As a horse owner, you will sometimes discover holes or gaps in your horse’s training. One gap that horse owners sometimes find is that their horse does not know how to back up on the ground calmly and with manners. The horse may know how to do a rein-back under saddle, but when you cue them to back up from the ground, they just stand there – or maybe raise their head and possibly even resist or refuse you. Luckily, teaching your horse to back up is not that difficult, although it does require patience and consistency.
Why Is Backing So Important
Backing on the ground is not a trick or a specialized skill. Rather, it is a learned behavior that every horse should have for safety and utility reasons.
Navigating a gate is so much easier if your horse knows how to back up on the ground. You can back them up a few steps as you swing the gate open, or to move them out of your space while you fasten the latch.
Lining your horse up with the mounting block is also easier if they know how to back. If they overshoot the block by a few steps, you can just back them up rather than turning around and re-approaching. If you ever need to re-mount from a stump or slope on the trail, backing will be even more important.
Teaching Your Horse to Back: Basic Steps
We recently created a video called Teaching Your Horse to Back Up on the Ground. We encourage you to check it out. Often, it is easier to teach your horse these skills after watching someone else go through the process. Pay particular attention to the trainer’s body placement and how calmly he works with his horse.
Before you teach your horse to back, make sure they know how to lower or drop their head properly. You can teach your horse so many ground skills once they know how to give or drop their head. If your horse doesn’t know how to lower their head, watch our Foundational Flex 7 video for some advice on teaching this skill.
Tips for Success
Make sure you are both patient and consistent when teaching your horse to back up on the ground. Don’t drill your horse by repeating the exercise again and again. Do it a couple of times, and then move on to something else. Re-visit it the next day. Horses learn best when given plenty of time to think about the new things they are being taught. That said, always set a goal for them to do it consistently better each time you ask them. Remember, you want to be consistent as well, and always ask the horse to back the same way each time. A motto to remember is, “The same way every time, every time the same way.”
With patience and consistency, you can teach your horse to back up in a calm, collected manner. Again, we’ll emphasize how important it is to teach your horse to lower their head before you teach them how to back. Lowering their head puts them in a relaxed, easy position from which they can back up without rushing or scrambling.
As a horse owner, it is your job to teach your horse the skills that will keep the both of you safe. Backing from the ground is one of those skills. Sign up for Easy Horse Fix, and you’ll gain access to videos with exercises such as this one that teach you how to train your horse to back up, lower their head for the bridle, and more.