Teaching a horse to back up?
So, my new horse is fabulous in almost every way, but this horse is totally confused when he is asked to back up under saddle. He does it perfectly on the ground.
I asked him yesterday he stood there, tentatively tried to walks forward into my hands and when I didn't allow that he just stood there. He then to proceeded to rear, highly, albeit very nice, slow, and balanced. In no way trying to get me off, more, "is this what you wanted?"
He isn't exactly the smartest horse I've ever met, but he's very eager to please. What would you recommend I try? Most of the horses I taught just kind of figure it out themselves, but this guy seems to need a little more help. Would it be worth it to have someone ask from the ground to back up while I sit on his back giving him the cue to back up?
Do you use a voice cue as well as physical cues on the ground to ask him to back up? And do you use any rein aids on the ground to ask him to back up or just push him in the chest?
How are you asking him to back up under saddle? If you're just pulling back on the reins you're going to have problems.
On the ground he'll back by either pulling lightly on the lead rope or reins lightly and also by pushing on his chest. He doesn't seem to transfer the rein contact on the ground with rein contact in the saddle. He doesn't know voice commands and if he was ever taught it would have been in German.
Ok no worries, well in that case, I do think that some help from the ground would benefit him. Have someone stand just in front of his shoulder, and ask for rein back from the saddle, if he does not respond to your under saddle aids, have your helper just give him a little bit of a tap on the chest to give him the idea. As soon as he takes a step backwards, take all pressure off him and have him walk forward again.
Avoid spending lengthly session on rein back as it can get some horses quite stressed. Just throw a couple of rein backs into your normal working session when he feels good ;)
Whoa him and THEN apply pressure and release when he steps back.
Sending him forward and then pulling back is just confusing him. Like mashing the gas and the break at the same time.
Once he learns that, start with cues. I ride western and use my seat, never have to touch the reins.
When my horse doesn't want to back up, I use the scissor method. I pull back with the left rein and then with the right rein in a rhythmic fashion. I've found that pulling back with both doesn't always work and I definitely can't use the gas because he'll just barrel forward through the bit. We also work on backing up from the ground and I always ask for "back up" and make a ssh sound.
A lot of folks would not agree with me, but I would like my horse to back primarily from the rein. I do, however, change my body attitude and will very lightly brush my leg against the side if the horse needs further clairification.
If you pull backward on both reins and the horse only resists this pressure as much as he can, then when he feels he has nowhere to go he goes UP, then you need to break it down and break him out.
Break it down means bread the process down into more comprehensible to the horse. Like, rein on means give your jaw to the bit :rider reward . Rein on means give your jaw and your poll; rider reward/release. Like that.
Break him OUT means that when he is giving to the bit, but just coming back behind it and getting kind of "stuck", like he doesn't know where to go from there, or his mind is turning back toward stiffening against your rein, then pick up one rein much stronger than the other, bend him back and get him to step back and under with his inside leg. Drop all reins;reward! Ask for a back, he freezes, pick up one rein and address his inside HIND leg, he bends and steps under/back, you release and try again.
Soon, all you have to do is ask for a back with one rien slightly tighter than the other to create a little bend so that he doesn't brace agains the equal pull, when he bend and steps back, then you kind of switch the "back" signal to the other hand, he should change his bend a tiny bit and step back on that side.
It's the old trick of bending a horse out of a brace. Alternate sides when you do the bend/ask for back up. You may need to creat a lot of bend and even brush his inside flank with your foot to get him to step the inside leg over.
eventually he will not need to step under/over (break out) but will back straight up with a soft jaw.
Don't discount the importance of the seat, whether that's an active part of your aiding process or not. Your seat needs to allow the horse to lift his back and come backwards fluidly.
For me, this allowing entails a slight forward tilt to the pelvis (coming forward onto the crotch a little, putting a slight s-bend in the back), and reminding myself to keep from collapsing through my chest. Looking up and forward is big - if I forget that and look down at Scout, that's the fastest way to lock him up and ruin the exercise. My rein aids are more of a closed hold than a pull. Legs close, perhaps bumping slightly if there's no response to the closure.
If the problems are under-saddle only, how is his saddle fit? Any reason for that to be restricting his movement?
Scout, you are so right! I like your description of how to sit. I just didn't want the OP to think that she can go straigt to seat only. Once the horse knows backing, it can be more from the seat, but you are right in that even when teaching the rein aids, having an encouraging seat is essential. I should have said that. You are so rigght.
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