Monday, March 7, 2011

Reader Question on Horse that Can't Back

I received an e-mail from Mary who has a horse who won't back up. It's problematic for her as her horse trailers well, just wants to turn around to exit the trailer. Mary didn't give me too much to go on, but there could be several reasons for this horse not backing.....

Backing is an unnatural gait for them, horses in the corral and you'll very seldom see them back more than a step before they turn;

Some people pull back on the halters and when the horse begins to move backward, they do not release the pressure. Without a release of the pressure, which is a reward for doing the right thing, the horse becomes confused and agitated.

Some people will pull down on the halter lead line and not give a clear
signal with rearward pressure on the lead line.

I haven't had a horse yet that naturally backed up well. They learn this through pressure and release. The better they back up, the better they do everything else, as well as backing being an essential ability to have on the trail and backing out of a trailer.

So Mary, I'll just bet that you are either pulling down on the halter lead or not releasing pressure when the horse begins to move backwards - both are confusing to the horse. If what you are asking is clear to your horse, you'll be backing fine in no time. In fact, I suggest each and every time you lead the horse you stop and back to reinforce this lesson....even years from now. You may be able to do this in your horse's pen or stall by putting your hand on the horse's nose and apply soft pressure and say "back" immediately removing pressure. Soon you'll be able just to command back and the horse will take a step or two backwards. Every time I feed my horses I make each one of them back a step after I throw feed in their buckets. Makes for well mannered horses.

Good luck and Safe Journey.

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