thanks.
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post #2 of 4 Old 02-03-2013, 10:47 AM
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Part of the logic of using long =reins and driving a young horse is to put a mouth on it before the rider starts to give the aids from the saddle.
I always drive my youngsters from the bit and it has never ruined their mouths.
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post #3 of 4 Old 02-03-2013, 11:08 AM
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You just need to take the time to teach him bending exercises on the ground.
I worked long and hard with my 2-year-old last summer and she is moving well off of the leg, bending & stopping without ever having a bit in her mouth.
Basically, you get him soft at backing up on the halter and brining his head around to his shoulder. There are many different exercises you can do to get softness before you even step into the saddle.

One is to stand at the horse's shoulder and ask him to bring his nose to you. Go slow and release when he gives you what you want. Let him think and then try again and increase the length of time.

Another one is tostand on one side of your horse (left for example) and use a long rope, especially if you have a big horse. Put the rope on the opposite side of the horse and draw it across his body and around his hindquarters. Then step back and pull the rope gently. This exercise causes him to bend & turn away from you and then come around in a full circle and face you again. Some horses dont like it at first and want to back up, but just be calm and patient and remember to release the moment he gives you what you want.

Another is a good way of getting them used to body/leg pressure before you even get on. Again, stand at the shoulder and press one hand/fingers into the side of his throatlatch or even his cheek and the other right around where the girth would go. Start by pressing the girth first and then immediately push on his face/neck.
Again, most horses want to step away or even back up when you first try this but eventually they learn to yield their forehand away from the pressure. Depending on the horse, this can take anywhere from a few tries to many.
Oddly enough, it took no time at all to teach my 2-year-old this whereas it took my 18-year-old, well-broke Arab mare quit awhile to do this without walking forward.

PATIENCE IS KEY remember so dont be worried if he doesnt grasp it right away. You have time to work it out and he will be so much softer for it without having to use a bit and when you do put a bit in his mouth, you shouldnt have to apply as much pressure either to get a response because he will already be good at responding to light pressure ;)
Just a few ideas!
Also, once you do get on his back, before you even set off at a walk, it is always a good idea to get him relaxed at bending his nose to your toes to make sure he has a soft feel.

"If a horse fails to do something that is because he was not trained to do it. If a horse fails to do something properly that is because he was not trained properly."
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post #4 of 4 Old 02-03-2013, 12:37 PM
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On a youngster, long before they go under saddle, I back them a lot by holding the lead and gently asking them to lower their head w down and back pressure, following their head down as they give. No forcing. So you end up sorta bent over w them and their head lowered, and the rope between the halter and your hand becomes somewhat "parrallel" to the ground...Continueing the whole time w the gentle pressure, back them, releasing the pressure as they back - but hold position. One step is fine at first. They will quickly easily go more than a few steps. This is a "slow action" sort of thing and takes patience at first, and you have to really pay attention to the pressure you are using, and their "give". Once they can do this in one smooth motion, I move to backing in hand without bend downing w the same "straight back" pressure on the lead using very gentle force, patiently waiting for a response and release. How quickly they master this in smooth motion just depends on the horse, there is no "race" to get "there". It makes it very "fair" for them to understand when asked to back under saddle in a bit or hackamore. I imagine you can do the same w one that is already started under saddle.

There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.
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