When I begin teaching people how to teach their horse, I ALWAYS tell them to begin with the softest feel they can get. Lightness is the key to success in getting your horse where you want it. If we begin at a place that is too heavy or with too much pressure, the horse doesn’t have anywhere to go back to. What I mean by this is; begin as light as possible and add pressure slowly and as soon as the horse tries, release quickly. We must be more ready to release the pressure than to continue with the pressure. We must anticipant the slightest movement and give the horse release.
This applies to any pressure and release movement we are working with; whether it is yielding the hindquarters, turning the frontend, going sideways and the backup.
When I begin teaching a horse to yield from pressure, I ALWAYS begin on the ground. Teaching the pressure and release in this manner you have a better feel and also you are able to use more vision than you would sitting in the saddle. It is a concept you are teaching the horse. It’s not a technique or method but a concept that the horse will quickly understand.
Let’s look at the concept of teaching your horse to backup, from the ground then we will get in the saddle. The halter I use is made of ¼” rope. The ¼” rope will put enough pressure on the horse’s nose without too much effort, only when needed. Remember we are aiming for lightness. The lead rope is a yachting braid nylon rope and a heavy brass clip. This combination gives a quicker release than does a cotton lead rope.
We’re going to be doing two different movements, at this time, from the ground. There are more but these two are the most important.
First you will hold the rope about 6” from the clip as you stand on either side of the horse facing toward the hind quarters, So, if you are on the left side of the horse you will have the rope in your left hand. Now, pick up on the rope and push it toward the horse’s chest, using light pressure. If there isn’t any movement add slightly more pressure. Add pressure until you get the lightest try then release quickly. Each time begin with the lightest amount of pressure.
Next, place the palm of your hand, right or left, on the horse’s nose. Put your thumb and middle finger on the facial nerves that run along the horses’ face. Now begin to add pressure on these nerves in the same manner as you did with the halter. Be sure to release immediately at the slightest try.
These two task will help to teach the horse to move back off the slightest try when you’re in the saddle.
Now let’s transfer these concepts to the saddle. If you have taken your time in teaching your horse to back using the concepts named above, your horse should begin to understand quicker in the saddle.
Teaching a horse to back when we are in the saddle is the same concept as we use from the ground. We begin with lightness and add pressure slowly as we need. When you get the slightest try, release the reins quickly.
Now to try and give you a step by step process you can visualize. Whether you use a bit, a hackamore or something else, this applies to all.
You’re in the saddle; pick up your reins-one in each hand with them, not real tight, but to where you have contact. Remember, we are teaching…not making, BIG difference. At this point, you will hold the reins with your thumb and index finger with slight contact. As you add a finger to the reins you will be adding more pressure.
Again, I can’t emphasize enough, take your time. It will pay off. As you add a finger you will be adding a little more pressure. If you have added all the fingers you are now holding the reins in your hand, slightly pull back and hold. Lock your elbows and hold.
You should have enough pressure that the horse is trying to figure out how to get out of the pressure but he isn’t fighting to get out. If he is fighting to get out, he’s not thinking how to get out. And if too much pressure is added too quickly the same will happen.
You add pressure slowly so the horse can think what it needs to do to get away from the pressure. When you get the slightest try in the right direction, quickly release the reins.
Remember, ALWAYS start in the beginning, every time. Not just the first time but every time. When your horse gives you a try and you release, begin again in the beginning.
Good luck with teaching your horse, I hope you end up with a good back up.
Remember—-The Softer Feel…