Thursday, January 10, 2019

Backing and Drawing a Horse from the Ground

Why might you want or need to back a horse from the ground? By this I mean the handler standing still and moving the horse back using a voice command or a feel of the rein. Why would you need to be able to drop the reins and have your horse stand still while you walked away a bit? And why might you need to draw or bring the horse towards you using a voice command or a feel of the reins?

In the annual arena competition I have hosted for the past four years, this year I had a task where the rider had to dismount, step into a 2x2 foot box and ask his horse to back. Riders could use their reins, get down rope, the lead end of a mecate or even just a voice command to get their horse to back but they had to stay in the box. Then the rider had to drop the reins or get down rope and walk around a barrel maybe 20 feet away, demonstrating the horse's ability to ground tie (even if it is momentarily), then walk back to the box, pick up the rein and draw their horse to them. The riders had the option of tying the reins up after they dismount and solely use voice commands if they wanted.

There were 42 entries in this competition and I believe only 3, maybe 4 riders/horses could do all three - backing the horse; horse ground tying and not moving off; and drawing the horse back to you. No offense to the competitors, but a few of these tries were not pretty. Horse's flying backwards with head's high and pushing with their front end; horse not ground tying even for a moment; and even a few horse's not wanting to come back to their rider having the reins jerked to get them to back up. I didn't see alot of jerking on the reins but even once is too much and I'm going to address that in a different article.

The reason for not doing these things well is that some riders don't have a use for their horses to do this. While I consider it an extension of being broke to lead and necessary for my horses to stand still as you dismount and move forward, move to you on command or through the change in feel of a rein, and back up on command or through the change in feel of a rein when you have a loop on a calf and have to dismount to reposition the loop needing slack on the rope then having it re-tightened.

Backing a horse on the ground comes in handy when leading a horse to a gate and it opens towards you so you have to back the horse up. Or when you are throwing feed and the horse wants to hang his head over the feeder. Or when you are on the ground and checking someone else's saddle or bridle and don't want your horse pushing you into the other horse.....and there are dozens of other situations.

Having a horse ground tie is very handy when you are changing bridles or have to dismount to do something like check on a float valve. It is just a natural follow on from having your horse lead up well. In the video below I brought out a horse towards the end of a session with some riders that we were filming and one asked me if I could show her how I get my horse to back, ground tie and come to me on command. Getting a horse to back away from you on a lead line, or rein, is the easier part. Having them stand still - stay ground tied, and drawing them towards you on the change of feel on the lead/rein is just a bit more difficult. Young horses will want to come to you before you ask them. Don't make it federal offense if they come before being asked, just back them up and ask them to stand again. When drawing the horse towards you, try to see just how little pressure or difference in feel of that lead or rein it will take to get that horse to come to you. As with everything, reward the horse's beginning of that effort - don't give the horse a pause between your asking so he can absorb the lesson.

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