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Backing: From rein cue to active leg cue

41st in a Series

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - July 7th, 2016 - More with Les, Training

More With Les graphicAfter Les showed us turns on the forehand last issue, let’s go the opposite direction and back up.

Your goal when you back is to not have to pull back hard on the horse’s mouth to get him to move backward, but to be able to use just enough contact with the bit to tell him to not go forward—kind of like shifting him into reverse—and then using your legs, like the gas, to move backward. Yes, you might have to tug a little to get him started, but your goal is to take it from an active rein cue to an active leg cue as quickly as possible.

The timing of your command and correction, if it’s needed, is really important as well. You can’t say “whoa” and correct at the same time. You have to say “whoa,” wait for him to try, and then correct him if he doesn’t stop. In order for the horse to learn, you have to give him a chance to do it right. When he does give you an effort, make sure he knows it was the right one. He just made his first move toward a great sliding stop! Nothing you see in a reining class is done overnight; it’s done through years of consistent training, but the hardest part can be the consistency.

To achieve this, you’ll always want to start by picking up the reins and lightly asking the horse to come back. If he doesn’t, you’ll want to bring your hands back a little stronger and alternately squeeze with your hands if you need to so you’re not giving him pressure that he can just lean against –- especially if he should start to lift his head. In addition, you should bump a little with your legs so you’re stoking the engine and only giving him one way to release the pressure. As soon as he takes a backward step, release and praise him. Continue with this approach, starting with a light hand but always using your leg too. Then add a little more pressure with your hands until he starts to come back. Be patient. You don’t need to get this in a day, and you do want to encourage your horse to stay relaxed. Stay at it, and he’ll get the hang of it. As you progress, you’ll start getting more steps, and you won’t have to be nearly as assertive to get him going. Your end goal is to be able to “put him in reverse” with a light pick up on the rein, and then go to your legs to add the impulsion that sends him back.

Don’t worry too much beyond just getting a few steps at this level, as we’ll spend a lot more time on it later once you’ve learned to collect your horse and keep him soft in the poll.

More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffl e Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit the Web site: www.lesvogt.com. You can also read previous More with Les columns at: news.horsetrader.com.

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