A basic exercise you should
do with all
of your horses and a good one to do if you're just learning how to
handle horses. There are a few different ways we can do a backup. Let's
start by considering a case where you are leading your horse from the
standard position, and you've come to a stop.
emphasize in natural horsemanship (but is true regardless of the
training style you use) is that horses tend to yield to and from
pressure. Backing a horse up involves applying pressure alternatively
to each side of the nose (left-right-left-right). This can be done
using energy or by shaking the rope side to side.
raising your left hand with palm open facing the horse. This puts up a
wall of sorts that tells the horse not to come into your personal
space. This is illustrated in the figure below.
Preparing to ask the horse for a backup when positioned at her side.
Raise your left hand and put the open palm facing the horse.
start bumping the rope with your right hand. Start doing this lightly.
We want to ask the horse to do things by starting out asking nice and
light. If the horse does not respond, then put a little more energy
into it. If the horse still doesn't respond, increase the energy again.
Then drop the energy down, and increase it again as she backs up.
Changing the energy you put in while asking a horse to do something is
called keeping it
Ask the horse to back up by bumping the rope with your right hand. If
not respond, keep asking and increase the energy level.
As you ask your horse to backup, increase and decrease the energy
When you get your horse backing up, keep asking her to
back up but now do it asking lightly. Then increase the energy again,
then go light again, then stop. Go heavy (or put in a lot of energy)
when asking the horse to backup each time they put up resistance. After
they do what you ask, drop your energy and ask lightly again.
Another way you can ask the horse to backup is:
- Stand on the left side, by
the nose, facing the horse.
Lift up the lead line with both hands. Have your right hand positioned
a couple of feet from the halter, and your left hand a foot or two down
the rope from your right hand.
- Simply shake the rope to ask
the horse for a backup.
This is illustrated in the figure below.
Asking the horse for a backup by lightly shaking the line.
Asking for a
backup while facing the horse
is perhaps what can be called the standard or usual way to back up a
horse. Stand facing you horse from the center with the entire length of
the lead-line between you and your horse. Pick up the leadline leaving
several feet lying on the ground and hold the end of the lead line in
your right hand. The idea here is to ask for a backup with differing
levels of intensity.
- Start asking for
a backup by looking at your horse and moving the end of the rope back
and forth. If the horse gives you a step backwards, stop and praise.
If the horse does not backup, start wiggling the rope just enough so
that it is wiggling on the ground. If the horse steps back, stop and
- Now again, if the horse
does not stop, start wiggling the rope more vigorously so that the end
attached to the halter is wiggling and the rope comes off the ground.
If the horse gives you a step back, stop and praise.
If the horse still isn't moving, then you need to turn up the volume at
this point. Now ask loudly. Start snapping the rope. Do it firmly so
that the horse knows you "mean business".
If you need to
move from one energy level to the next, don't stop asking and then
start again by asking at a more intense level. Ask by continuously
moving from one level to the next without stopping to ask for the
backup. In other words, if you need to move from the lowest level to
the next highest level, you should be moving the end of the rope back
and forth and then start putting more energy in so that the rope is
wiggling on the ground. Do this transition without stopping.
suppose that your horse goes give you a backup, say at step two. That
is good but we need to keep our horses on their toes. So don't always
just wiggle the rope a bit and say “good boy”. From time to
you want to go through all levels and ask him to back up at the highest
energy level-which means assertively snapping the rope. You might even
walk towards him, assertively making him back up. Have him back up 20
steps. Then stop and praise. Next time, ask light again and only go to
level two. This exercise will get your horse paying attention to you.
He needs to pay attention to what you're asking and not just do it on
backing up, pay attention to what you're doing. Are you walking toward
the horse? In the last paragraph, we mentioned that occasionally you
might want to ask your horse to go backwards for a long distance. In
that case, you will have to walk toward the horse. But keep the
distance between you and horse just about constant. Horses are always
paying around to who is moving who. In most of your backup exercises,
you want to actually stay in position while asking the horse to move.
If you end up walking toward the horse when asking him to backup, he's
got one over on you. You need to ask the horse to back up and not move
yourself. From a practical standpoint, you want to be able to ask your
horse to backup to put distance between you and your horse for safety
reasons. You also don't want him dominating you in a subtle way, which
he could do by barely backing up while you're putting a lot of energy
into walking towards him.
this lesson, we discussed backing up your horse. This is an important
technique that you can use to put space between you and your horse.
article is from the book Teach Yourself Natural Horsemanship in 14
Days. Its available on Amazon.com or as a free download when you
purchase a copy of Eric Bravo's Natural Horsemanship training video software