Backing Up Correctly
Working on lots of things in the arena of late as my normal trail routes are out of commission. Could someone explain to me how a horse ought to be moving when they are backing up correctly? My guy's butt seems to want to swing out to the left as we back up, and I am not sure how to fix it because I am not sure what the correct aids are supposed to be.
So, if we are standing square and I ask for a back-up with a straight body and even pressure, theoretically, the horse should back straight. I am not sure if his lack of backing straight is him, me, or the combo of both of us at the moment.
Now, IF I wanted the horse to back and swing his butt out to the left/turn so we are facing right (relative to our starting point) while backing up, what aids would I use to ask for it properly? Now the other way, if I wanted his butt to go to the right?
To me, I like my back-up to feel like my horse is folding up into a spring. I want the haunches under him, back rounded, moving at a reasonable pace for his training, head down, and in a straight line. A horse with impulsion will use himself better than a horse trying to get out of using his hind end (by swinging out, hollowing the back, bringing up the head, etc)
Helping make the back up better requires the horse to move forward well. I want my horse to spring forward when I ask him to go, and stop with his haunches underneath him.
I prefer to use a combination of rein and leg cue and eventually phase out the rein cue to make the back up a leg cue. Usually by jingling my spurs or tapping lightly with both feet. The rein is used at first to reinforce. Hold, release, hold, release, etc. with each step to encourage quicker movement.
I like to get a little momentum going, so I'll ask my horse to trot forward, halt, back three steps, and then trot forward again. Soon they start anticipating the forward movement and start sitting on their haunches to "launch" you forward.
And then you should have control of your horse's hindquarters. A "third" button, like if in front of the girth controls the shoulder for a pivot, at the girth is forward/sideways, and slightly behind controls the hip left/right/disengagement. A good exercise is to try and make a circle backing up, keeping it round and smooth. It's quite difficult!
For example, right now if I want him to back straight, I lean back a little, even light rein pressure and squeeze a little with the legs. Then, when he tries to swing his butt left, I put pressure on slightly behind the girth with my left leg like I would any time I want his rear to move to the right. But I don't know what I should be doing with the reins (if anything) when I do that. He is normally good about moving off leg, but when backing, it's like he conveniently 'forgets' how to move off my leg properly.
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