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Wallaby 03-19-2009 04:43 PM

More backing up issues...
So after my episode on the trail with Lacey where she started backing up like crazy and wouldn't stop I decided that the next time she did that I would start asking her to back up, kinda a "it's my idea now!" sorta thing that makes backing up less fun. Last Saturday I went out and decided that me and her were going to work on backing up in the arena to make sure about how she'd react and to maybe make backing up less fun in general. Well that didn't go as planned...
First off, she backs up fine from the ground, straight, quickly, no issues. I lunged her for a bit before tacking her up and she was doing great, listening to me and just generally being very responsive. I even lunged her over one of those little trail obstacle bridge thingies and she did great. So Her brain was working and she was fine. I got her tacked up and decided to try mounting from the mounting block (she used to be scared of it) and she was surprisingly fine (usually she walks off or tries to but she didn't try nearly as hard that day). Basically she was having an AMAZINGLY good day.
I had her walk around a bit. We did a few figure 8's, serpentines, all at a walk since the ground was mushy and I didn't want her getting worked up like she might have if I asked her to go faster. Then I had her go to one end of the arena and put her nose to the fence and stop for a moment. She was fine with it. Then I leaned back a smidge (more like rocked my weight back), squeezed her and gently pulled back on the reins to ask her to back up. She backed up fine for a few steps then I asked her to stop by releasing rein pressure, squeezing her forward and rocking my weight forward. Well she kept going backwards so I said "ok, we have half the arena left" and asked her to keep backing. Then she started jumping around like she does when she's about to blow up (rearing/bucking etc) so I pulled her in a circle nad took her back to where we started.
Each time I asked her to back up she would keep backing after I told her to stop. I tried to persevere and keep asking her until she actually stopped when i asked her to but she wouldn't. Each time I asked her to stop she'd keep going and then start blowing up if I asked her to keep going.

I would just push the matter but I don't want her to actually get me off (I can stay on really well and she hasn't come close to unseating me but I don't want to go there) and learn that rearing/bucking gets her where she wants to go. When I'm not riding I get the impression that she knows I'm in control (becuase she's perfect on the ground) but when I get on her back she feels like she's in control so she takes advantage and becomes "Satan Pony," as we called her at my camp. And at this point she pretty much is in control when I ride her. Any ideas?

She's fine on the ground, I've joined up with her, the saddle fits pretty well...


Edit: She's in a single jointed snaffle and she stops fine, really excellently actually, when she's going forward. >.<

onetoomany 03-19-2009 05:04 PM

What happens if you really push the forward issue?

Wallaby 03-19-2009 05:05 PM

She starts rearing about a foot off the ground and/or bucking/crowhopping all while trying to back up more. >.< Silly horse.

Edit: If I pull her in a circle she snaps out of it pretty quickly but then we're back to stage 1 if I ask her to back up again...

Spirithorse 03-19-2009 05:08 PM

Why do you squeeze her when asking to back up? To me that is a contradictory signal....for me at least I only squeeze when I want the horse to go faster (if he doesn't listen to my energy first).

When you are going forward do you usually ride with contact? If not, when you ask her to back up with contact, the bit might bother her.

Wallaby 03-19-2009 05:11 PM

I ride english so I usually ride with contact.
I squeeze because that's just how I was taught to ask a horse to back up... It makes sense to me because I don't want to just pull on the horses face to get them to back up... Squeezing would engage their hindquarters, maybe? I'm just guessing at why...
She does the same thing when I don't squeeze her when I ask to back up too. I've tried it. =)

onetoomany 03-19-2009 07:48 PM


Originally Posted by Spirithorse (Post 273302)
Why do you squeeze her when asking to back up? To me that is a contradictory signal....for me at least I only squeeze when I want the horse to go faster (if he doesn't listen to my energy first).

Squeezing while backing is to encourage the horse to lift its back and get them backing properly. If they are backing 'flat' more often than not they are dragging their feet, which is not proper. It also really helps to encourage them to get their motor underneath them.

After asking for the back, I would pretty much do what you initially start doing plus I would completely throw out the reins. Ask for forward motion and just keep softly asking. She'll smack into something eventually and stop (I would suggest starting this in an arena). When she does stop and gives the slightest hint of forward movement immediately leave off your cues and give a lot of praise. I wouldn't, however, start out with one set of cues (the forward cue) and when she doesn't comply switch to a backing cue. In my opinion it isn't very consistent and you're probably going to end up confusing her with the varying cues. It could also be that she'll start to ignore your forward cues in hopes that you'll just stop asking and give up. That's just what I would do, good luck and keep us updated.

Shellbe 03-19-2009 08:27 PM

She sounds confused.

Perhaps you need to ask her to back, and as soon as she even begins to move backwards, wether it's the slightest beginning of a move with any of her legs release the contact you have with the reins as well as your leg and seat cues. She 'should' (it may take time with her, or maybe you'll need to find another way to fix this prob) then stand. BIG REWARD then go do some forward work before asking again you may have to do this quite a bit, but don't continue to do it if she gets a bit huffy about it, get what you can so as to end on a good note :) .

I agree with Onetoomany about getting her to move off forwards after getting her to back up. Some horses can pick this up pretty much straight away if they can easily distinguish with what the different cues between forwards movement and back up are. Others may need the halt in between to 'break up the cues' so-to-speak (which is why I've mentioned about allowing her to stand if she does it). What I would suggest if your girl is able to switch from reverse to forwards easily enough,(without requiring the stand) that, until she gets the idea, that you maintain the loss of contact with the reins (from rewarding her for backing up just the slightest bit) so that she listens to your leg and seat without your reins causing a bit of confusion. If she's just rather sensitive and doesn't quite understand about moving from reverse to forwards by moving in, through the bit in frame. Soon enough, once she depends on what your seat and legs are asking of her you can bring back the contact and everything should be fine :). This doesn't mean you have to throw contact away in other apsects of your ride if she's having no problems related to it, just for the backing up issue :).

As for control when riding her. It can be tricky, and differs from horse to horse when fixing the roles of respect etc. Sometimes horses just need to be aware of a 'win' by you to turn the tables of who's boss. Some need more than that. As you're overcoming this backing up issue your control issue may resolve as she realises that you're in control. You're asking her to do things, and that she's expected to do them. And when she does do them, her mind being stimulated by doing something with lots of praise might be just what she needs as she might reallise that your role with her from her back has her doing interesting and rewarding things. Other than that. Short sessions mounted upon her which accomplish what you're after and then finish may also help as, if she enjoys going for rides, she may feel put-out by you not taking her for a lovely lengthy ride, and so it puts you in control (doesn't walways work, but has worked with horses I've worked with who's concentration switches off and it seems like I'm talkign to a brick wall :P .

Goodluck :).

Spirithorse 03-19-2009 11:57 PM

I don't use my reins to back up at all. I shift my weight back and "suck" my energy back and my horse backs right up. And he's definitely not flat backed.

I'd wonder if the bit is playing part of the problem. Sometimes bit issues can come across as behavioral issues. Some horses feel "trapped" in the front end when ridden with a single jointed bit and don't want to go forward, but given a bit with tongue relief they find it easier. Don't know if this is part of your horse's problem but it might be worth a look into.

koomy56 03-20-2009 12:19 AM

What is happening is that your horse gets "stuck" in reverse, and doesn't know how to come out of it in a calm, confident manner. In some horses, when too much pressure is applied beyond their ability they can get stuck, and the only way out of that place is to explode.
What I would do is before you ride the next time, just leave your horse in the halter. Put him on the rail of your arena, and back him one step, and just see what he does. A few things might happen.
If he continues to back up on his own, quietly walk along with him. Do not correct him by asking him forwards. Just hang out with him until he realizes you are not asking him to back up. Do not have any pressure on the lead rope, make no corrections if possible. Wait it out until he stops backing up on his own. Once he does, pat on his face and then ask him forwards by walking backwards yourself and drawing him to you. Stop, pat him, then ask for him to back up again. Repeat this until he realizes you are only asking one step from him. No matter how long it takes, do not correct him from backing up "too much". You will be able to work up to one step back, one step forward, one step back, one step forward.
You need to teach him how to come out of backwards. Doing it on the ground is safer for you, and more clear to your horse because you arent dealing with habits and patterns that you have already created.
If your horse backs up and springs forward like its his only job in the world, with no relating issues, then add a little life when you are asking for him to back up. Once you have raised his energy level, stop immediately and allow for himself to come back down and get with you. If he does not, and instead backs up too much, repeat as above. Adding life and energy will train him that when he gets to that state of mind, where this is more pressure, that he can calm down and quietly remove himself from being afraid.
Take your time. Be patient. Give him a chance to work it out.

Spyder 03-20-2009 12:43 AM


Originally Posted by Wallaby (Post 273306)
I ride english so I usually ride with contact.
I squeeze because that's just how I was taught to ask a horse to back up... It makes sense to me because I don't want to just pull on the horses face to get them to back up... Squeezing would engage their hindquarters, maybe? I'm just guessing at why...
She does the same thing when I don't squeeze her when I ask to back up too. I've tried it. =)

Your aids seem fine.

What I personally would try is something a little different. Always keep in mind what the horse has to do in order to continue to do what you don't want it to do. Backing is normally a straight line movement. Rearing is a straight line movement going up to avoid going go sideways.

I have yet to see a horse rear with it legs crossed or backing with it legs crossed. In fact I used lateral movements to cure my boy from rearing when he was younger when he decided he didn't want to go forward (he also has a cold backed) so it was compounded.

Try in the arena where you don't have to worry about where you go and slowly back her. Ask her to go forward normally and the instant she continues to take the next backward step ask for a leg yield. Don't scare her into it but be firm and see what she does. It may take a couple of attempts but the thinking is that if she thinks she will get her legs tangled she will either go forward (can't rear because the legs are crossed) or continue sideways. You can continue sideways if that is her choice but switch direction to leg yield the opposite way with requests to go forward between leg yields.

If this shows signs of success repeat the exercise so that the minute you ask for forward with a slight or beginning request for a leg yield it will tell her to stop the backing and go forward.

Let us know how this works out.

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