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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I need to change my horse's back up cue from the saddle. Currently, it's the same as another cue I use to bring him onto the bit, and when I use it from the halt it confuses my horse.

The cue right now is basically just raising my hands and squeezing the reins. My instructor tried getting me to put my legs on to teach him not to go back but this made it worse as when he braces against the back up cue I put my legs on to encourage him to move back, so of course this confused him.

I was thinking I could try changing the cue so instead of the reins being the reason he backs up, it could be putting my legs on further back than I would do to urge him forward. So walk on cue would be legs on at the girth and a 'rise' in energy, and back up would be legs on the barrel and a 'lower' in energy. Similar to what Jesse does at 7:06 here:
This would also be helpful because eventually I want to be able to do tackless riding.

I've never had to change a cue for anything before though, so does anyone have any advice for doing this? If it matters, his back up cue on the ground is wagging my finger at his chest if I'm close to him, or moving the lead rope up and down if I'm far away from him.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Generally speaking stopping & backing are trained with a change of seat position. Your seat positions what differs stopping and backing from forward movement. For example when I want a horse to stop I take a deep seat, my weight goes to my pockets, and I stop riding. if the horse does not stop then I will reinforce/block forward movement with the bit. Backing I use the same que in which I sit deep with my weight on my pockets, reinforcing this by asking the horse to move off of bit pressure, and increasing impulsion with my legs. In the beginning I may exaggerate my seat and lean slightly back in the saddle until the horse learns to respond to my seat. The difference in this and asking the horse to brake at the pole during forward movement is your seat position, and you will also be riding the horse which creates energy & keeps the horse moving forward.

best of luck
 

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when you ask the horse , through the reins, to soften to the bit , (I wouldn't necessary call it be 'on the bit', as that implies that he is driving forward with an engaged body, but is allowing the bit to control a bit his head position and is lifting his chest a bit, while reaching further underneath with his hind legs . . . so-called 'collection')



Anyway . . . So, yes, riding 'back to front' requires the hrose to understand what the 'front' is , and this is what you are working on with your rein work. I think of it as getting the horse to answer me when I pick up a bit of rein and ask, "can you soften a bit and get ready for something ?" "are you 'with' me?"


When asking a horse to soften at the poll, it is a first step in preparing him for the next thing you want him to do. Your horse is just being a good fellow by trying to respond to you and do MORE than you ask for, and that's probably becuase you are not rewarding him soon enough , so he is confused. If you want him to only soften to the bit , then you must be ready to release him when he does, even if it's only a tiny bit.


But if instead of softening, he thinks you are asking him to back (and he does so with a hard, braced neck, then LET him back up and up and up and up, but you keep holding the rein with enough contact and keep looking for him to soften. The instant he softens, release.


you do NOT reward a braced back up, but you DO REWARD a softening, whether he needed to back up and up to figure it out or not.
The softening comes first, before the back up, and if you reward that, he will know to wait for the cue from you to move. If he backs before softening, you do not need to use your leg to move him forward, you allow him to struggle a bit through it, until he figures out that SOFTENING is what you are looking for, not backing.


And, yes, your seat is all important to indicate that you ARE or ARE NOT asking for a back up.
 

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I'm personally not a huge fan of the idea of using legs further back to indicate the "back up," for multiple reasons. First off, the guy in the video wasn't using his legs as the backup cue - he was using his neck rope, and the legs were secondary. Also, keep in mind there are a lot of horses who will feel "leg back" as asking for a canter transition. And as mentioned above - seat position is more important to the halt/back up cue. Leaning back with a deeper seat indicates stop/back up. When you put your legs further back, it's going to push your body into a more forward position - which is not intuitive to you or the horse.

If anything, I've seen people use the opposite to teach stop/back up - they put their legs forward on the horse's shoulders (doesn't need to be this exaggerated though), especially because that corresponds with a natural shift in your weight backward.

Like training an animal to do most anything, whatever the new command is, you need to give the new command first, then reinforce with an old command if they don't respond to the new, just like @Hackamore was saying.
 

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I'd consider changing your "come on to the bit" queue, not your back-up queue. Pulling back with both hands encourages bracing, not bend. If you want her to round onto the bit, you need to work on flexion side to side. And I don't mean see-sawing. I mean asking for flexion one way. And asking for flexion the other way. And playing and alternating with it until she rounds and softens. A horse that knows what you're asking can eventually be taught to bend down to a little wiggle, but it's still a left-right-left-right wiggle in the fingers that stops the moment there's softness. Not a straight pull.
 

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I (& I think most) use seat cues for slow/stop or backing up(stop giving the cue at whatever stage the horse is doing what I want). I only use the reins if/when they don't respond to seat/legs. Especially if you want to ride with no tack, they need to understand & be compliant to your seat first & foremost. Yes, I'd use a different cue(seat) to your 'collect' cue.

You could also 'refine' your 'collect' cue to picking up a bit of mane in a certain way, so you can ask for that tackless too. I taught mine to do that from the ground first, with a verbal cue.
 

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If anything, I've seen people use the opposite to teach stop/back up - they put their legs forward on the horse's shoulders (doesn't need to be this exaggerated though), especially because that corresponds with a natural shift in your weight backward.
That's what I do, but my legs aren't 'on' the horse, unless they don't respond, or I want faster. Then I tap with my feet a little forward of where they usually sit.

I'm pretty simple about leg aids, I don't do it the 'proper' dressage way or such, just what seems simplest for the horse to understand. Very basically, as well as seat cues, if I want them to yield their hindquarters over, then I move my leg back a tad & 'push' there(so to use legs in that position for backing up would be confusing). If I want shoulder over, one leg is a bit forward to 'push' there. Sideways is leg pressure in the middle. 2 legs on at the middle or back a little mean go/faster, 2 legs on in front mean slow/stop/back up.

I teach them first from the ground, with the signals/pressure more obvious - eg I might ask for a hindquarter yield by directing pressure way back at his flank or rump, then as he gets the idea, 'refine' it until he yields to light finger pressure where your legs will be when riding.
 

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I agree in using seat position. I tend to sit a bit deeper in the saddle. I don't pull on the reins, but use them to block forward movement. Adding a bit of leg, a deep seat and a block (not a pull) by the hands is how I cue backwards. It can take a bit to teach, but I like it as I hate tugging on their mouths. And I want my horse to back up with a low/relaxed head rather than braced & up b/c I'm yanking on their mouth.
 

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^yes, relying so much on reins tends to make horses bracey & head high. For that reason I particularly dislike the NH type back up cue of lifting the reins up high & jiggling.
 

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^yes, relying so much on reins tends to make horses bracey & head high. For that reason I particularly dislike the NH type back up cue of lifting the reins up high & jiggling.



I don't think I've ever heard any NH trainer advocate that; lifting up the reins, high, and jiggling.



Do you have an example of a trainer that teaches that?


A horse is only bracey and head high as a reaction to the rein if you allow that. (or, if it's in pain) If you teach that every time you ask for a back up, you first want the horse to soften, then that's what you will get.
I don't mean drop the head, or tuck behind the bit , actually. in fact, the poll often comes higher, but so does the whole neck, in an arch out of the shoulders , lifted by the muscles that are part of the so-called thorasic 'sling' that supports the front of the body and the shoulders to breast connection (there is no bony connection at all).
 

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^ The cue is a 'lift up' with the reins, but as a 'back up' if the cue isn't 'listened to' then people jiggle or 'bump' the reins. I first saw Parelli teach this, but have since seen many others do it. And yeah, agree that rein aids of themselves don't cause resistance, just the way they're taught/used can. And there are certain things - such as lifting the reins high, which encourage the head to come up. I think, from memory, in Parelli's case, he taught this because he *wanted* the head high, as he believed they had to raise their front end in order to back well.
 

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oh. ok. Well, I have used a 'bump' on the rein (singular) to get a hrose to let go of it's thought to dive down and behind the bit, but only when the horse is already moving forward. you know how a horse can develop the habit of curling behind the bit when going forward, especially if they've been ridden in restrictive side reins, or martingale. I use an upward bump of the rein to discourage that, along with a leg on asking them to let go of that evasion and move forward!



I see people doing two handed upward 'bumps' when riding Western Pleaseure and trying to train a horse to drop his nose. This only serves to train in the very evasion that I have had to try and get the horse to let go of later. It's such a bad habit to instill. There are almost no places where 'bumping' the rein is a good think, in my opinion. But, there are a few times where it helps, to get a horse's attention, or break up a fixed attitude.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Sorry forgot about this thread. Will clarify some things here. Thanks to all those who gave advice, didn't reply to everyone but it was all a great help!

when you ask the horse , through the reins, to soften to the bit , (I wouldn't necessary call it be 'on the bit', as that implies that he is driving forward with an engaged body, but is allowing the bit to control a bit his head position and is lifting his chest a bit, while reaching further underneath with his hind legs . . . so-called 'collection')



Anyway . . . So, yes, riding 'back to front' requires the hrose to understand what the 'front' is , and this is what you are working on with your rein work. I think of it as getting the horse to answer me when I pick up a bit of rein and ask, "can you soften a bit and get ready for something ?" "are you 'with' me?"


When asking a horse to soften at the poll, it is a first step in preparing him for the next thing you want him to do. Your horse is just being a good fellow by trying to respond to you and do MORE than you ask for, and that's probably becuase you are not rewarding him soon enough , so he is confused. If you want him to only soften to the bit , then you must be ready to release him when he does, even if it's only a tiny bit.


But if instead of softening, he thinks you are asking him to back (and he does so with a hard, braced neck, then LET him back up and up and up and up, but you keep holding the rein with enough contact and keep looking for him to soften. The instant he softens, release.


you do NOT reward a braced back up, but you DO REWARD a softening, whether he needed to back up and up to figure it out or not.
The softening comes first, before the back up, and if you reward that, he will know to wait for the cue from you to move. If he backs before softening, you do not need to use your leg to move him forward, you allow him to struggle a bit through it, until he figures out that SOFTENING is what you are looking for, not backing.


And, yes, your seat is all important to indicate that you ARE or ARE NOT asking for a back up.
I will work on getting the different cues more clear for him. My 'bit' cue is a raising of the hands, NOT bringing them back. Back up is just pulling back, to put it bluntly. However he does react the same to both, at-least when I first use them. The other day he was very bracey so I had to ask him to soften a lot, and by the end he stopped offering the back up. I do think you are onto something about not releasing quickly enough though, as sometimes he will soften and I can't feel it until my instructor tells me to get him to walk on and he softens more.

I'll also work on the seat more, but he's not very good with seat cues because I can't control my seat very well yet, to give cues, if that makes sense. Like especially when I'm halted I can't get my seat to go lighter or deeper. But I'm working on it currently :D

I'm personally not a huge fan of the idea of using legs further back to indicate the "back up," for multiple reasons. First off, the guy in the video wasn't using his legs as the backup cue - he was using his neck rope, and the legs were secondary. Also, keep in mind there are a lot of horses who will feel "leg back" as asking for a canter transition. And as mentioned above - seat position is more important to the halt/back up cue. Leaning back with a deeper seat indicates stop/back up. When you put your legs further back, it's going to push your body into a more forward position - which is not intuitive to you or the horse.

If anything, I've seen people use the opposite to teach stop/back up - they put their legs forward on the horse's shoulders (doesn't need to be this exaggerated though), especially because that corresponds with a natural shift in your weight backward.

Like training an animal to do most anything, whatever the new command is, you need to give the new command first, then reinforce with an old command if they don't respond to the new, just like @Hackamore was saying.
Mine definitely won't think it's a canter cue, but I'll still keep that in mind. Since I'm not good with the seat yet, I'll still try giving some sort of other cue, like I think someone mentioned using mane?

I'd consider changing your "come on to the bit" queue, not your back-up queue. Pulling back with both hands encourages bracing, not bend. If you want her to round onto the bit, you need to work on flexion side to side. And I don't mean see-sawing. I mean asking for flexion one way. And asking for flexion the other way. And playing and alternating with it until she rounds and softens. A horse that knows what you're asking can eventually be taught to bend down to a little wiggle, but it's still a left-right-left-right wiggle in the fingers that stops the moment there's softness. Not a straight pull.
The bit cue is really the only thing that gets him to soften onto the bit. It is not pulling back, it is just raising my hands so he can't evade the bit. I can't describe it very well, but it is working for us right now. I have tried other techniques with other instructors, and they have not worked as well as this does. Thank you though :D
 

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Raising your hands? H m m . ... . maybe that is why he is bracing in the first place. When you ask a horse to 'soften' to the bit, your hand location should not change at all, indeed, it should actually FOLLOW the horse's head position.
For example, if you put a 'hold' on the reins, meaning you close your hands more firmly upon them and keep them a bit more steady (less moving to and fro with the horse), if your horse reacts to that feel by lowering his head, you will LOWER your hands, too. Well, to be more exact, you will change the ANGLE of your hands so that they continue to be in a straight line to the bit.


Think of your thumbs as lasers. They should be lasering directly toward the bit rings at all times. So, if the horse reacts by raising his head, your hand will go upward, too.


I well edit this to add that there are a few times when I use an upward bump on the reins. Only rarely , and only with one rein, and more of a 'wiggle' than a bump. This is when a horse dives down and behind the rein as a habitual form of escape/evasion, and is doing this when I have taken up the tiniest bit of contact. the horse is anticipating something that I have not done, and is trying to avoid it. I would lift/bump upward ONE rein, while putting a leg on that say, 'let go of that thought and move forward!".
 
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