We work the horses for five to 10 minutes. The length of time depends on how hot it is, how athletic the horse is and how busy-minded he is. The hotter the temperature, the shorter the session, and the more athletic and busy-minded the horse is, the longer the session. Then we put the horse on a loose rein and walk him down the trail to the next rollback fence. The fences are about a half mile apart and take several minutes to walk to. As a general rule, you want to let the horse walk for about five minutes between workouts. The walk is the relaxing part of the ride for the horse—he gets to be on a loose rein and get his air back. While the horses are walking down the trail, we rub on them. But the key is to let the horse walk on a big, loose rein and not do any sort of training whatsoever on him. Hold the middle of the reins in one hand and let him be. At first, when you put the horse on a loose rein, he’s going to power walk down the trail. That’s fine. Even if he wants to trot or lope, let him. Remember, you’re not forcing the horse to relax and slow down; you’re just going to show him that it’s the better option.
When we get to the next rollback fence, we put the horse’s feet to work, rolling him back into the fence. We repeat the exact same thing we did at the first fence— we keep the horse’s feet moving for five to 10 minutes and then put him on a loose rein and walk down the trail again. It usually takes until the third or fourth rollback fence for the horse to finally realize that there’s no point in rushing down the trail because he’s only hurrying to hard work and sweat. It’s like something just clicks in his brain and he starts walking more slowly and his mind stops racing a million miles a minute. Make no mistake about it; it takes a lot of energy and air for a horse to practice rollbacks for five or 10 minutes. While the horse might think it’s fun to speed walk down the trail or jig, when he has to move his feet under your direction, it loses all its fun.
Remember, horses are basically lazy creatures and would always rather stand still and sleep rather than have to move their feet and sweat. This exercise— walking the horse from one rollback fence to another— would be like if I had you walk 500 feet and then made you do 50 pushups. After you finished the pushups, I’d have you walk another 500 feet. After three to four repetitions of that, you’d start walking slower and slower between pushup sites because you’re not looking forward to doing the exercise.
Hot, busy-minded horses think five miles down the road. They don’t even realize you’re on their back. You want your horse thinking 3 feet in front of his nose. You’ll rarely get in trouble on a horse that’s tuned in to you, but I guarantee you’re riding toward a wreck if you let your horse’s mind get ahead of you.