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Horseback Riding Tips; Instructing Your Horse to Backup While You’re in the Saddle

When horseback riding, there will be plenty of times when you need to back up. Maybe you’re navigating a gate along the trail, or perhaps you’re in a pleasure class and the announcer has called for a rein back.

Ideally, when you ask your horse to back up, they will lower their head and step back slowly, in a straight line. Unfortunately, if you watch a group of riders back their horses, not all will get this quiet, willing response from their horse. Even horses who move beautifully and responsively under saddle sometimes struggle to back up nicely. The great news is that this is not hard to fix. It just requires a few adjustments in how you are instructing your horse to back up.

Common Problems With Backing Up

There are two common problems riders often experience when backing up their horses. The first is a horse that responds by raising their head. The more the rider pulls back on the reins, the higher the head goes. The horse may eventually take a step or two backward, but reluctantly. You feel like you’re fighting the horse to get any response at all.

The other problem is a horse who, when asked to back up, backs up quickly in a rushed and shuffling way. This can feel unsettling to the rider. On the trail, it may even be dangerous; you feel out of control when your horse is rushing backward. 

While these are two very different responses, they come from the same place. Whether the horse raises their head or rushes backward, they are trying to get away from heavy bit pressure. So, the secret to teaching a horse to back up quietly and willingly is to do it in a gentler way that involves less bit pressure.

Teaching Your Horse to Back Up Willingly

Easy Horse Fix has a tried-and-true method for teaching a horse to back up calmly and willingly. With our approach, riders do not tell a horse to back up. Rather, they ask the horse to back up. There is a big difference, and you can feel it in the way your horse responds to your aids.

With our approach, the rider applies a clear but gentle rein aid that does not make the horse feel trapped or uncomfortable. The response you receive, then, will be your horse trying to accomplish what you’ve asked of them. It won’t be an escape or evasive response – like throwing up their head.

In our video “Teaching Your Horse to Back up in the Saddle,” we show you how to gently apply the reins and ask for a backup. We also show you when to reward your horse during the exercise. Positive reinforcement is so important when training horses. If you release the aid and reward your horse at just the right time, they learn which behaviors you prefer, and they repeat those behaviors. 

Once you change the way you ask your horse to back up, you’ll see a huge improvement in their responses. It should only take a couple of practice sessions for your horse to begin backing up calmly and with a level head. You’ll feel more confident in the show ring or more comfortable on the trail. This method is great for well-broke horses who struggle with backing up. However, in our video, we show you how to use the method with a less trained horse, too.

To access this video, consider becoming a member of Easy Horse Fix. Members gain access to all of our training videos. You can also test our program out by renting the video individually.

Ask, Don’t Tell: The Easy Horse Fix Way

The way we teach horses to back up is a great example of our overall training approach at Easy Horse Fix. With all of our exercises, we take a gentle approach. We let the horse figure out what we are asking of them, and when they respond appropriately, we reward them.

This approach makes horseback riding more enjoyable for both the rider and the horse. When you ask your horse instead of telling them, the response you get is willing and quiet. Over time, you form an understanding relationship with your horse – and you can use that relationship as the basis for more advanced training.

Whether your horse struggles with backing up, needs some help with groundwork, or resists bridling, we have an Easy Horse Fix that can help. Check out our membership options HERE, and discover a gentler, relationship-based approach to horseback riding.

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