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Backing up with feel and timing


I've noticed over the years that backing up is something that many people have problems with, and while judging classes for Interdressage I've found that it is one of the most common places for people to lose marks. A heavy back-up, where the handler seems to be trying to physically push the horse out of the way, looks clumsy and quickly destroys the mood of harmony. However, a smooth, easy back-up is one of the simplest things to teach your horse.


Many roads lead to Rome

There are hundreds of different techniques, and as long as the end result is that the horse backs up lightly and quietly, with a good rhythm, I think it's a matter of personal preference which you use. Whether you want to use a touch cue, a word, a hand signal, a whistle or a wiggle of your toes, the important thing is that the horse should move its own feet on cue, and the movement should not give the appearance of shifting furniture! If you use a touch cue, I recommend using touch or feel on the nose (either directly with your hand or via the halter) rather than on the shoulder or chest, because it's much easier to keep the horse straight from the nose, and the horse is much less likely to push back against you. Also bear in mind that the area under the neck and chin is a blind spot, and many horses find things going on in that area unsettling.


One step at at time

The initial training the horse get the horse backing up lightly is on the Thinking Horse DVD, and as with everything, the key to success is to break the exercise down into little pieces. When you start off, reward the horse for just rocking its weight back, even if it doesn't take a step. Then move onto one step. Once you have established a signals for backing up, you can start refining the process and really getting the horse thinking with you.

Then, in a test, the back-up might look something like this:



Training the more advanced moves

My friend and collegue Elizabeth Haffner and I filmed the following summary of some of the ways you can get the horse light and hooked on to your ideas for her website, , and I'm posting it here too so those of you who have received notes from me on Interdressage judging sheets can see what I'm going on about!




 Many thanks to our camera people, Michi and Emily!





Order the Thinking Horse DVD here!


In Association with

 June 2011


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