3/12/2008

How to Teach Your Horse To Back Part 1


So your horse makes a funny face at you and sticks out their tongue when you ask them to back. You are not alone. Here are a few tips to help your horse be comfortable backing up.

So first, observe-when does your horse back up without your supervision? Probably not all that often. They might back up when getting a nasty face from a higher ranking herd mate, or perhaps trapped in a small space with no place to go forward (trailer/hallway). A horse goes backward when they have no other option. They would rather turn left or right and most importantly, they want to GO FORWARD!!! Remember that is the horses instinct and remember to be patient when teaching them to back.

Backing is about trust. For a prey animal who is genetically designed to go forward-backing is a matter of trust so if your relationship fails, your backing probably will too.

So first, start on the ground. Ask your horse to move away from you using the lightest pressure possible, slowly increasing the pressure until they move backwards. I suggest starting with the nose and remember-if they can feel a fly land on them, they can feel your lightest touch. What you do next depends on your horse. If they don't back, haven't ever thought about backing or got up on the wrong side of the stall this morning, maybe you start using pressure and instead of taking several fluid steps back your horse just thinks about it by leaning back. THAT IS OK. Release the pressure.

Start over. Start simple, ask for a little bit at a time. So if at the end of 15 minutes you get one step, that is OK, find a positive place to stop and try again tomorrow. Be very patient, this is not easy stuff and remember to always give your horse the opportunity to move off the lightest pressure.

You can also ask your horse to move off the chest (or wherever you wish). This teaches your horse to be responsive to pressure which he is NOT by nature. Ok, come on, raise your hand if your horse has ever leaned into you. Look around you and see that everyone else has their hand raised too. Horses thrive on pressure, so reward them by moving off of it by RELEASING at the appropriate time. It will lighten the response and make you all happier.

More to come tomorrow, some under saddle strategies. . .

PS I found a video on Youtube for backing your horse-it involved a shanked bit and spurs, so I decided against it.

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