Working on an accepting, smooth back up; help? - The Horse Forum
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  • 1 Post By tinyliny
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post #1 of 5 Old 09-07-2013, 10:29 PM Thread Starter
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Working on an accepting, smooth back up; help?

Hitting a little road block here with my Paint. She responds to the bit in motion appropriately, I am satisfied there, always room to improve, but what I can't do that I feel I should be able to is that I can't back her without my leg. I don't want to use my leg to back her. Why? I want the cue to be simpler, her response to the bit more accepting overall, and remove the confusion with the leg cueing; now that we do lateral exercises, she tends to move sideways or go to turn on the forehand instead of back up straight if I use my leg.

Using just my reins today, I closed my hands at a halt; she lowers her head and looks on the vertical, expecting to stretch down (only rein pressure at a halt usually was our time to do that). I hold the pressure and wait. She licks and chews, then tucks in more so I have to move my hands back to keep the same pressure. She jerks her nose back up in frustration after a second and scoots one leg back, so I release then. I kept trying this, and found that she stopped lowering her head and licking the bit when I pressured, instead ignoring my hands and sometimes taking a one small step back, but only with her nose out and clearly not accepting the bit at all.

So it looks like same pressure until step back only results in her becoming unresponsive and tenser. Some months ago I would practice closing my hands and waiting for her to lower her nose and get on the vertical, releasing every time she moved the right way any slight amount. So it would seem that if I just do that again, she will only get better at going on the vertical with rein pressure and stretching out from halt, but nothing to do with backing!

How do you teach a horse to back up on rein cue only, accepting the bit as they go?
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post #2 of 5 Old 09-07-2013, 10:39 PM
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First of all , you have to be clear about what you want by having that clear in your own mind. You'd be surprised what a difference it makes if you have the goal clearly visualized. You don't just start applying the rein and wonder what will happen. You think, "We are going to back up", and you keep that intention very much in the front of your mind. It will telescope down through your seat and arms more than you realize.

If you are asking only , 'please flex to the rein", then you keep THAT foemost in your mind. This is not to say that correct application of the rein or leg isn't important. It is, but having the goal in your mind will help your horse interpret better your intention, something they become masters at doing, if we don't activily confuse them by being confused ourselves.
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post #3 of 5 Old 09-07-2013, 10:53 PM
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I am a little confused why you want her to back up on rein cue only. In order for her to back up, she needs to use her legs. You cannot cue her legs to move with your reins. That's not what they are there for. You can do a very nice invisible cue backup with subtle leg cues and make it look like you did it with rein perhaps, but I don't think you can achieve what you are trying to do with a rein only method.
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post #4 of 5 Old 09-07-2013, 11:29 PM
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My mare used to have a terrible time backing up and, after a long-long-long time, I realized that I was pretty much 95% of the problem.
I would tense up, probably shift forward a little, then pull straight back on the reins with little warning and without releasing appropriately...and expect my poor mare to back up in a calm fashion. HAH! If she'd backup at all [at times she would just not backup], she would back up with her head in the air, evading my rein contact, and have a mini meltdown of sorts.

As soon as I started asking her correctly and, like TinyLiny says "thinking backwards", I soon had a horse that backed up calmly and without bracing against my hands. I had to reteach myself to first stop for a second, shift my weight back, collect my own thoughts, then softly open+close my hands on the reins while softly cuing with my legs [both so soft that it's nearly invisible - shifting my weight back is the "real" cue. But, like MBP said, leg is necessary for a smooth, attractive, backup]. Each open and close of my hands is timed with each step Lacey takes - closed on the step, open to "reward" for the step.

How does she back up on the ground? It sounds like she may have some stickiness there. I'd start there before trying undersaddle.
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Last edited by Wallaby; 09-07-2013 at 11:32 PM.
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post #5 of 5 Old 09-07-2013, 11:43 PM
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Have you tried the brace and bump method? This is what I use. I brace in the stirrups (heel down pressure in stirrups) bump in the neutral position and slowly lift the reins and hold and brace and bump the horse into the invisible wall created by my hands which encourages the horse to back up of the wall I created. Enough repetition of this and eventually all you will have to do is just brave in the stirrups and the horse will back up sans rein.
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