Horse won't back!

Texas, 5 year old Gelding, Ridden in Tom Thumb snaffle & Western Saddle in arena, round pen and  pasture. Intermediate Rider

Question: My horse will not back.  He stiffens up and will not move.  I have 
even tried pushing him back from the ground and he will not back.

From Panelists Nancy

Have your horse standing square and balanced with light contact with the bit.  Close your fingers tightly on the reins increasing the contact (NOT pulling back or moving your hands backwards) and then release halfway and hold there.  Close your legs on the horse and move him up firmly on the bit.  Continue driving with your legs and holding with your hands. 

The horse will probably take a step backward.  If not, repeat the above actions taking a little tighter squeeze of the reins, increasing the contact slightly and hold in that position.  Do not let him pull your hands out of their position.  Using the word "back" at this time is also helpful.  He should already be familiar with this command from groundwork.  Continue using your legs actively against his sides.  It should just take a few minutes to teach a horse to back under saddle. 

Remember, do NOT pull the reins, but hold them with your hands set in this 'halfway' position and do not give in or release the reins until he takes a step backward in answer to the urging action of your legs.  Be more persistent than he is.  As soon as he takes one step back, release all aids and praise him.  This is very important.  Another important thing to remember is that once he starts moving backward, release your fingers on the reins to 
a slightly more forward position so that he can move back freely and without constraint, and also this slight release will immediately reward him for giving to the reins.  As the horse starts backward your fingers on the reins move forward.  By continuing to repeat this exercise and asking for more steps, he will soon be backing for as many steps as you wish and at the speed your wish and very lightly and in balance without being pulled back by the reins. 

Always follow each back with a request to move forward, if only for one step. 

Nancy Cade

From Panelists Laura

You may have noticed that your horse is a lot bigger than you are.  You could push all day and not move him if he doesn't want to move.  It sounds like you need to start from square one and teach him the little baby steps which lead to good backing.

Start with a halter, lead rope, and a horse cookie or carrot.  Stand beside your horse near his shoulder and pull back on your lead rope.  Say back and if he takes a step back, hand him a treat.  Pet him, say good boy and ask him to back again until he backs easily from the ground.  If he won't back when you pull on the lead.  Hand him a treat, pull back on the lead and put a treat near his chest where he can't reach it.  Give him a light pull back on the lead, say back and when he steps back to get the treat, tell him back again and pet him a lot.  Repeat, over & over.  If he gets nippy over the treats, discontinue giving treats and just use praise and petting as a reward.  Repeat backing this way over & over.  QH's are good horses but need LOTS of repetition.

Once he backs readily off the lead rope, put a bridle on over the halter and do the same thing while gently pulling on the reins.  If he fights you, go back to pulling on the halter lead rope, then go back to pulling gently on the reins while asking him to back from the ground. 

Once he is backing well from the ground,  put the reins over his head and with you standing at his shoulder, pull back on the reins as if you were in the saddle.  You may have to go back to pulling on his halter rope again a few times to get him in the mood and then go back to pulling on the reins.  Don't jerk on the reins, cuss too loudly, or beat him with your shoe.  It won't help and makes the neighbors call the police.  Just keep up your 
repetitions until he gets the hint that you really will give up and go in when he does what you want.

Once he backs well off the reins from the ground, mount him and ask in the same manner.  Gently, with a verbal back.  Most times it helps to sit back (don't lean forward), squeeze with your calves and do a gentle give and take with the reins while asking to back.  If he won't back with you on him, get off, do it from the ground a couple of times and then try again mounted.

If your horse is very resistant to backing, this process may take quite a while but eventually, he will decide you just won't go away and will give you a nice back.  Good luck!




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