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Training Tip: Going In Reverse Under Saddle


When I introduce backing up to a horse, I always start by yielding the horse’s hindquarters first and then asking the horse to back up a step. By yielding the horse’s hindquarters, you’re putting energy in his feet and then just redirecting it backwards. Think about it like this – what’s the hardest part about getting a stalled car moved off the side of the road? Getting it set in motion. Once you’ve got it moving, it’s easy to steer. Your horse is similar. If you try to back him up without yielding his hindquarters first, you’ll probably get into a tug-of-war with him. You won’t have to yield your horse’s hindquarters forever before asking him to back up, just in the beginning when he’s first learning the lesson. 


The secret to teaching your horse to back up is to look for only one step at first. When he takes one step backwards, immediately reward him by releasing the reins and letting him stand still and relax. Once he understands what you’re asking, then you can ask him to take two steps backwards before you reward him. When he can take two steps backwards, then you can ask for three, and before long he’ll be able to back 20 steps in a row. If you ask for too many steps at first, you’ll confuse and frustrate him, and he’ll stop trying to back up.