Why should you teach your horse to back up?

Have you ever wondered why we teach our horses to back up? Besides the simple process of stepping backwards, that is?

Every exercise we do with our horse is designed for a purpose, and teaching our horses to back up is exceptionally important in their physical and mental development.

Establishing boundaries 

We can use the back up exercise to establish where we want our horses to stand in relation to our personal space, other riders or other horses. Consistency in our boundaries helps establish us as a leader to the horse.

Establishing confidence and trust

When we establish ourselves as a leader, we build our horses trust in us, and by continuing to show up as a leader we can instill confidence in our horse as well.

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Address shoving issues

Have you ever worked with a horse that would happily run you over if it meant getting to its desired destination? The lack of manners, shoving and pushiness is highly dangerous and can potentially lead to someone becoming injured. The back up exercise reinforces boundaries and discipline, allowing you to tell the horse what you expect (and can help them become focused with a working brain).

Reduce spooking

To reduce spooking in our horse, it is essential to become their leader. If they do not respect us as their leader, they will attempt to resolve ‘scary’ situations on their own, and spook.

Developing the haunches

The back up exercise has the horse actively working their haunches – they can’t avoid it by dropping their shoulder or working on the forehand, because they physically cannot.

Have horse thinking backwards from nose and bit pressure

Backing up establishes backwards thought. As we gradually build on the exercise, from groundwork up to under the saddle, it becomes the basis of the training to:

  • Consolidating our brakes and rein back under saddle

  • Teaching the horse to transfer its weight off the forehand onto the haunches 

  • Getting the horse thinking “squat” or flex the hocks in our half halts 

  • To develop collection